Bouncing Happy in Tehran

What do you think of when you think of Iran or Iranians? What are the images that come to your mind?

Check out the article on Wikipedia, about anti-Iranian prejudice:

Right on the heals of Mark Cuban admitting to being self-aware of his reflexive, inner biases that come to play, I pose this question. And before we move forward, I need to say this as disclosure: there are some days when I’m not too crazy about any one group of people, even the one whence I came. As I see it, no matter what group is out there, there’s some good, some bad, nothing human is perfect. On a good day, you appreciate the good; on a bad day, you dislike the bad and eat chocolate. That said I’ll ask it again:

What do you think of when you think of Iran or Iranians? What are the images that come to your mind?

I can tell you what probably does not immediately come to my mind for some people within seconds of hearing or reading the word “Iranian”: hip, urban, gorgeous twenty/thirty-somethings bouncing around quite skillfully to Pharrell Williams’s Happy. And they were arrested for it. If CNN’s report about Iran’s laws prohibiting men and women dancing together, than the people in this video are clearly flouting these laws.

I’m not naïve enough to think they didn’t know what they were doing or the potential consequences;  but I’m dealistic enough to love, and I mean adore, how they did it. This is art when it’s at its best: elevating, uplifting and subversive all at once. The people behind this video have accomplished so much: they’ve created something wonderful (hell, I want to buy these folks coffee), they’ve been positive and uplifting, they’ve formed a non-violent form of protest, and they’ve brought international attention to their act of protest, bringing the western world to their side.

What they’ve also done, perhaps without intention, is bring to the west a positive, alternative image that counters what western minds may typically have of Iranians if they have no contact with people from or in that culture.

I read Reading Lolita in Tehran and Not Without my Daughter. These, along with mainstream media and TV, form my image of life and people in Iran.

We form our opinions and ideas out of the information we have available: if we do not have direct access to a people or culture, we have only secondary information. If that information is biased, prejudiced or simply out-and-out wrong, then we’re – well, screwed, intellectually and ideologically speaking. I’m not saying we can’t and shouldn’t seek out information that counters the mainstream stereotypes that fill our easy-to-get, drive-through media experiences, but most of the time, you can only access what’s out there.

I can’t speak for the immediate images that come to any one person’s mind when hearing or seeing the word “Iranian,” but I think we can agree that there are some for whom these people in the video are a surprise. With or without knowing, this video finds a fun, uplifting, positive way to fight the racism that exists in the western world. That racism may not be always a malicious form of prejudice: sometimes it may be a cluster of ideas formed out of an influx of unbalanced information and stereotypes coming from the media, TV and Hollywood. It may be something formed in a complete vacuum of factual information. Of course, some of it will be pure hate; that’s always there. Whatever the case, this video fights that prejudice without confrontation. It’s a lesson for any writer, director or actor in how to create protest without creating negative chaos.

I just love it. And I have got to figure out how to pull that off myself next time I need to scratch my own gotta-protest itch.

Here is the link to the best version I can find on YouTube.

Watch it until the end; one of the women goes into a fit of giggles, and it is – as my Mama would say – an absolute hoot.


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