Strong Aversion to the "Persian Version"


Strong Aversion to the "Persian Version"
by donya

The reactions started immediately. I have to admit, my own gut couldn't hold back its own impulsive repulsion to possibly the newest addition to the quality MTV programing that graces our screens across the globe. Hot on the heels of the announcement came the angry, sarcastic, concerned, ridiculing, responses from Iranian Americans. I secretly felt quite proud. But apart from the obvious low-brow -ness of the whole thing, is there a more precise reason why the Persian Version strikes such as sensitive chord with us?

I'm still not sure, but if my Facebook feed is any indication, nobody's excited about it... at all. One LA Iranian publicity magnate became a fan of the Boycott page against the show before it is even made, saying her objection was based on Iranian Americans being a relatively new ethnicity in the US and at this stage needing better representation than a show like this "Jersey Shore" spin-off, which exploits the negative aspects of a stereotype. And, yeah, pretty much everyone else I know was repulsed to varying degrees.

So who are the people who would not only be excited by the prospect of the show being made, but also more than willing to participate in it? Personally, I'm familiar with this type only through legend. I was never able to access the life of this much-talked-about Persian American club-scene-enthusiast since I've never come across anyone willing to own that label let alone boast it with pride (as the show demands). Despite his/her illusiveness (at least to me) this typical "Persian Version" individual plays a big part in the responses of those with whom I did speak.

Across the board and unequivocally, my respondents assert that these shallow, club scene creatures create a harmful image of Iranian Americans in LA, one from which others take distance and with which they don't want to be associated. Some express their aversion much more strongly - I won't use their language. I would guess this show and the group it seeks to showcase uncover a sore spot amongst Iranian Americans because of the wider issues among Iranians in LA and the culture of consumerism and material wealth they have come to embody.

Views on Privilege

Some young second generation women I spoke to (a couple of which are active community organizers) considered the readily visible wealth and privilege of LA Iranians to be an obstacle standing square in the way of united struggle for equal rights and recognition in the US. According to them, portraying Iranian Americans' wealth as their main strength excludes the many lower/middle- and working-class Iranians in America today (not to mention the many in Iran) and therefore undermines notions of "community" by simultaneously capitalizing on and denying the economic inequalities among us.

On the other hand, the idea of wealth as a central Iranian American strength is embraced by some large Iranian American organizations, important public figures in the community, and individuals in general. After all someone thought the Persian Version of the Jersey Shore was a sign that "we have arrived" as a legitimate ethnic group in America. The tension between the accumulation of individual wealth/status on the one hand and the spirit of volunteerism and community-building on the other is nothing new within Iranian American diaspora - it's an old plague. But it seems today's generation is the first to be dealing with it head-on by thinking critically and being on top of things when it comes to the ways Iranians are represented to the public eye. And I see how this is an important role for all of us to play.

The Media Dream

But what about the responsibility of a media and a society that promotes the acceptance of a diversity of cultures into the mainstream by including them in the lowest common denominator-kind of entertainment. Doesn't this implicate a media culture that rewards recklessly materialistic behavior because it has proven to embrace the "American Dream?" The Persian Version is something of a grotesque extreme in this sense, but the idea of Iranian Americans being incorporated into American society because of their power as consumers, financial backers, and entrepreneurs seems to be prevalent today among LA Iranians and is used as a way to mobilize the second generation, too. It betrays close parallels to Hamid Naficy's analysis of the first generation's embrace of blatant consumerism as a way to fit in to American society as newcomers in the late 70s and into the early 80s in his well-known book and article on LA Iranians and satellite television.

The difference, I suppose, is that while there have almost always been complaints about how others portray us, today those who call attention to the issue of wealth as an obstacle to community-building also reveal the problems with how we represent ourselves (as particularly wealthy members of American society). They attempt to avoid misrepresentation by avoiding self-misrepresentation. And I've seen how young Iranian Americans take (self)-representation seriously in increasingly sophisticated ways in online and offline public media today. But that probably won't change the fact we live in a media society that tends toward content like "Jersey Shore," regardless of what Iranians do. The question is then, are we to beat them or joint them?


more from donya


by HHH on

What happened to the MTV that actually played music videos 24 hrs a day?

Is it me or MTV is turned into reality/gossip show, News are turned into political propaganda show and movies are turned into Gazillion-times-reruns to sell Godzilazillion medine and insurance commercials?

Sargord Pirouz

It'd be great theater if one

by Sargord Pirouz on

It'd be great theater if one of the young men was a politically pro-Iran basij type. But we all know that wouldn't happen, so the show will be entirely predicatable, based on the usual shallow lifestyle of partying, immaturity, consumption and materialism.

Too bad. Wouldn't it be great to see a young kid marching with his mates, doing PT and praying in the name of God and country? On MTV of all places!

Never happen... 

I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

MTV sucks. It's not about the music anymore.

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

It's about creating eating disorders, cancer tans, rape fantasies, bimbo fantasies. Stop watching them. Stop giving them power. These are not people who can produce ideas and change the world for the better. These are temporary people. They are a waste of life or just a good example to show your children what to avoid.


Very interesting read

by benross on

Thank you.


Let's consider LA in comparison to the rest of US

by Monda on

You know Donya, this reminds me of our collective embarrassment when MTV featured the Iranian American spoiled rotten brats on "Sweet 16" (and then again when the movie 300 came about).  When it comes to any research in social sciences, LA population of Iranians, is the only available due to its size, SES and its function within the social system as a whole. 

However, I think we need to come up with the disclaimer about how representative LA is of the Iranian Americans all over US. Then, how representative are those shallow beach bums of the general population of second generation Iranian Americans, who are by the way as educated and aware as their Non-Iranian counterparts.

Having said that, I'll go to my next thought about shows like Persian Version:

Who is the audience of shows like that?  Yeah the TV stations would sell it well to the global beach bum-wanna be's. So what?  There are lots of garbage on mainstream media making my stomach turn.

I have a choice of not watching. If i want to learn about a specific culture, stereotyping shows of that nature are useless. 

But if you ask me, it makes me glad to see reactions to each stereotyping effort by any organization, especially Corporate Media.  Because I hate the idea of stuffing any culture in a neat but stupid/ superficial package for the whole world to learn about.

Good luck on your research projects, please do fill us in. You are doing very valuable work. 




I love this topic!

by Monda on

Makes me think... I'm thinking, will be back!