Good Iranian, bad Iranian: Representations of Iran and Iranians in time and Newsweek (1998-2009)

Sam Fayyaz, Roozbeh Shirazi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This article analyzes the ways in which Iran and Iranians are represented in Western news media sources. Through detailed textual analysis of articles in Time and Newsweek between 1998 and 2009, it demonstrates that journalistic representations of Iran and Iranians are not simply efforts aimed at describing the real Iran, but rather form the basis of what Said refers to as a powerful "community of interpretation" that often reflects and reproduces certain xenophobic stereotypes of non-Western foreign subjects. While some shifts in Western media representations of Iranians have occurred in the thirty years since the revolution, the underlying ontological assumptions of these representations have remained remarkably durable. That is to say, the dominant representational discourse found in these newsmagazines depicts the political behavior of Iranians on the basis of essentialized notions of Persian and/or Islamic civilization, while very often emphasizing the taken for granted superiority of the West. Earlier Orientalist discourses focus on the difference of non-Western foreign subjects by denigrating them as fundamentally anti-modern and incapable of political, cultural and economic development without Western intervention. This article presents an unmistakable discursive pattern in American journalism whereby certain Iranians are incorporated into Western civilization by virtue of their embrace of a Western modernity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-72
Number of pages20
JournalIranian Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


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