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Romanticizing the past
Googoosh is no feminist heroine
By Ramin Tabib

May 18, 2001
The Iranian

Ms. Sabety's marvelous analysis of the Googoosh phenomenon is quite clever. Most of her analysis of the Googoosh resurgence is interesting, but her views seem skewed by academic texts and geared toward a portrayal of the singer as a charismatic leader. Her analysis therefore leaves out the motives we do not like to discuss about the grand re-emergence of Googoosh.

Here in LA, we have access (sometimes to our dismay) to a zealous Iranian media. At the time of Googoosh's North American tour, the Iranian media followed her almost everywhere, from Las Vegas to LA, and from Toronto to New York. Their reports usually featured interviews with scores of attendees who were either waiting patiently in line for tickets or were waiting for entrance into the concert. When these attendees were asked why they were so eager to see Googoosh, after much "taarof" and praise, the reply came as a revelation.

Surprisingly, most admitted that they were there for a sense of connectedness to the past. It was as if they had made a pilgrimage to the concert to forget the last 23 years and step into a time machine back to an era when they had never heard of revolution, republic, war, and exodus. This was true even among the young who were attending the concert. They would voice the same nostalgia even though many had not even been born in Googoosh's prime years. The young fans reflected a sense of awe and regret that they had probably picked up from their parents. In effect, many Iranians saw in Googoosh's re-emergence a connection with a time (in contrast to their present discontent) which presented content and security. (see here for example )

But the yearnings did not end there. Many concert attendees were also there because of a very mundane reason we are more than willing to often ignore. They yearned to show off, and Googoosh's concert was the show-off occasion of the decade. With TV, newspapers, radio and even American media camping outside the concert halls in cities like New York and LA, this was the occasion to show off in front of rival relatives and friends! Where else can one ever again find 10,000+ Iranians on the 11 o'clock news? The occasion was too good to pass up, and the concert promoters, who knew this angle of the equation, trumpeted the see-and-be-seen aspects of the event even more. Lo and behold it became the biggest post-revolution showcase of for Iranian vanity.

But leaving aside the notion that Googoosh is a window into a romanticized past and also a motive to show case the latest fashion, what also deserves attention is the economic motives behind Googoosh's resurgence. Googoosh's concerts were considered a marketing coupe for her LA-based promoters. As Ms. Sabety has pointed out, Googoosh tickets were marketed for $30-$250, and they often fetched multiples of their face values.

The huge windfall from Googoosh's return left a bitter taste in the mouth of those who were banking on Googoosh to be the Iranian Melina Mercury, the Greek singer who performed free concerts in support of the fight against the rule of generals. Unlike Mercury's performances, Googoosh's concerts were driven by the motive to gain the highest profit in the most lucrative markets, and this tainted heavily the singer's claim to any label other than a successful pop singer.

While many try to elevate her into a political heroine, her critics are eager to point out that she reaped a huge commercial reward for her comeback and was quick to disappear carrying bags of money. This then disqualifies her from any political arena or feminist association. There has been almost no end to innuendoes about the absurd amount of money diverted form the concerts into the coffers of Googoosh, the few promoters, and those inside Iran who allegedly were paid off.

Many opposition figures now scoff at Googoosh as the latest sell-out: one who ignored the Iranians who couldn't afford her appearances and one that didn't even attempt to have a free concert or a public appearance in a park or stadium. Googoosh, in all her majesty and blessed with power to shine light on any issue she cared for, simply disappeared into the comfort of pop success, and this makes her an antonym to any political struggle and far removed from any Iranian feminist agenda.

And at the end, Googoosh is what Googoosh was: a singer, a performer, a marketing brand with a renowned name like "Peykan" or "Seven-Up." We project onto her what we yearn for and what is skillfully hyped in the media. She was brought out of retirement to squeeze money out of the disillusioned and the heart-sick and to be an adornment on the memory books of those who fondly remembered her before the revolution and those who wish they could remember her before the revolution. And she will probably reemerge in a year or two if the economics of public performance outweigh the risk of irking the regime. But a feminist heroine, she is not.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment to the writer Ramin Tabib


Ramin Tabib articles index


Googoosh, the myth
Decoding a popular phenomenon
By Setareh Sabety

Like holding my pillow
Googoosh's first concert in 21 years brings back memories
By Termeh Rassi

Standing ovation
Googoosh's first concert in 21 years brings back memories
By Pedram Moallemian

Googoosh live!
Washington DC
Photographs by Jahanshah Javid

Houston, we have a diva!
The crowd of 10,000 went crazy
By Bahman Bagheri

Not kosher
But many Iranian Jews still love Googoosh
By Faryad


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