September 29, 2003

Omid Djalili

Having the first openly Iranian character in prime-time network television in U.S. has caused some discussions. Nasim, the handyman in Whoopi Goldberg's new sitcom simply titled "Whoopi" is played by Omid Djalili. His presence has been taken both joyously as well as with great concern.

There are those who have welcomed the character's inclusion as a sign of humanizing a people demonized within certain circles and a way to pioneer future roles, representing the community. On the other hand, some have been less than thrilled with the whole situation. I will not even validate the criticism that has come from particular viewpoints that use objections such as "why is his character a handyman" or "why his name is Arabic", as most of those come from this false sense of superiority that believes a handyman is beneath us and mixing Arab with our pure blood is blasphemy. But some have expressed genuine concerns about the depth of the character, his negative representation of Iran and Iranians and finally the stereo-typing of a cartoon-like Iranian, in absence of any other role models to represent a balanced point of view.

Except for the trailers and a 10 minute partial episode (where Nasim was almost completely absent) I have had no chance to watch the show so far, so I'll refrain from taking sides. Just that I understand with both point of views and can easily recognize that if the negative comments are true, they certainly over rule any of the good that may come from this.

It is with that viewpoint that I read Niki Fassihian's interview with Djalili for The National Iranian American Council. My only complaint is I wish they had found someone neutral with an open mind and less juvenile stimulation to interview Omid (we?re all excited. I?m excited as an Iranian... as I think about the character while talking to you, it?s making me laugh, just thinking about it....). Nonetheless, there are some very interesting points made by Omid, in particular his own uneasy feelings about the direction of the character and how it is developed.

Tuesday night at 8 PM, I'll do my best to be in front of my TV and watching NBC. For now, tell me what do you think?

Posted by Pedram at September 29, 2003 11:13 PM
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