Even though overall viewership has declined over the years, millions of people around the world still tuned in to watch the the 89th Academy Awards on February 26. One such country that made time for the program was Iran. It was also one country that won big that night when the Iranian film director Asghar Farhadi (who skipped the ceremony for political reasons) took home the coveted Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film for The Salesman. His win was announced by fellow Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Shirley MacLaine. The live-television moment was covered by the Iranian television channel Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), which is state-run agency, according to the Women In The World website.
But something was majorly off.
As seen via pictures of the broadcast, the network decided it was necessary to Photoshop Theron's Dior couture gown, eliminating any visuals of the 41-year-old's chest or arms. The end result was a crude black smudge on the upper-half of the accomplished actress. Theron, however, wasn't the only one — even Anousheh Ansari, the Iranian-American astronaut and engineer who accepted the award and read a speech on behalf of the absent Farhadi, was covered up with a black smear. She was wearing an already conservative one-shouldered dress with a shawl, but her exposed shoulder was apparently too exposed for the program.
A Facebook group called "My Stealthy Freedom," founded by Masih Alinejad, captured a video of the censorship. The caption of the video also points out the irony of the moment in comparison to the statement being read aloud by Ansari which focuses primarily on the rights of the individual.
"As the ILNA news outlet from within Iran covered the awards ceremony for the #Oscar, and Asgar Farhadi’s message of standing up for oppressed people, they also put a black paint on Charlize Theron and Anousheh Ansari to cover up their arms and shoulders, leaving only their heads visible," reads the caption. "Another typical example of the Islamic Republic’s fear of naked arms of Iranian women. It is shameful indeed, but that is how the Iranian media outlets based within the country have been covering such events for years."
It's pretty off-putting to see Theron with this dark mark all over her body, and eventually she becomes almost totally blurred out just because of her dress. It feels and looks absurd, and its clear why the images are universally upsetting, as Alinejad writes in an email to WITW. "This is the Islamic Republic of Iran which forces girls as young as age seven to be covered up,” she told the site, which focuses on women's rights. “While many of us, including Americans, are expressing our opposition to Trump’s Muslim ban, we also have to be louder and clearer about our condemnation of Islamic Republic of Iran’s ban on women who can’t enter Iran without hijab. Women from all religions and cultures, many of whom are flogged and imprisoned inside Iran for not wearing ‘proper hijab.'"