Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unreality TV

Yet another reason not to watch the vast majority of reality TV. All-American Muslim has been canned after one season, primarily because the Muslims featured on the show were too well behaved. Although there was some minor uproar about the very concept of the show, as the usual suspects of paranoia about all people Muslim cried foul about the possibility of a humanitarian depection of Muslims, that just wasn't enough controversy to overcome the cast's good behavior.

But wait! There's a new bunch of Muslims coming to TV soon, as the Shahs of Sunset will be hitting Bravo's airwaves. Chances are few in the American viewing public will note that the Muslims of Dearborn, MI were Sunnis and these ones will be Shi'a, which is a very important division within Islam. No, the important thing will be that these folks will be screaming, shouting, and behaving badly. That's the core of the promotion for the show. They even manage the obligatory gay cast member, a neat trick in a culture where gays are far more oppressed than in the general US population.

Will Americans view Shi'as as ill behaved party animals and Sunnis as sedate, responsible citizens? Why not? Iran certainly continues to push a negative image of Shi'as, so even though this is entirely different bad behavior, and behavior that would probably get them jailed or killed in Iran, Shahs will help promote negative stereotypes of Persians. With its low viewer numbers All-American probably won't help the image of Sunnis any, though.

The key lesson in this is that reality doesn't sell. Fictional reality is gangbusters, be it housewifes, GTL morons, or the mothers of young dancers. As long as the behavior is bad, people will tune in. Bad or freaky, I guess. Nearly 20 kids and religious vapidity is freaky enough for people to watch. Mental illness that can be life threatening with clutter is freaky enough. Being a Muslim is not freaky enough. I suppose that, at least, is a good thing for American Muslims.

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