With the possible exception of university administrations, there is no institution as bereft of courage as Hollywood.
In Hollywood courage is defined as savaging oil, power and tobacco executives on film. Or producing yet another movie on the evils of the Iraq War. But if courage means doing what is unpopular -- especially among one’s peers -- I can recall precious few politically incorrect films made in the last decade ("The Dark Knight" comes to mind as a possible exception).
How many politically incorrect movies has Hollywood made in the last generation? How many films, for instance, have depicted communist evil? Given that Communism murdered more than 100 million innocents -- in peacetime! -- and enslaved about 1 billion more, one would think that Hollywood would have made a fair number of movies depicting the horrors of communism. But aside from "Dr. Zhivago" and "The Killing Fields," I cannot think of any. There are, of course, innumerable films depicting Nazi evil -- as well there should be -- but it takes no courage to make films depicting Nazis as evil.
Likewise, given Sept. 11, the slaughter of innocents around the world, and the atrocities within the Muslim world committed by “Islamists,” “Islamic fundamentalists,” “jihadists,” “Muslim radicals” “Islamofascists” -- or whatever other term one prefers -- one would think that Hollywood would have made many films on this subject. But it hasn't.
Yet, now, released as if by Providence the week after the fraudulent elections in Iran and the suppression and murder of Iranian dissidents, is a film about the nature of the radical Muslims who govern Iran. Titled "The Stoning of Soraya M.," the film depicts events based on the true story of a woman stoned to death in a rural village in Iran in 1986 for allegedly committing adultery.
If you want to understand the type of people who run Iran, see this film. If you want to understand why men and women risk their lives to demonstrate against the fascist theocracy that rules Iran, see this film. The film is about the type of people who become “supreme leader” (Ali Khamanei) or president of Iran (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad). It is about their mendacity, their use of religion to commit barbarity, and, of course, their despicable treatment of women.
And don’t see it solely in order to understand what the dissidents in Iran are fighting -- though that would be an entirely valid reason. See it also because it is a powerful theatrical and emotional experience. Washington Post reviewer Dan Zak wrote that he wept while watching the movie. The Wall Street Journal described "The Stoning of Soraya M." in these words: “This is classic tragedy in semi-modern dress that means to horrify, and does so more successfully than any film in recent memory.” Los Angeles Times film reviewer Kevin Thomas wrote that the film, achieves “the impact of a Greek tragedy through its masterful grasp of suspense and group psychology, and some superb acting.” And Claudia Puig of USAToday called the film “emotionally explosive,” a “shattering and powerful drama.”
On the other hand, Amnesty International loathed the film. Which is another good reason to see it. This organization is morally confused. It has become a leftist organization in the guise of a human rights organization. It calls the film “sensationalist” because “the audience response is likely to be disgust and revulsion at Iranians themselves, who are portrayed as primitive and blood-thirsty savages.” I wonder if there are 10 people who see this film who will then conclude that Iranians in general -- as opposed to many religious fundamentalists among them -- are “primitive and bloodthirsty savages.”
Furthermore, Amnesty International argues, Iranians and foreign human rights organizations are already fighting for women and against such atrocities as stoning. Therefore, the film is unnecessary. If you don’t follow that argument, you are not alone.
Finally, the most important reason to see the film could be this:
Many of us lament Hollywood’s lack of courage, its lack of moral seriousness, and its political correctness. Here, then, is a courageous, morally deep, and politically incorrect film that mainstream reviewers -- as cited above -- have lavished praise on. It should be the ideal film for serious Americans who properly complain about Hollywood’s offerings. But if a riveting drama with a courageous theme, Oscar-level acting, which is as relevant as today’s headlines, fails at the box office, Hollywood will have been vindicated.
It therefore seems clear to me that those who do not see this film have forfeited the right to complain about Hollywood.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”