The Argo Controversy – or not as the case may be…

I am a generally positive person, most people will tell you. I look on the bright side and can generally see good things in most people. But sometimes people and things just rub me up the wrong way and make me into Angry Jess. Angry Jess has reared her head on this blog a few times. More times that is probably reflective of how often Angry Jess arises in real life, to be honest. But at the end of the day I think you should blog/write about things you are passionate about – and this can be things you are passionately in favour of or passionately opposed to. And it is in the latter camp that I find myself in again today (and I did try to go positive, I even started a blog on destination weddings and gave up half way through…). I also know I have harped on about the lacklustre New Zealand media on several occasions already. But one thing this week made Angry Jess so furious she actually turned green and grew muscles. What was it? The Argo Controversy.

What Argo Controversy, some of you may be asking? Good question. It was controversy invented for the sake of a news story. And not even invented just on the spot because it was topical, it was rehashed and reheated non-controversy, which makes it even worse. It was a story that ran in New Zealand media back last year when the film Argo was first released. The issue is this. The film depicts the true story of the rescue of a group of American Embassy workers who had escaped during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In a throw away line in the film, Bryan Cranston alludes to the fact that the Americans had appealed for help to the Brits and the Kiwis, and we had failed to assist. So the Canadians and Americans had to come in and save the day. The ‘controversy’ is that this wasn’t the case – we did help out, and our embassy staff did take risks doing so, and it is incorrect and disrespectful to allude otherwise.

This may be the case, but I come to my basic and most fundamental objection to this being made into a news story: IT IS ONLY A MOVIE PEOPLE!!! It’s not like it is a movie depicting all New Zealanders as war-mongering sheep shaggers who put bombs in Whiskas to kill kittens. It is a movie which is 99.999999% not about New Zealand at all. It is also a movie which, although based on a true story, is clearly a fictionalised account which has taken some liberties for the sake of drama. And it did such a good job that it won Best Film at the Oscars! And this is where the rubber hits the road. Sure, the media covered this story when the film was first released, but now we have the chance to ruin Ben Affleck’s post Oscar high and ask him about this ridiculous controversy during the post Oscar press conference. And then we use his answer to make it into a massive story again. Huzzah!!!

Not huzzah at all. But it gets worse. Not only do the media spin it into a story. But the politicians weigh in too. And not just the ones who I would expect to be plonkers about it, like Jonkey and Winston who both called for a formal apology. Former Labour leader Phil Goff did too. They all said that Oscar winning director Ben Affleck needs to issue a formal apology to New Zealand for this incorrect portrayal of our role in the drama. They all wasted valuable political time making statements on this matter. And the TV and print media wasted minutes and column space covering their responses. And I am wasting a sunny afternoon asking WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THEY JUST SAY ‘IT’S JUST A FREAKING MOVIE, GET OVER IT!!! At this point, if someone runs for parliament next time with their sole platform being that this is how they would have responded to this ‘controversy’, then they will get my vote for that alone.

And not only are they wasting our time, politician’s time and Ben Affleck’s time, but they are also giving the rest of the world, who no doubt picked up on this ‘controversy’ during the press conference, yet more evidence that New Zealand is an insular and slightly crazy little place who have a cast of the muppets in parliament and have nothing better to do than to nit-pick movie scripts. In a week when there is also actual controversy around The Hobbit and political wheelings-dealings, you would wonder whether the rest of the world do actually think we might be an outpost of Hollywood in the Pacific, and that we are a little upset because we have been giving good money/tax incentives to Hollywood and what do we get? A slap in the face from Ben Affleck. Not to harp on a topic I have harped on before, but New Zealand used to be the tough little country in the corner of the world who really Stood For Something. Not so much anymore…

But whose fault is it? It isn’t Ben Affleck’s, that is for sure. And I hope he didn’t let the stupid question marr his deserved high on Oscar night. The politicians’ fault? Quite a bit – if they had given my preferred answer to the questions from the press, the story probably would have fizzled out. But the real fault is with whichever media outlet – and I am going to put my money here on it being the Herald, but I could be wrong – asked the Australian reporter (and I am going to assume there was a request made) to ask about this in the press conference. Why? Who does it help? No one, no one at all. It just made for a rather awkward end to the press conference. All for the sake of some column inches about New Zealand being mentioned in Hollywood. Cos, you know, that’s what sells papers people! Urg. And that is all I have to say about that 😉


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