ABSTRACT

In this chapter, I explore themes and examples of masculine virtue and heroism in Persianate literature and history to better understand their re-imaginings in the Pahlavi-era popular cinema. I ask how depictions of male exemplars in fīlmfārsī – a cinema largely about men and for men – related to ideas of the family, nation, and of a popular civil religion? Of particular interest is the socially marginalized status of these protagonists and the subsequent difficulty of drawing a line between hero and anti-hero. Finally, I touch on the problems of female virtue in relation to fīlmfārsī. Male heroism in the films often involved the protection of female chastity, yet some Iranian commentators have considered cinematic portrayals of women as inherently a violation of their virtue. How have female stars and their fans reconciled this contradiction and what might be the historical precedents and models for such an accommodation?