As Americans, we love to indulge in reality TV every once in a while. But as this type of television becomes more and more popular, shows are continuing to break the mold.
Bravo’s show “Shahs of Sunset” highlighted a group of people who hadn’t had too much airtime in the past- the Iranian-American community currently resigning in California. Around 500,000 Persians moved there after the 1979 Iranian revolution, and many live luxurious lives that Bravo obviously saw as TV-worthy, and gave some of the members of that community their own reality show.
Whether it’s our society’s new obsession and education on the Middle East following the Iraqi war, or just a very wealthy and unique lifestyle of friends and community members, “Shahs of Sunset” became extremely popular and caused some controversy in the process.
An article from Fox News reported that many Persian-Americans started petitions when the show initially aired to halt the show due to “promoting racial stereotypes.” It also mentioned a comment from a signer of this petition, stating that the show “is racist and only encourages others who do not know Persians in American society to feed into the worst kind of stereotype.”
But the stereotyping that is playing a role in this show could be different then the one mentioned above. A New York Times article says that “Shahs” exploit and “amplify a previously localized phenomenon: the longstanding stereotyping of Los Angeles’s Iranian-Americans as vulgar, materialistic show-offs who don’t fit in among the city’s supposedly more cultured elites.”
Either way, this show is reaching across the country to people that have no prior opinions or stereotypes about the Persians in Beverly Hills. Through this show, schemas and narratives are being made, confirmed, or shifted, and we can only hope it’s more positive than not.