Investigating the cause of surprisingly half deserted streets of a summer night in Tehran, I made acquaintance with Narges. Some 68% of the population preferred to stay home in front of TV sets, instead of their customary leisurely night rides. However, my semi-accidnetal acquaintance with this prime-time Iranian TV soap did not lead to a closer relationship and ended up in just watching few episodes.
Growing up watching programmes like Narges in state-run Iranian TV, that few episodes were more than enough for me to grasp the atmosphere and mentality of Narges: bunch of stock characters, stereotyped emotions, black and white worldview, preschool idealism, traditional religious spiritualit , and of course a bit of not-so-subtle political propaganda (this time Iranian nuclear issues). The huge success of the tearjerker series, which in my opinion its artistic quality at most triumphant moments barely came close to mediocre, proved to be a genuine opportunity for me to comprehend the taste of isolated, self-opinionated, and somehow grandiose modern Iran.
But , when a private footage showing one of the leading actresses of the soap having sex, started circulating viraly in the underground market and websites. Reviewing my recent memory, I can still recall seeing a few snapshots and videos showing iranian “celeberties” posing or dancing without wearing Hijab — an indispesable companion of their public “religiously decent” image –, but, to my knowledge, celebrities' involvement in sexually explicit material was unparalled in contemporary history of the country. Due to its unique nature, responses of different layers of the society to this phenomenon surfaced some otherwise unfathomable intricacies of Iranian culture. Some of these interesting mixed reactions included:
– Seemingly morally conservative families commenting indiscreetly about the video in their equally morally strict social circles.
– Seismic shifts in stance of press and goverment officials, who to much of everyone's surprise, categorically admitted the fact that such a video exists.
– Condemning the actress and complaining about the declining morals of youth.
– In-depth analisys of physical appearance of the actress and sexual stamina of her partner.
– Expressing short-lived, dinner-party regrets for uncertain future of the actress whose only crime was being unlucky.
– Trying to make fun of the situation by jokes like: “If American celebritiess (Paris Hilton and Pamella Anderson) can
have sex tapes, why can't ours?”
– Performing a song named “Break the CD”, encouraging people to destroy the film CDs and respect the privacy of a fellow Iranian girl.
No matter what kind of mindset someone might have, it is obvious for anybody who has spent a few years living in Iran that there is no way this traditional and religion-obssesed society is going to forget the event and let the actress back to a normal living. Average Iranian man still wants to think he is his wife's first, and only, sexual exprience, he still needs to think his duaghter's top-priority purpose in life is maintaining her chastity. Altough deep down he perhaps knows these might be illusions, he certainly does not like hard evidence to prove him they really are. These kinds of unrealatic idealism and extremely judgemental attitude has been forged deeply into this society's unconscious and are being galvanized everyday in schools, homes, and TV – by likes of Narges.
Zahra Amir Ebrahimi — the above mentioned actress — has gained her fame and fortune playing in mainly spiritual or religious films and programmes; amidst all the arguments surronding this matter, I can hardly remind of anyone who pointed out to the fact that: She was the victim of a monster she has spent all of her career feeding it.