Following a ban on Barbies, Iran's ban on the Simpsons is part of a soft culture war that can mean only one thing. We're just not sure what it is.
Photo: 1998 Fox Broadcasting company/AP, Illustration: Jacob Turcotte/Staff
You’re the leader of a pariah nation. The world’s biggest superpower accuses you of developing nuclear weapons. One of your close neighbors is threatening airstrikes against you.
So what do you do? If you’re a nation like Iran, there’s only one thing to do.
Ban the Simpsons.
This week, the Iranian government’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults placed the Simpsons on a list of banned Western toys, a list that also includes Barbie. According to Mohammad Hossein Farjoo, the institute’s secretary of policymaking, the Simpsons were placed on the list because they promote Western culture.
On the streets and in the toy stores of Tehren, a quiet war of cultural influence is being waged. Morality police comb through shelves, pulling out toys that have “destructive cultural and social consequences” on Iranian society and Iranian youth. In their place are locally produced toys that are more sensitive to Iranian culture. One doll, named Sara, wears a proper veil and traditional dress, while Dara, a male doll, presumably just isn’t Bart Simpson. Even so, as of 2011, Iran was still importing an estimated $57 million worth of toys each year, with another $20 million more smuggled in, according to Associated Press.