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Beverly Hills mayor fears stereotypes on Persian reality TV show

March 8, 2012 | 10:33 am

Shahs of sunset

Some in Beverly Hills are worried that a new reality show focusing on Persian Americans on the Westside will reflect poorly on the people and culture.

At a time when U.S. and Iran are heading for a showdown over a suspected nuclear weapons program, Bravo and Ryan Seacrest are introducing America to a Southern Californian slice of Persian culture in its "Shahs of Sunset," which begins a six-episode run Sunday.

Set in "Tehrangeles," as the Westside enclave of Persian Americans is known, the reality show is centered on six Persian Americans who are shown tottering on red-soled Christian Louboutin shoes, wheeling Chihuahuas in a baby stroller to a doggie daycare spa and sweeping through Beverly Hills finest boutiques with abandon and delight.

But some are worried the program may promote an unwelcome image at a particularly tense historical moment.

"My reaction?" said Firoozeh Dumas, author of "Funny in Farsi." "Dear God, Noooo! I never thought Iranian Americans could get any press worse than what is on the news every night. But now, Americans have a chance to see a slice of materialistic, shallow and downright embarrassing Iranian culture. I just want to shout, 'We are not all like that!' "

Jimmy Delshad, who twice served as mayor of Beverly Hills, fear "Shahs of Sunset" will give a poor first impression of his community, which has worked hard to build a professional class of doctors, lawyers and business executives in America.

But Reza Aslan, the Iranian-born author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," has a different take: "It's a silly reality show.... Only the most moronic viewers would watch 'Shahs of Sunset' and extract an opinion about Iranians and Iran."

Being overly concerned with the reaction of the Persian American community to the program may miss a larger point, said Mitra Ahouraian, an entertainment attorney who knows some of the cast.

"I have very mixed feelings about the show," she said. "On the one hand, the trailer is scary. On the other, you know you've arrived as a minority community when there's a reality show about you. We're now recognized enough to be made fun of."


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Photo: Mike Shouhed, left, and Mercedes "MJ" Javid in a scene from "Shahs of Sunset." Credit: Colleen E. Hayes / Bravo