Sisterhood Blog

'Shahs of Sunset' Missing One Thing: Jewish Women

By Lilit Marcus

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Mercedes ‘MJ’ Javid, star of Bravo’s reality TV show ‘Shahs of Sunset’

The hit Bravo series “Shahs of Sunset” follows some members of the tight-knit Persian community in L.A., aka “Tehrangeles.” The show’s stars play pretty traditional reality show staple roles, such as the brassy girl who starts fights and the snarky gay dude, but there’s also a focus on a less-popular reality show storyline: religion. Most of the show’s cast members are Muslim (although not all of them are practicing), but both male regulars are Jewish or have Jewish identities.

Real estate agent Mike is Jewish and has mentioned several times how he’s a minority within the show and the Persian community at large. His friend Reza, the show’s breakout star, is the son of a Muslim mother and Jewish father, and he still struggles with rejection from his paternal relatives. However, one perspective is missing from this eclectic show: that of a Jewish woman.

“Shahs of Sunset” dropped one guy and added one girl this year for its second season, bringing the cast to a female count of four. Asa, Golnessa (aka GG), MJ and Lilly are all from Persian Muslim families. We see a lot of the cast members with their relatives, so we’ve heard about how Asa’s father was a top commander in the Shah’s navy before seeking political asylum in Germany and how GG’s parents spoiled her so badly that she’s 30 and has never held a job. Compared to the almost always absent parents on “Jersey Shore” and most of the “Real Housewives” franchises, the “Shahs” parents get a huge chunk of screen time and help flesh out the impressions of the Persian community in California.

Although religion does come up on “Shahs,” the only real religious ritual on the show was a Shabbat dinner that Reza attended with his father’s family. That has a lot to do with the fact that Reza is probably the most popular member of the cast and that it served as a perfect scene for his “I’m caught between two cultures” story arc, but it also highlighted how most of the people on this show talk about their cultural identity rather than their religious one. After all, we hear them speaking Farsi, but they also swear and drink alcohol. Judaism gives Mike plenty of fodder, such as when he talked about his ex-girlfriend who was from a Persian Muslim family; they had a lot in common, but perhaps not enough.

However, getting to hear from a woman on this same matter would add an additional layer to the so-far-minimal Persian/Jewish identity depicted on the show. Right now, the options for women on “Shahs of Sunset” are either skinny and spoiled or plus-sized and backstabbing, neither of which are particularly inspiring (surprise, surprise). There’s one quick way to improve the portrayal of women on the show: Add more of them, then give them opportunities to interact with each other.

If anyone from Bravo’s casting department is reading this, might we suggest members of the Delshad family? Their patriarch, Jimmy Delshad, is a former mayor of Beverly Hills.


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