They've gone too far this time. As if stomping on women's rights, executing homosexuals and quietly building A-bombs wasn't bad enough, Iran's Yankee-bashing government has suddenly turned its howitzers on Hollywood. On Sunday, a visit to Tehran by representatives of the US film industry, including such national treasures as Annette Bening, Alfre Woodard, and Sid Ganis (the President of the Academy, no less) was thrown into chaos by Mahmoud Ahmajinedad's art and cinema adviser, one Javad Shamaqdari.
Complaining about various "insults and slanders" against Iran in recent Hollywood blockbusters, he demanded the immediate cancellation of the delegation's meetings with local cinema bosses. He seemed particularly upset by the action movie 300, which portrayed the Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC as sexually flamboyant party animals, and The Wrestler, which boasts a scene where Mickey Rourke's arch enemy "The Ayatollah" tries to choke him with an Iranian flag.
Few things, as Salman Rushdie would no doubt agree, are quite so worrying as an Iranian who feels disrespected. But I do wonder if Mr Shamaqdari's righteous indignation wasn't a touch misguided. While no one likes their nation being ridiculed by an elderly chihuahua-owner dressed in latex, Hollywood "bad-guy" status can be extremely lucrative. Just ask a Brit: since the Cold War (when Rocky-style Russians stopped being sinister) our actors have been the standard pick for LA casting directors in search of a villain. As a result, an entire generation of UK stars has emerged playing mass murderers and other evil geniuses.
Now the tectonic plates are shifting, and those roles are starting to be filled by Iranians. They might not like it. But, setting aside national pride, Iran may find that being the cartoon baddie has its benefits.
Arnie's wise about water
Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency last week, saying that California's water reserves had declined to the point where they threaten our very existence, and calling on loyal citizens to use 20 per cent less water next year.
Drought is a pressing issue. The moment that "the Governator" replaces the lush green lawns of his home with AstroTurf and gravel, and stops pressure-washing his fleet of family cars, is when I plan to start taking him seriously.
In the dog house
Jay Leno joked about President Obama's decision to choose a Portuguese water dog as his first puppy: "Actually, it's his second choice of puppy. The first one he chose... it had some tax problems."Reuse content