The Portrayal of Iranian Women in Swedish Public Service Television : Case studies of two recent documentary films

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för mediestudier


Considering recent researches on representation of women from Islamic countries in western media including Sweden, the portrayal of “Muslim women” in general and images of Iranian women in particular is classified in a sets of stereotypes such as oppressed, dangerous, backward, rough, traditional, veiled and uncivilized through the framework of concepts related to sexually constrained, tradition-bound, domestic, family-oriented, victimized. The purpose of this thesis was studying two most recent documentary films broadcasting on Swedish television, Min Stulna Revolution and Sahar och hennes fru, which depict Iranian women living in Sweden as challenging rather than confirming traditional stereotypes of “Muslim women”. The interpretative research was conducted through the use of content analysis in combination with the semiotics and discourse within a perspective of postcolonial theory, and intersectionality. Moreover, theories in this study were regarding the social constructionism of representation, and documentary representation through the objective and subjective models. The result of interpretative research demonstrated that these two documentary films challenge the concept of “other” when it distinguishes immigrant “Muslim women” from the Swedish woman as a western. What separates “us” from “them” in two considered films is not the geographic boundaries between west and east, but it is the gap between modernism and tradition which includes various levels in different societies. Therefore, Iranian women in these two films are not defined as the “other” caused of their nationality and religion. They seem the critics of current situation whether it is Islamic patriarchal revolution in Iran or unequal rights of minorities in Sweden. With the comparison on two documentary films, Iranian women in Min Stulna Revolution have been driven from their homeland and found Sweden as a safe refuge and the second homeland; thus, the film is focusing on their tragic experiences of living in Iran and critique of the social and political situation in that country. But, Sahar och hennes fru is the life story of a woman from the second generation of Iranian immigrants in Sweden who struggles against both cultural values of Iranian community and discriminations in Sweden. The main character of this film criticizes discriminatory attitudes against minority groups of ethnicity, disability and sexuality in Sweden.

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