Masculinity, Divorce, and Disability in M is for Mother

By Kimberly Canuette Grimaldi
Submitted to Session P5324 (Expressions of Masculinity in Iran, 2018 Annual Meeting
Media Arts
19th-21st Centuries; Cinema/Film; Gender/Women's Studies; Iranian Studies; Media; Persian;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
In Dariush Mehrjui’s 1990 cult classic Hamoun, a psychiatrist tells the wife of the titular character, “It’s common for all Iranian men to tyrannize.” Later in the film Hamoun’s mother in law adds to the charge, “you are like all men, egotistic and abusive.” This project considers the questions of abuse, tyranny, and egoism that run throughout a number of Iranian films in the post-war period in order to examine the relationship between masculinity, marriage, and childbearing. Divorce and male vulnerability are not uncommon themes in Iranian cinema, in order to examine the specific case of childbearing, this paper will first consider depictions of divorce and male fragility in Dariush Mehrjui’s Hamoun and Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation. In looking to these two films, of different generations and political viewpoints, this paper will to first examine representations of female disobedience and its impact on masculinity in Iranian film. It will then move to an analysis of Rasoul Molla-Ghollipour’s M is for Mother, a film in which the wife is exalted for her service to the country during the Iran-Iraq war and her determination to raise a disabled child. Specifically, this project asks, what impact does the birth of a disabled child have on the father’s conception of his own masculinity? Furthermore, is this crisis of masculinity predicated on the wife’s disobedience, the child’s existence, or simply the father’s egoism? This paper argues that no matter the cause, disability, especially of a son, appears to weaken the stature of the father in society. Further, Molla-Ghollipour’s film offers a moralistic critique of male selfishness and egoism as the cause of personal and social breakdown while deifying a certain type of self-sacrificing femininity as the salvation of nation and society.