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Argo downplays Canada’s heroic role

Despite its critical role, Canada’s involvement gets unjustly overlooked the film adaptation of the 1980 hostage rescue mission

Ben Affleck overshadows Canada in his portrayal of Tony Mendez in 'Argo'

Ben Affleck overshadows Canada in his portrayal of Tony Mendez in ‘Argo.’ Photo courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.

Before Ben Affleck hits the Oscar trail for his film Argo, he needs to account for the proverbial bitch-slap he handed Canadians with his film.

Argo, based on the 1980 joint US-Canadian effort to save six American hostages hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s house in revolutionary Iran, does its best to minimize Canada’s role in the rescue. Instead, most of the credit goes to CIA operative Tony Mendez and a small group of agents — both the political and the Hollywood kind.

Much of the rescue effort was classified due to the west’s volatile relationship with Iran.Mendez posed as a Canadian producer scouting “exotic” locations for a would-be sci-fi flick Argo. The six hostages each had a part: director, photographer, cameraman, etc.

Though Canadians acted nobly and bravely, especially Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, Canada was reduced to a punch line by Mendez and his team by the film’s end.

When Argo premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, controversy arose over the minimized depiction of the Canadian effort.

“The movie rewrites history at Canada’s expense, making Hollywood and the CIA the saga’s heroic saviours while Taylor is demoted to a kindly concierge,” wrote Maclean’s magazine.

But it didn’t end there: a group of Ambassador Taylor’s friends, who watched the film at TIFF, were angered, prompting Affleck to phone Taylor. A meeting was arranged, some post-script was changed and all was well.

However, after watching the film, one cannot help but feel a little cheated.

Argo has already been courting Oscar attention for best director and best picture. The nominations will be well deserved, because it is a carefully constructed and exciting political thriller.

However, Affleck used artistic license in his retelling of history: Taylor himself stated, “…in reality, Canada was responsible for the six and the CIA was a junior partner. But I realize this is a movie and you have to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.”
Critical acclaim doesn’t let Affleck off the hook for his slight toward Canadians.

It’s understood that in Hollywood Canadians will never be seen as the tough guys. There may never be a Canadian John Wayne in the movies, a towering figure that defines masculinity.

Instead, Canadians are portrayed as caricatures: Mounties wearing silly beaver pelt hats, cabin dwellers in plaid, or toothless hockey players. But above all, Canadians are mild-natured neighbours who play by the rules, and that’s not sexy — certainly not compared to the fearless and valiant Americans.

Though the film is certainly worth watching, viewers need to put on their thinking caps. Or maybe it’s best that viewers leave their thinking caps at home and enjoy Argo as a fun, exciting,fast-paced thriller.

Maybe Canadians who watch the film should tell Affleck to Ar-go fuck himself.[hr]

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