Friday, October 05, 2007

Headlines, Anthropologists, and The Kite Runner film

The New York Times kindly sends me their online edition daily. Usually the subject line reads something like: Today's Headlines: Graft in U.S. Army Contracts Spread From Kuwait Base (Sept. 24, 2007), or Today’s Headlines: Ethanol’s Boom Stalling as Glut Depresses Prices (Sept. 30).

But today the teaser was the following: Today’s Headlines: null

This one word summary begs the question of whether the Null is a meaningless "holding" word until the editor for the online edition receives the real headline, or if it is, in fact, an editorial on the contents. The word is not even capitalized.

Perhaps the editor is depressed over the debate on whether or not it’s okay to torture terrorism suspects, or the use of social scientists (dubbed mercenary anthropologists by opponents of their employment alongside the military) in counter insurgency campaigns, or that Senator Craig is still in office.

Take heart, dear New York Times online edition person for at least there is a debate, and anthropologists (whose parents worried they’d never find a job) are gainfully employed. My feeling is we should have sent them in before the military. The CIA should hire a few.

As for Craig, well, the entertainment value of his predicament is over (although Republicans are probably lining up for the next embarrassing homosexual peccadillo). Why he’s in the news instead of, say, the controversy over the depiction of a brutal rape in the movie version of the celebrated 2003 novel The Kite Runnerby Khaled Hosseini (my review), is surprising because it highlights once again how radically different western culture is from all those areas of the world where we’re fighting wars.

BBC news reported yesterday that Paramount Vantage, the studio responsible for bringing the book to the screen, is arranging for three Afghani families to go and live abroad, because of threats to their safety. They are also delaying the film's release. At the heart of the controversy is not only that it is a rape, but the rape of a boy by a bully, of an ethnic Hazara by a ruling Pashtun.

The fear is that ethnic rivalries (something Americans repeatedly fail to understand) will be ignited. "In Afghanistan, rape is not acceptable at all. This is against Afghan dignity. This is against Afghan culture," the boy's father, Ahmad Jaan Mahmidzada, told The Associated Press.

It’s possible that the people of Afghanistan think the film misrepresents them because like Iran, there are no homosexuals in Afghanistan. I bet an anthropologist would know the answer on both counts.