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Pakistan at the Oscars

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Since the turn of the millennium, we’ve slowly become Hollywood’s most fashionable villains. During the cold war there was always a Russian villain in some Hollywood movie, then during the gulf war it was always an Arab. Now, they largely stem from this region of the world, Afghanistan, Pakistan.


Not just in overtly political films but in action and entertainment movies as well. Pakistan is mentioned in Thor as a place of covert training for rogue intelligence agents. It’s the primary land of antagonism in Iron Man, in fact the villain even speaks a sentence or two in Urdu.


At this year’s Oscars too, that self-congratulatory Hollywood award ceremony, our country was represented on the big screen through an allegedly truthful film depicting the hunt for, and eventually killing of, Osama bin Laden.


The film is called Zero Dark Thirty. The depiction of Pakistan in it is both wrong, factually, and disturbing in the sense that we are all shown as these faceless, gormless, morass of suspicious looking, unreliable people. We are the new evil, people dressed in a Shalwar Kameez and sporting a stubble are now never up to any good.


Sometimes we speak to each other in Arabic, sometimes in Hindi. We all live in rundown places, Islamabad itself looks like a bombed out city from back in the world war days. And there is obviously no indigenous liberal, intellectually driven movement of people reading, writing or even trying to solve any of our problems, of course.


Deceitful, stupid, backwards, in league with the terrorists; that is what you get about Pakistanis from watching American movies these days. The strange thing is, that this not so subtle propaganda, to keep the American public convinced that the extrajudicial killings happening here through drone strikes or special operations are justified, isn’t just consumed by people in the States either.


It’s consumed the world over, even in Pakistan itself. We have a generation of kids growing up now, who’ll see Hollywood films and their own compatriots depicted as traitorous villains in them. That is the true power of an entertainment industry as imperial indoctrination. Convince not just your own people of the other’s character deficiencies, but convince the other of their own shortcomings too.


Ten more years of this and our middle-class and above kids will grow up convinced of our own intrinsic evil, and that the only way to save themselves is to avail that green card option abroad, and say goodbye to this villainous land forever.

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