"Real" irooni woman
August 23, 2001
When she is not nose deep in books in the dusty library of some medieval-era
college, my ammeh works "on the field", helping educate disadvantaged
children from Cambodia to Uzbekistan. She is knowledgeable in so many aspects
of the world (politics, arts, human rights) but as naïve as a baby
in other respects, like pop culture, post-modernism of Seinfeld, the latest
Mariah Carey mental breakdown... well, you get the picture.
So when she came over for a visit many years ago, the evil fourteen year-old
I was could not resist making a gruesome experiment. I wanted to confront
her reality with the "reality of a Tehran-Gelessi music video. I chose
Fattaneh as my weapon to induct my Ammeh in the halls of modern hyphenated-Iranian
popular culture, for reasons that will become apparent very soon.
-- "Ammeh Joon, mikhaay baa man yek video irooni tamaashaa koni?"
-- "Baasheh azizam, chieh? Filmeh? Kiarosstami? Makhmalbaf?"
-- "Ummm... taghriban."
I popped the video in, the credits began rolling, just like
a movie. At first, all we could hear was the panting and/or heart beats
of an anonymous off-screen character juxtaposed over the image of a California
beach. Then, a woman in white lacy bicycle shorts under a flowy see-through
dress running barefoot in the sand for no apparent reason. So far, pretty
much like your standard dada movie of the early teens by way of Salvador
Dali's Un Chien Andalou.
But soon things took on a suspiciously Bollywoodish turn as the woman
plunged into the waves, followed by a hapless male admirer (who looked more
like a serial killer). The man, however, did not reach her in time and was
only able to retrieve a necklace. It was from this point that the video
exploded in music and song.
As it is common in Tehran-Gelessi videos, there were about 141 plots
going on at the same time, with 26 costume changes, 43 dance numbers, and
an array of non-Iranian back-up singers and/or band.
Now that I had put the non-compatible chemical components of my experiment
in direct contact, I sat back to watch the reaction: Would there be an explosion?
A melt-down? Some sort of weird osmosis?
Well it was an explosion all right... an explosion of laughter. I watched
in delight as my ammeh literally -- I cannot emphasize enough how LITERALLY
-- rolled down from the couch where she was sitting onto the floor, where
she was overtaken by uncontrollable convulsions of laughter and tears.
This proved to be quite an infectious reaction because I soon joined
her, half-laughing at the video itself, and half at the results of my devious
little experiment. All this commotion brought my cousin Mehdi running into
the TV room.
-- "Chieh baba?Chi shodeh? Che khabareh injaa?"
Then he caught glance of Fattaneh on the screen and instantly underwent
the same reaction that I have seen countless of Iranian men succumb to when
confronted by her willowy silhouette. He froze in place, mouth hanging open,
eyes riveted on her.
I pressed Stop on the VCR control. Again, classic reaction. Mehdi wailed:
-- "Aaaaaaahhhhh... Niki cheraa aziat mikoni? Roshanesh kon digeh!"
-- "Cheraa mageh hassoudit misheh?"
I rolled my eyes. Puh-leezeme, jealous? Well... ummm, all right, all
right maybe a little bit. I mean I have nothing against Fattaneh or her
music videos. She seems like a genuinely nice person, she is pretty, she
can dance and she can even sing. She doesn't even seem full of herself.
That puts her already about 200 constellations above some of her colleagues
(who shall remain nameless).
And this isn't nuclear physics, it's damboli-dambolism, it's SUPPOSED
to be silly and over-the-top. So I wasn't really laughing at her, more likely
with her. But what I don't understand is the reaction of Iranian men. They
really go crazy, I mean divouneh!
Once at a Noruz concert where she was one of the featured singers among
better-known and more "reputable" headliners, she was the one
who got the whole crowd of men, from little boys to normally non-compliant
teenagers, to grown up husbands and fathers, all rushing to the stage. One
guy even started a fight with one of the stage-hugging fans because he had
paid extra to get a table close to the stage so he could enjoy Fattaneh
up close and now his sight was blocked!
Not to mention the countless times I have walked in on my cousin Mehdi
or other male relatives and friends (and even once, horrors of horrors,
my dad!) standing in front of the TV screen, VCR remote in hand, watching
a Fattaneh video which they would then pause and rewind at the precise moment
where she is lying with her back to the camera, and has turned her neck
around to give a mischievous come-hither look to her audience.
My cousin Mehdi sighs:
-- "Nemitooni befahmi. Be in migan zane vaaghe-eeye irooni."
I guess Mehdi is right. I won't ever understand.