Persian, Iranian or American: Who Am I

Persian, American or Iranian:  Who Am I

Researching in my Popular Culture class this term has brought up old questions I have struggled with and answers I never suspected.  Often feeling my situation is unique, I never realized that many Iranian-Americans have the same conflict; how do I identify myself in this mass media driven society, Iranian, Persian or American?

I have wonderful memories of my first six years.  It was an uncomplicated, happy interval, and I was unaware of the pending revolution. Not long after my family moved to Oregon, I realized that having an Iranian name was not well received.  Being so young, I wasn’t sure why, but the older I get, I see the continued hostility between the United States and Iran.

What I didn’t realize until this course and through the research I have done for this blog post and even some of the other blog posts we analyzed in class that my internal battle for a sense of identity is not unique.   I am always looking for a way to stand out as an Iranian, whether it be through family connections, food, holidays-anything.  Longing to embrace the part of my life I have good feelings for inside, but don’t have a clear recollection of.

The documentary “Iranians in America” that aired on PBS in 2012 shows clips of the Iranian Revolution, the Government being brought down by religious groups, riots, and the American hostage crisis.  There are a number of Iranians interviewed in this piece who left their home and moved to the U.S.3   One woman who is interviewed recalls all she misses about Iran, the markets, the mosques, family get together, the garbage man, and the neighbors.  She searches for the same connection of community around her in the U.S. and cannot find it.

An Iranian American family celebrates Nowruz. Photo courtesy of PBS

I totally relate with her, and have nothing but bits of family tradition my mother and father continued, such as eating Persian food (lots of rice) and celebrating Nowruz (Persian new-year).  There is an Iranian-American comedian K-Von who does a Tedtalk about celebrating Nowruz, and how he was not even aware it was a holiday until he went to Los Angeles in his early 20’s.5   His father aimed to keep him as American as possible to avoid any conflicts.

I was ecstatic when Bravo decided to broadcast a reality television show portraying the lives of six Iranian-American people living in Los Angeles-called the Shah’s of Sunset.1  This show broadcast by Ryan Seacrest Productions, follows the lives of these six young adults living a lavish lifestyle in Los Angeles, sometimes referred to as “Tehrangeles”.  The show demonstrates how these people are grasping at their Iranian roots, with food, Iranian traditions and occasionally speaking Farsi.  This is the extreme opposite of what I remember about Iranians, portraying these six as rich, heartless, greedy, gossiping and stirring up a whole lot of drama.  They fight, they drink, they smoke, they disrespect each other.  However, now it is in its sixth season, and must obviously be successful.

After reading a news piece written by Bianca Soldani, “Stereo-typed and Shrouded in Controversy” I was interested in the different opinions given on this reality show.  Bianca raises the questions, is it bad to have this show that is somewhat a mockery of Iranian’s or does it bring to light that there are successful Iranian -American’s living in the U.S.?2   Basically an American television show that does not portray all Iranians as being from the ‘the Axis of Evil’, terrorists, or villains.   Part of me agrees with Bianca’s article about portraying Iranians in a different light but I would argue that this is what true Iranian’s are.   The drama of these actors is what draws the audience in.  “Reality TV”

On an opposite side of the spectrum, Maz Jobrani, a well-known Iranian-American comedian did a TEDtalk on YOUtube, “Did You Hear the One About the Iranian-American? “ This piece Maz describes how Iranian-American’s and others from different cultures can be easily stereo-typed into one classification.  Maz continues in his piece about how he was asked to play the villain time and time again, using his Iranian accent to rob a bank with a bomb wrapped around his waist.  He brought up the question to the producers, “why can’t I just rob the bank with a gun, like a normal person would?”  I guess the point is that story doesn’t sell, not with an Iranian accent.2

My earliest memory of stereo-typing and how terrible it can be was made evident when I was 10.  All my friends and others I did not know pulled me aside in the hallway one day after school, held me against the wall and took turns hitting me, spitting on me and calling me awful names.  I walked home that day, confused, I didn’t really get it, these were my friends.  It was later that I was told it was because of what was happening in Iran.  To this day I don’t believe my classmates hated me, but they hated what they had seen or heard on the television, radio or even from their parents.  How could that be?  I didn’t cause the revolution.  I didn’t take any hostages.  These questions don’t matter if you get indoctrinated enough through television, or household discussions and pretty soon all Iranians are evil.

I now realize this struggle is not only mine.  As I researched My Big Picture Blog Post, read through and listened to other peers in my class, I realize finding personal identity is affected by all that surrounds us; whether you were born in a different country, your parents migrated here, have a different religion or even look different.  So much of what is portrayed on media outlets lumps people into various large categories.  We are all individuals, and no one person should be defined by mass media.

Neda Magbouleh wrote a piece, “Inherited Nostalgia Among Second Generation Iranian- Americans- A Case Study at a Southern California University” A quote from the article rings loud and clear for me “But a nostalgic longing – encompassing homesickness and psychic travel, both for and to US-based childhood homes and an Iranian ‘homeland’ they have never before visited”. 4    

Neda’s article makes it evident this is a struggle for first and second-generation Iranians living in America.  Southern California is home to more than half a million Iranians according to a census done in 2012.   There are groups established in California and other parts of the United States so Iranian-Americans can gather together and share their culture, language and heritage without the fear of judgement.

Another interesting quote from Neda’s article concerns the defining of Persian vs Iranian, Neda writes from an interview with the president of this Persian student group “Maybe ‘Persian’ is more inclusive or more cultural, you know, I guess we’re just carrying on the name that the group has had. I know that the country of ‘Persia’ doesn’t exist anymore and I’m not trying to say I prefer you know, being compared to a Persian cat than a real country that my people are from … but it’s [the term] used all around us in L.A. … and we support Iran and its place in the global system. We love our country as ‘Iran’. But in my life, I use both terms all the time and I don’t think I do one or the other more consciously.”  She also adds later, “The PSG President’s understanding of the term ‘Persian’ is particularly noteworthy, as it illustrates her effort to negotiate a sense of cultural history with present-day circumstances.”

Going through middle school and high school personally I identified as Persian instead of Iranian.

Like so many other cultures or heritages, mine is only unique in the sense that I struggle with what identity I call myself today, Iranian, Persian or American.  I don’t think I have to identify as one of any of those things, I am all of them.

The conclusion is best stated from an Iranian man interviewed in the PBS documentary, Firouz Naderi, Engineer, NASA jet propulsion laboratory ‘there is not a side of me which is Iranian and a side of me which is American, it’s sort of like scrambled eggs, when you scramble it you can’t separate the white and the yolk anymore, this is who I am no, my Iranian identity and American identity are woven together into a fabric which is me right now.’ 3  This is who I am, Iranian-American woven together to make me the unique person I am.

iranian-american-openz_itokud the daily beast

 

  1. Seacrest, Ryan. “Shahs of Sunset.” Bravo TV Official Site, 30 Oct. 2017, bravotv.com/shahs-of-sunset.
  2. Soldani, Bianca. “Stereotyped and Shrouded in Controversy: An Examination of Iranians on TV.” Guide, Sbs.com, 3 May 2016, sbs.com.au/guide/article/2016/05/04/stereotyped-and-shrouded-controversy-examination-iranians-tv
  3. “The Iranian Americans.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, Dec. 2012, pbs.org/program/iranian-americans/
  4. Neda Maghbouleh Journal of Intercultural Studies 31 , Iss. 2,2010

www-tandfonline-com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/doi/full/10.1080/07256861003606382?scroll=top&needAccess=true

 

  1. “FUNNY TEDTalk about PERSIAN NEW YEAR ~ (w/ Comedian Kvon).”YouTube, YouTube, 16 Mar. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YehRVbB8jQ4.
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Violent Gamers

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I love to play video games. It’s something that lets me forget about the stresses of life and interact with friends, wherever they may be. I play enough video games to consider myself a bit of a gamer and noticed that popular culture tends to portray gamers as violent because of a supposed link between video game violence and gamers. However, the connection between violent video games and violence has yet to be fully proved.

Law & Order, there is none in Gaming

In early 2015, an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit portrayed white male gamers as terrorists against the diversification of the video game community. To set the scene of the episode, two white males walk up to a female booth host at an FPS gaming event. Later, they attack her when she walks into the empty bathroom.

A female game developer, Raina, is kidnapped, beaten, and raped by three white males in the name of anti-female gamers. The episode shows the three kidnappers sexually abusing Raina and streaming videos of the abuse over the dark web. The first stream shows Raina being tied up, withgreen text that says “Game on NYPD”.

The next video shows one of the kidnappers ripping open Raina’s blouse and slapping her across the face. At the end of the video, text fades in that reads “level completed”.

The next stream ends with Raina being thrown onto a pile of pillows with the three kidnappers taking off their clothes around her. It is implied that the stream continues as they rape her.

In the end, Raina was rescued. She left the game industry saying “women in gaming… What did I expect?” (Law & Order).

H3H3Produces an Analysis

The episode got a lot of backlash from people saying how unrealistic the episode is. They felt the writers of the show took the recent gamergate issues and blew them out of proportion. Four people of the gamergate group threatened three females involved in the gaming industry. While the threats were illegal and horrific, the three victims of gamergate were never harmed the way Law & Order portrayed. Below is a satirical review of it, by H3H3Productions.

I must note, the man in the video – Ethan Klein – is acting more upset than he really is. That’s his format; he tries to discredit the plot of the episode while acting as outrageous as possible. However, Ethan does point out the wild assumption that gamers are violent.

In the video, Ethan says the episode “berates and belittles” the gaming community. Soon after, he points out the cinematic psychological effect of putting flashes of chanting/cheering and a sexual assault together. This connecting of scenes can cause a connection in the audience’s minds. Flashes of white men cheering and white men attacking a woman who is part of the game industry can cause the audience to connect the idea that white men enjoy the assault of female gamers.

Ethan watches a scene where the woman who was attacked is telling the detective that the assailants were pasty white and skinny. The detective then says that the description fits “80% of the crowd.” This sets in the portrayal of gamers being white male. However, violent gamers are not always locked into while males. The reason Law & Order used white males in their episode is because the demographic of the broad video game community is mostly white male.

Bernie, Hillary, & Donald

Political figures have a loud presence. They speak about popular issues, and what their opinions are. They tell us they can make our lives better. They rally the masses to support them and their ideals. Political figures have been able to get everyone to believe that video game violence causes violent people. The following video is from a YouTube channel called NerdAlert. The host, Kim Horcher, discusses the views of the top three runners from the 2016 presidential race.

The most popular government figures of 2016 see violent video games as influential to people. Hillary Clinton made “five major proposals” to make buying video games more difficult (NerdAlert). Most of what she wanted to do was to ensure the current laws on age-ratings were being upheld. Nothing wrong with that. But then she went on to say, “’we need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol, and pornography’” (NerdAlert). That feel pretty extreme to me. Bernie Sanders mentioned video games with television and movies in saying that they desensitize people, specifically to death and killing. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted “Video game violence and glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!” (NerdAlert). These three all believe violent video games can cause violence in gamers. They, being a part of popular culture, encourage and support the portrayal of violent gamers even though the research says that video game violence does not cause people to act violently.

Violent Gamers, it’s just Science

A TIME Health post, written by Alexandra Sifferlin, summarizes research that answers the question: Are violent video games linked to aggressive behaviors in players? According to the TIME article, the research says “that playing violent games is linked to aggression, but that there’s insufficient evidence to link the games to actual criminal violence” (Sifferlin). So it seems that research from 2003 to 2015 has concluded that young adult gamers are more aggressive than those that don’t play video games but they are not more violent.

Here is a video from 2014 discussing the popular controversy in the news on the correlation between video games and violence:

The video, published by YouTube channel Health Triage, mentioned how there have been more news coverage and articles on research that linked video game violence to violent players than research that did not link video game violence to violent players. This doesn’t mean there are more studies that determined violent video games cause real life violence. It just means that they were discussed more over popular media, making them more popular in our culture. The popularity causes more people to see a gamer as violent.

The host specifically covered research conducted by Dr. Chris Ferguson. He “studied 103 young adults” that were randomly split up into four test groups; (1) could not play any video games, (2) could only play a nonviolent video game, (3) could only play a violent video game where they played as a “good guy”, and (4) could only play a violent game where they played as a “bad guy”. Then, the young adults had to do “frustration tests… they had to engage in some activity which would make it more likely that they would get frustrated and perhaps aggressive. And [Dr. Ferguson’s] study shows no link between video games and aggression” (Healthcare Triage). Dr. Ferguson also wrote that the test subjects that had previously played video games had “fewer hostile feelings” during the frustration tests (Healthcare Triage). What is interesting to note, is that Ferguson’s research showed the people who have played video games over time were harder to enrage or frustrate than those who recently began playing video games. In all of the studies that Health Triage analyzed, there was no data that adequately proves video game violence causes gamers to be violent.

A survey that the host talked about covered the studies that gathered data on the test subjects’ thoughts after playing violent video games. The studies could only gather thoughts that lasted “4 to 30 minutes.” Out of the thirty or so surveys conducted, only twelve gathered data over extended periods of time. Of those twelve, only one could prove a connection between violent video games and violent tendencies. The rest either didn’t have “any data on family relationships or mental well-being” or they concluded that the family relationships or mental well-being played a larger factor in the violent tendencies than video games (Healthcare Triage). By not gathering data about each test subject’s family relationships or mental well-being, the correlation is not valid because there could be underlying reasons why the subjects were easily angered.

So we hear gamers are violent. It’s on television. It’s in the news. It’s in our government. Popular culture has done a great job at portraying gamers as violent people. Yet, research says otherwise (well, research that holds credible statistics). I know I am not a violent person. I play video games, especially now that I got my hands on a Nintendo Switch and spring break is upon me, and I have yet to see myself (or my gamer friends) become more violent as they continue to play violent games. I have no doubt that I will not become a crazed man and start swinging swords or stealing cars or ram into things and drive up the side of a mountain, because violent video games do not make violent gamers.

 

Learning Moments:

  1. Analyzing media artifacts. Learning to dig deep into a news article, an advertisement, or a movie will prove useful when I want to understand more about what or why the artifact was published. One of the optional discussion prompts in the course blog wanted us to analyze a magazine advertisement. Clicking “Learning Moments” above will take you to a document showing the ad, my analysis process, and the comment that I posted on the blog. It also has my second learning moment in it as well.
  2. Developing research questions and finding solid answers to those questions. After doing some initial research, I was able to formulate some better questions that can give me more of what I am looking for as I get deeper into research. This skill will continuously be put to use in my career as an engineer.

Works Cited

  1. Imitation Game Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (Season 16, Episode 14) written by Dick Wolf and Céline C. Robins, directed by Jean de Segonzac, Wolf Films, 2015
  2. “Violent Video Games Are Linked to Aggression, Study Says” Sifferlin, Alexandra. TIME Health. 17 Aug. 2015, Web. http://time.com/4000220/violent-video-games/
  3. “Video Games Don’t Cause Violent Behavior”, Healthcare Triage, YouTube, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Jq7vPxYGg
  4. “What Bernie, Hillary, & Trump Say About Video Game Violence”, NerdAlert, YouTube, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlVxeTJL0cg