As the rhetoric heats up between Iran and the United States, another kind of war is being waged within Iran: a culture war in which The Simpsons is the latest casualty. Iranian officials have banned dolls based on Bart, Homer, and the rest of the Simpsons clan in an fight against “Western intoxication,” according to Reuters.
The show's "destructive cultural and social consequences" makes The Simpsons franchise the latest casualty in a long running soft culture war that Iran has pursued against Barbie, G.I. Joe, and other popular Western action figures.
Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, secretary at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Tehran, cited the Simpsons' irreligious attitudes as offensive, and thus not welcome in Iran. Farjoo explained that dolls with distinguishable genitals, as well as dolls of adults, are prohibited in the country.
In response, Simpson’s executive director Al Jean was quoted by the Los Angeles Times, “This means war.”
For the Iranian regime, the banning of the popular series isn't so much a way of fighting back against the newly imposed Western economic sanctions, but rather a means of slowing Iranian youth's familiarization with the Western culture.
As Iran prepares for the possibility of real military action with the United States and Israel, it must still overcome a divided society and the lasting impact of the Green Revolution which shook the country's ruling elite in the summer of 2009.
As the failed Green revolution and the also the popularity of the Daily Show in Iran reveal, there is a strong and growing desire, particularly among the youth in Iran, for more open ties with the West. With roughly two-thirds of the population under 25, the Iranian regime faces the considerable challenge of selling its hardline rhetoric to a populace that is already deeply distrustful of its intentions and legitimacy.
The Iranian leadership is banking on the possibility that cultural war-mongering with the West will unite its country against a common enemy. Should it back fire, however, a new fight over Western imperialism on the Iran's toy store shelves will emerge.
Don't expect The Simpsons to be the last victims of Iran's new campaign.
Photo Credit: Nevada Tumbleweed