The Oscars just happened. “12 Years a Slave” won for Best Picture and a bunch of other stuff. I didn’t see it or “Fruitvale Station” because I already feel bad about racism, although it’s pretty telling about Hollywood’s famous liberalism that they wanted to give awards to “12 Years a Slave” but not “Fruitvale Station.” I guess show business likes to think about “social issues” at two centuries remove, not in the age of killer George Zimmerman signing autographs at gun shows. I also didn’t see “Schindler’s List” or “Boys Don’t Cry” or any movie that was Important-with-a-capital-I but depressing.
I wish our critical class were even vaguely interested in creative projects that address the major questions of our time in a way that is entertaining and funny, instead brutal and harrowing. If you asked anyone at all, they would say that comedy is incredibly effective at communicating important ideas in a way that people can hear. Yet how many comedies win awards when they’re in a category to compete against a drama? Like, none. How many comedians get big arts grants? None.
Meanwhile, last year at the Oscars, we witnessed the bizarre spectacle of First Lady Michelle Obama presenting the Best Picture Award from the White House, surrounded by people in military uniforms, to a movie about a covert CIA operation against a country at the same time there was a live policy debate about going to war with that country. If Michelle had announced that Special Forces were attempting to assassinate the President of Iran while presenting the award, I suspect Americans would cheer.
When Americans imagine an Iranian person, if instead of Ayatollah Khomeini they imagined Negin Farsad, I imagine we’d have peace pretty quickly. Negin is a New York-based comedian and director. Her documentary “The Muslims Are Coming” can be streamed now on Netflix and Amazon Instant Player. It’s a sign of how stupid our public conversation is about anything that is a bold and provocative statement to suggest that Muslims are diverse and are, you know, pretty much regular people.
We talk about life as an Iranian-American feminist from Palm Springs with two master’s degrees, why people hate her, and stumbling into standup.
Yet unlike 12 Years A Slave, the Muslims Are Coming makes bold statements about important issues by being funny. You finish watching the Muslims Are Coming having learned something and caring more, but not like someone had just ripped your heart out. It’s very refreshing. Give them an award for once.