“Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.” ~ Winston Churchill
“Those who expect real history from Hollywood should have a keeper.” ~ Davies
So it was last week in our land of perpetual mirth and sunshine. The latest cultural tempest in a thimble is the Oscar success enjoyed by Ben Affleck for his film Argo. His tale from Tehran suggests that some stouthearted Americans masterminded by an intrepid CIA agent were the true heroes in the daring 1979 rescue of US hostages held by Ayatollah Khomeini-enthused Iranian militants.
The historical record is clear. A then-unknown but very clever Canuck diplomat named Ken Taylor hid the hostages in the Canadian embassy, and in a ‘now you see ‘em, now you don’t’ play, Taylor helped the Americans leave Iran using that great international talisman – a fake Canadian passport. Taylor was widely hailed as a Great Republic® hero, and the best kind – a nice, self-effacing fellow. Feted by no less a revisionist historian than the Gipper and his gang in the weeks after the Tehran escape became public knowledge, Taylor and his exploits slowly sank into the deeper recesses of our collective consciousness – until Argo.
In Argo, Big Ben took artistic license several giant steps along the road from fact to pure invention. The poster says it all – a Hollywood / CIA feature presentation, and nary a Taylor in sight. The original postscript to the film hailed the CIA alone for its work. Anyone alive to commercial reality might conclude a flick where CIA-centred herosim is the hook might be a wee more appealing to American audiences than smooth Ken Taylor, no muss, no fuss, getting stuff done with the spooks in only a supporting role. Hmmm…
It is the tortured, angst-filled, Canadian chattering class bilge about the film’s ‘true story’ that is as entertaining as Affleck’s work. ‘Insulting’, ‘demeaning’, a ‘slap in the face’…..they went on and on, hours of talk radio and terra bytes of offence-taking and ‘we’re so disappointed that our part in Tehran was ignored”, ad nauseam. In a nation where we face myriad problems on a staggering range of social and economic fronts, it is comforting that so many can get so riled over so little. Like the outcry triggered by Lincoln, with its clumsy (and rather bizarre) remake of long dead and otherwise honorable Connecticut politicians into anti-emancipationists – it’s a film, stupid – nothing more. Entertainment, an escape from our day-to-day realities…you would think hockey was cancelled (again) given the Argo outrage north of the 49th.
And then they went back to sleep…
Image source: Washington Post