How Does a Man Become a Cow in The Salesman and My Cousin Rachel?

“How does a man become a cow?” a student asks in reference to a realistic story with one, odd, fanciful element being analyzed in class.

“Gradually,” Emad, the teacher (Shahab Hosseini) responds in a prescient scene in the beautifully layered, rightfully Oscar-winning Iranian domestic melodrama, The Salesman.

The better animal choice might be a pig…but the answer, crypto-Feminist writer-director Asghar Farhadi implies, is the same.

(SPOILERS AHEAD – READ WITH CAUTION)

No man is born a disgusting, sexist pig. You become one…gradually, based on the choices a misogynistic society forces you to make. When you live in a religiously repressed and politically oppressed society that systematically puts value on their women based on what their men do (or don’t do) to them, and in turn puts value on the men based on the value put upon their women, men will often too easily devolve into metaphorical pigs obsessed with shame, dishonor and possessions…even unwittingly sometimes.

Take for instance Emad, the teacher who brings to his students eye-opening Western literature and moonlights (along with his loving, lovely wife, Rana, played by the powerfully emotive About Elly alum Taraneh Alidoosti) as an actor, currently putting on a production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” where he is Willy Loman and Rana is Linda Loman. The play, by the way, is being threatened with censorship by the government. I loved how this threat of censorship is presented as a throwaway line, a common, all-too-everyday annoyance in Iranian middle-class society (and don’t think this couldn’t happen here…or anywhere, with the right strongman in place). This couple seems like a liberal bastion in a repressive society, self-aware and quietly trying to bring about enlightenment through education and the arts.

But the world they live in wants to turn women into objects and men into pigs. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: You’d Be Surprised

No wonder Margaret dreamed of flying away in the season premiere.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – You’d Be Surprised

Season Three: Episode Five

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

The Spin:  If last week’s episode was meant to show the softer side to these tough guys, tonight’s episode existed to remind us of the deep-seeded depravity of the male characters as manifested through their misogyny and repeated degradation, oppression and violence against women.  Out in Cicero, the Muller formerly known as Van Alden (Michael Shannon), can try as he might to be a simple family man, but his violent past is infecting his sweet Swedish wife’s emotional well-being, leading to a shocking turn of events that has Muller running back to the Irish mob-run flower shop.  Back in AC, Poor Gillian (Gretchen Mol) still can’t come to terms with Jimmy’s fate and refuses to have him declared dead – the only action that will leave her with any title or credit to fix-up her house of ill repute in ill repair.  Nuckster, meanwhile reeling from a breakup with Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) over the incompetence of the Jersey operation, can’t help but meddle in Billie’s career, desiring to control her destiny even while he tells his wife, Margaret (who learns tonight of the affair), that the young lady seems more than capable of taking care of herself.  Then there’s Gyp (Bobby Cannavale – revealing way too much tonight), taking the cake for most disturbing fetish (a title previously held by Van Alden), making a new deal with Rothstein that leads to a bloodbath leaving a nameless red-headed waitress naked and dead.  And all of this makes what had been Margaret’s previously boring story-arc concerning the opening of a women’s clinic finally carry some weight.  Continue reading