Shahs of Sunset, the hit Bravo reality series about affluent Iranians in Los Angeles, returned for a second season on Sunday—with more drama, drinking, and designer frocks.
But these Persians will have to compete against another, very different image, of Iran in pop culture this year. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, tells the story of a CIA mission that uses a faux Hollywood production to rescue six Americans hiding in Tehran. Set during the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1979, the real-life adventure is poised to be one of the major contenders at the 2012 Oscars.
So we asked the "Shahs" for their review of Argo. Our panel included Reza Farahan, the gay real estate agent with the show’s best one-liners; Asa Soltan Rahmati, the free-spirit singer/songwriter, and Mike Shouhed, an entrepreneur and self-described mama’s boy.
Asa: It’s funny that we’re doing this, because I have a whole theory that I’m talking about. Basically, Persianity and pop culture are colliding! I really feel like the zeitgeist of pop culture, it’s never been more Persian. Before this, what did you ever hear about Persians, besides bullshit on the news? There’s so much Persian stuff everywhere.
Reza: When we saw Argo, we looked like homeless people.
Asa: We had a pajama party at my house, and we were playing Hook, which is a Persian card game. We decided to go see this movie in a random theater on this side of the town, wearing our pajamas. Of course, my man was smart enough to change. But [Reza and I] had our pajamas on. It was funny.
Mike: I took my Italian-American girlfriend to see it, and she was a little shocked. You know, here’s the thing, man. Growing up, I considered myself somewhat of an immigrant. I was 30 days old when I came here. My parents really didn’t speak much English. I related to the Iranian culture. That’s all I knew. I had this idea of what Iran was really about, but I’d never seen it, because my mom and dad didn’t really have many pictures. When I was able to see it on the big screen, I thought, Wow, that’s the way Iran looks. But they made us look like such savages. It was a little too fanatical, I think. Great movie, but it hurt me to see Iranians portrayed in that light.
Asa: I was just going to say, Americans have to understand it was about a certain time when a revolution was happening. I liked the movie, but I thought it simplified a bunch of things. You know in the beginning, when they show the rundown of the history. I don’t feel like they properly showed all the different sides. One of the other things that I thought was annoying—there was so much Pakistani and Moroccan stuff. They were mixing a bunch of shit up. I know you can’t get all the extras to be Persian, that’s probably not easy. There were a lot of non-Persian things in there meant to look Persian, and, of course, you can’t fool a Persian. There was some graffiti stuff on the wall that was clearly Arabic, not Farsi. I don’t want to be nitpicky, but I could tell.
Mike: You know what’s funny? They do the same thing with our show. They put on Arabic music.
Reza: People Tweet me, “I love Arabs.” I’m, like, “Thank you so much for the compliment, but we’re not Arabs.” I’m really enjoying this mini renaissance that Persians are having. I’ve seen movies like House of Sand of Fog, with Ben Kingsley, who is so not Persian. But the non-Persian actors took away from the authenticity, because it felt so real. It’s like when you look into a homo’s eye. It’s called gaydar. It’s maybe called paydar for Persians. The other thing I kept thinking was, if I were there with an Uzi, I would have blasted all you [rioting Iranians]. The first psycho that climbed the embassy fence would be dead.
Mike: No one had guns.
Reza: If I were there, I’d be packing. I have to add one little thing from the beginning of the movie. I’m sure I’ll get some heat for saying it. I’ve always thought when the shah left, he didn’t take enough. They made a point of saying the shah’s plane almost couldn’t take off, because it was so weighed down by gold. If I were the king of Iran, I would have taken the doorknobs, the chandeliers. If there were crowns, I would be wearing one and one would be in my pocket.
Mike: I thought it was a great movie. It was very thrilling.
Asa: I thought it was super-suspenseful.
Reza: I have a love-hate relationship with the events that take place in the movie. Obviously, it saddens me to know what happens to the country and a lot of my family is still there, but at the same time, I’m thinking thank the Lord that shit went down, because that’s the only reason I got to grow up in America. I was 2 and a half when I got here.
Mike: I came in 1978, right before the revolution.
Asa: I was 8 years old. I came after the revolution. We left in 1984, which was the first time they reopened the airports since the war. My dad was a high official. It was really risky. Literally, we got so lucky at the airport, because the lady in front of us in line was smuggling her gold in this fake compartment in her suitcase, so they caught her. It was chaotic, “OK, go through.” They could have easily caught us at the airport. We got a visa to Germany. In the ’80s, it became pretty impossible to come to America. Most Persians went to Canada or Europe.
Reza: By the way, I thought Affleck killed it. We are Americans, and we love a comeback. The crazy people jumped the fence, they took over the embassy. But at the end of the day, six of them snuck out. We fucking triumphed.
Mike: Asa, you have the strongest Iranian fanbase. A lot of people that tweet from Iran are tweeting you. I hear Tehran is the biggest party city now. People are having a blast and it’s craziness. It’s not as bad as they make it seem on the news.
Asa: Can I say something important to put out there? I think this movie, while it was about a political event that happened, it’s a human story. It’s very important for people to distinguish between the Iranian government and its people. One of the heroes of the movie was the cleaning lady. She saved them. She was an Iranian person. There’s a great distinction to be made between the Iranian regime and its people and their relationship with America. Our history, everybody’s history, is filled with these types of heroes. People are good. It’s the regime that’s oppressive.
Mike: If they do an Argo 2, I want to be in it.
Asa: I have an idea for Argo 2. It’ll be the Shahs of Sunset returning to Iran.
Reza: On Khomeini’s private jet.
Reza: A. it was action-packed and told a great story. I thought it was great.
Mike: I give it an A. It was very well written. Great acting, it was suspenseful. It was a good movie.
Asa: I give it an A-minus. It was a great movie. I’m a huge fan of [Iran’s 1950s-era Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh. I wish they’d put more in there about that.