This past week my social media has been buzzing in intermittent spurts -- not unlike those periodic spats on Bravo's reality TV show Shahs of Sunset when spoiled brat GG goes nuclear on underdogs Asa or Anita over which 'ho' (one of lead actor Reza's favorite nouns, his mother must be proud) wears H&M or whose gaudy overpriced outfit came off a heaven-forbid sales rack. Indeed much of Episode Three, "Champagne Wars," is dedicated to correcting GG's clothing-related meltdowns in Las Vegas.
Less shallowly -- perhaps even on another planet -- my Facebook and Twitter accounts have been subtly interwoven with an antiwar (anti Iran-Israel war) Internet campaign launched by peace activists in Israel and responded to by many likeminded Persians-in-exile. Ordinary people with ordinary lives trying to achieve the extraordinary: a world that apparently only John Lennon could Imagine. It's a powerful and beautiful moment online, though sadly many Iranians in Iran won't be able to view its touching messages and peace-loving sentiments due to political restrictions on social media. 'Israel loves Iran' even has a Facebook page, with 48,527 likes when I last visited.
What does this have to do with the superficial world of Shahs of Sunset and its thoroughly despicable-to-some inhabitants? I hear you. Well, one of things I actually like about the show -- a nugget -- is loosely covered in this quote by Sammy from Episode One. Put in context, he's pitching in on a conversation about intermarriage between Persian Muslims and Persian Jews.
"I can't believe we're having this stupid conversation in this day and age about religion. There's Persian Muslims, Persian Jews, Persian Christians, Baha'is. How much more of this bullshit do we need to talk about?"
To unearth this nugget...
Despite the show's shortcomings, which keep coming like smoke from a hookah in use, the Shahs of Sunset depicts a group of Persian-American friends that are both Muslims and Jews. Indeed, the show's credited cast appears to be split right down the middle: the Muslim contingent, Reza, Asa and GG, and the Jewish delegation, Mike, Sammy and MJ. They are friends. I love this, I really do, because, believe it or not, Iranians of different cultural backgrounds do get along... and despite the current political situation and its bigoted notions, they mostly have over the centuries Iran has been around.
One of the greatest emperors of the Persian Empire (600-529 BC) was Cyrus the Great. Under his expansive rule, he grew the country's borders from India to Egypt. But Cyrus the Great refused to enslave his new subjects, as he added to his land, accepting their local customs and religious beliefs, allowing them to persist and prosper. In this respect, Cyrus the Great considered himself a liberator, not a conqueror. In Babylon, he set the Jews free to return to Palestine. Persia was once the most cosmopolitan society there ever existed.
This is our heritage. Go figure.
Intermarriage among Persian Muslims and Persian Jews is again personal, not a decree, "not forbidden fruit" as MJ says when speaking about Mike and GG, who have an as-yet-unrequited thing for each other. Intermarriage among Persians, and among Persian-Americans and others, is a matter of love, as well as of custom. In my own immediate family of Muslim-in-name-only, my sisters and I have married a range of non-Iranians, from Jewish Americans to American Southern Baptists.
Just saying, "Hello, I'm Persian-American too!"
So back to the show and its gauche stereotyping. MJ prattles on in Episode 3: "There are a lot of stereotypes about Persians and most of them are true -- we are loud, we are gaudy, we wear a lot of gold, we drive really nice cars and we're in real estate."
Speak for yourself, dear.
Overall, this basic episode -- after "It's My Birthday Bitches," I'll take basic, trust me -- sees us through the rather dull and unglamorous real estate routines of Sammy, Mike, MJ and Reza, hawking their overpriced wares of concrete, brick and marble; through Asa affronting our ears with more singing and jingling gold; and through GG, well, doing nothing much, not even spending her daddy's wads.
The highlight of "Champagne Wars" is a champagne tasting -- going back to a gauntlet Reza threw down in Vegas about GG and the groups' taste buds and whether or not they could discern plonk from Dom. Reza spends $8404.18 on party supplies.
Who cares? I can't help it, sorry, when I think of numbers, I keep thinking of the 48,527 likes on 'Israel likes Iran.' Call me fickle.
The party upshot is hurrah they can -- the cheap champagne tasted like, well, cheap champagne to all, though I expect a homeless person could tell you as much. Not rocking my boat this party. There are wars and wars...
Meanwhile, I wickedly wished Reza had mixed in a "little seltzer water and little pipi (Farsi slang for urine) in the glass" as he had threatened to do on episode two just to mix things up.