When I saw last week that Ryan Seacrest Productions had an upcoming reality show based on the lives of wealthy LA-based Iranian-Americans called the Shahs of Sunset, I did what any self-respecting, tech-friendly Iranian-American would do.
I shared the news on Facebook, tweeted the URL, and even sent the link to my agent, who's currently shopping my memoir, hoping to ride the crest, for-want-of-a-better-word, of a little zeitgeist.
After all, how often do Iranians get in the media spotlight (other than as nuclear-toting demented despots), let alone get their own television program premiering this March on Bravo, the network that brought us the Real Housewives franchise?
Shahs of Sunset depicts the lives of a group of young (the mind reels after discerning the official photo) Persian-American couples (Persian = I hate mullahs) living it up in Tehranangeles, the overpriced swath of real estate between Beverly Hills and West LA gobbled up by savvy Iranian expats following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In any case, the show will no doubt follow the decidedly un-shah-like shenanigans of the couples with the hopes of catapulting them into the public eye in much the same way that the Kardashians were (though I must admit the Kardashians were a whole lot prettier, as are most of the Persian girls I know).
But then I had an epiphany. The Shahs of Sunset were neither me nor mine, except perhaps the Iranian-American part, though I wasn't born here and didn't grow up in SoCal; except perhaps the living in LA part, I too had staked my decade in that city, though I had slogged it in the film business as a single woman in a rent-control studio -- and except, perhaps, the filthy rich Persian guy part. I once dated one, who drove a Ferrari and whose parents owned a chunk of Tehranangeles, but even that relationship stands out by virtue of being short-lived and the only one of its kind.
No, there's more to it...
It occurs to me that the shahs I knew in Tehranangeles were UCLA professors with Ivy League pedigrees, or doctors, bankers and lawyers who wouldn't be caught dead with facial hair, or without neckties and dress socks (unlike the men in the PR picture). Some of them were even professional women. My point is there are shahs and there are shahs, as a quick course in multi-dynastic ancient Persian history will reveal!
To illustrate further: take the ladies in the PR picture. True, I had big hair in the '80s (didn't everyone?) but I no longer wear a Persian cat with tail extensions on my head. Makeup these days for me is slash of lipstick, not an hour-long ritual. Of course, I like designer clothes, but I spend most of my time in jeans, driving carpool or lugging groceries for my family. To say I don't traipse around in strappy gowns and towering heels is a given. Indeed, the last time I got really dressed up was to marry my all-American Southern husband. Oh -- and the only seriously logo-ed bag in my wardrobe is a faux Chanel, naturally made in Iran!
You get my point.
Having said all this, reality shows are pure entertainment based on caricatures of real people, so why not a show about a certain segment of the Iranian-American population? Apparently, there are more than half-a-million Iranian-Americans living in LA alone, and research also shows they are 50 percent richer than average Americans...
To support my brethren, I'll watch the Shahs of Sunset, I'll get the cultural allusions, of which there are bound to be plenty, and I'll have a good laugh at the right clichés, but please, oh please, all you Americans in the Heartland, not the Iranian-American ones who know the difference, this is not who most of us are and certainly not how most of us live.
This show must be taken with a big handful of pistachios... the heavily salted kind.