Those familiar with Farzaneh Milani’s path-breaking literary analysis will recognize the phrase “hostage narrative,” a term she has been devloping over many years to apply to that best-selling genre of politically tinged “true stories.” In these “hostage narratives,” women writers who are now “liberated” or “un-veiled” tell the world of their past “cultural captivity” in their native, usually Muslim lands.
In this genre, as Professor Milani documents, the line between “fact” and “fiction” gets lost, as those sympathetic to the “message” focus only on the cause served. It’s a great way to sell books and a shrewd way to “heat up” the political culture to support bombings and invasions to “liberate” the presumed hostages. Thus the sequel:
“Reading Lolita while bombing Tehran.”
(And oh by the way, are women now better off in today’s de facto Islamic Republic(s) of Iraq than they were under Saddam? Where’s columnist Ellen Goodman been on that?)
Veteran actress Mia Farrow now takes the “hostage narrative” to a new, virtual realm, with her over-the-top offer to exchange herself for the “freedom” of a Sudanese “dissident” rebel leader and Darfur advocate, Suleiman Jamous. Depending on the source you read, Jamous is a “virtual prisoner” who cannot leave a UN hospital and/or cannot leave the country for medical treatment.
To Sudan’s President, Ms. Farrow writes,
Mr. Jamous is in need of a medical procedure that cannot be carried out in Kadugli… Mr. Jamous played a crucial role in bringing the SLA to the negotiating table and in seeking reconciliation between its divided rival factions.
I am… offering to take Mr. Jamous’s place, to exchange my freedom for his in the knowledge of his importance to the civilians of Darfur and in the conviction that he will apply his energies toward creating the just and lasting peace that the Sudanese people deserve and hope for.
How curious. Ms. Farrow’s “courageous offer” to become a female hostage in a Muslim land is a recognizable stroke of p.r. brilliance. It’s getting widespread softball media treatment in the US, as anything supporting the long-suffering Sudanese Darfuris is “hip” in the US and must be “a good thing.” And besides, she’s a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, and what’s the harm — particularly if it helps focus the international microscope back on unresolved Sudanese nightmares? (US international broadcasting has been prominently featuring Ms. Farrow’s offer too….)
Ms. Farrow of course knows there isn’t a chance the Sudanese government will take her up on her offer to become a “hostage.” What a p.r. disaster for them that would be!
In her best acting yet, Ms. Farrow professes to the media the sincerity of her wish to be a real hostage. Indeed.
We’ll likely have to settle for Ms. Farrow keeping a journal for enthralled admirers of her “ordeal” as a surreal hostage-in-waiting – a “virtual hostage” on behalf of a “virtual prisoner.”
Oh the drama. I feel another best-seller in the works, no doubt for a worthy cause. (Aren’t they all? Though perhaps in Mia Farrow’s case, the title, “Not Without My Daughter” might be a bit inappropriate…..)
So what’s next? Hundreds, if not thousands, of Darfur activists on college campuses signing up to join Mia as “virtual hostages?” eh? Me & Mia? No doubt that’s too harsh.
I hear Ms. Farrow’s next movie will be a comedy.