In the past three decades, American perceptions of Iran have shifted dramatically. The very people who once had an empire, who drafted the first human rights declaration, and who were one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East are now among the most misunderstood and discriminated-against populations in the country.
First, Iran was labeled as a member of the ‘axis of evil’. Then, in the movie 300, Persians were depicted as pillaging, deranged savages wearing rags. Public officials and famous politicians oftentimes make off-hand and flippant comments about killing or hating Iranians.
All of this has led much of the public to equate all Iranians in their minds with terrorists and suicide bombers. (I actually had a World History teacher tell one of the Iranian-American kids in my class to be quiet because “All Iran exports is terrorism.”)
With Prince of Persia, we were finally portrayed in a good light. Our ancient world was being shown in romantic and mythological ways based on revered Persian literature, The Book of Kings and A Thousand and One Nights. For once, my dad said he’d actually sit through a movie without falling asleep. We were all excited.
We should have known that it wouldn’t last long…
“Two thousand years ago the Persian Empire ruled the ancient world…but they didn’t have your soundtrack, your style, or your swagger,” reads the casting call for the new reality show, seeking “anyone who uses exotic appeal to get anything or anyone [they] desire.”
For anyone who has not seen Jersey Shore, the show currently consists of a cast of young Italian Americans, whose “reality”-show lifestyle is little more than drinking and partying. They live on the beach, but refuse to tan anywhere but a tanning salon, and take an hour to get ready, with a lot of hair gel and a lot of hair spray involved. The characters either hook up, or attempt to hook up, with a sort of mad desperation.
And now they’re going to do the same thing with Iranian Americans.
A short while ago, the Iranian band Zed Bazi came out with a song called “Iranian of LA,” making fun of the very people who are chosen to represent our community in this show. Now everyone knows that Iranians are the real origin of the hair “poof” and can party as much as anyone else. But honestly, no one wants to be represented by the type of people and lifestyles shown on Jersey Shore.
The sad thing is there are hundreds of amazing Iranian Americans who deserve some recognition: artists, fashion designers, film directors, actors, doctors, website founders, and more. But the quiet dignity with which these people live their lives isn’t considered “good TV.”
For a moment, we thought our reputations might be saved with a last-minute addition to your nightly TV line-up: Funny in Farsi. But sadly, that show was nixed after the first episode.
Silly Iranians, we were told by Hollywood, you have three options only: terrorists, savages, or party animals. Take your pick.
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