The Value of Virtue: Depictions of Class and Morals in Iranian Cinema
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The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is no stranger to cinema's ability to encourage values and moral standards in a society. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has recognized the power of cinema and, in turn, outsiders have recognized Iranian cinema as a window into a nation that is still shrouded in mystery. Even before the stringent codification of morals by Iran's post-revolutionary government, Iranian cinema offered a glimpse into what both the people and the Shah thought about the society that surrounded them. The Revolution of 1979 championed Iran's mostazafin, or downtrodden, and called upon the masses to lead Iran's future. But as the state began to solidify, the Islamic Republic wrote its values, both civic and moral, into its legal code. State sponsored morality is now the norm for the nation, but with roughly eighty million inhabitants, perfect adherence is not possible. The question then becomes who is best able to bypass the law? While, realistically, Iran's nouveau riche are the ones with the most wiggle room under the law, this is not an image a government for the downtrodden is interested in broadcasting. By observing Iranian cinema, one can see who can break the state sanctioned morality in both action and intent. The Islamic Republic of Iran allows for more moral ambiguity in depictions of its lower classes in cinema in order to create the appearance of giving voice to their struggle. This allowance is apparent when examining Iran's cinema leading up to the revolution, the evolution of cinema under the Islamic Republic, and the way the state allows depictions of moral relativism in modern Iranian cinema.