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More Afghan Stereotypes in Alphas

Episode 2×8: Falling (Plot Summary)

Alphas
Alphas

It was really annoying. Rachel has a boyfriend (Steve Byers) and she is planning to take him to meet her parents for dinner.

She is trying to prepare him for the visit so that her parents are impressed. Let me tell you that almost everything she said to her boyfriend is so greatly exaggerated and is ridiculous.

I have family members who are married to non-Afghans and I am very sure the first meeting did not go down as it is anticipated in this episode.

Here are a couple of the gems:

  • if her parents offer food, he should eat it all no matter what
  • he should not compliment anything otherwise her parents will give that to him as gift and then later on talk about it as if he stole it.

Ridiculous! In most cases, people who become modern, like Pirzads, they, in majority of cases, lose certain aspects of Afghan culture that conflict or that might make them “look bad” in front of their western friends. Besides, most people who have spent most of their lives in west understand how to treat a non-Afghan differently so they are not uncomfortable. Either Pirzads are the new standard for FOBish behaviour or the writers are trying to make a comedy of Afghan’s hospitality. Epic fail, either way!

Fair enough, Afghans can be a little pushy at the table, offering food too much and too often, that can be annoying to some people, but she was making it look really awful.

The show goes into the details of the lives of all main characters. Their families are an important part of the character building and I can appreciate that putting someone with an “exotic” ethnicity in the mix might  make things more interesting. But that was far enough… but no they had to bring up the stereotypes as if Muslims and Afghans in particular are not being targeted enough in reality.

Even, if the Pirzads were more traditional or if they were new to America, most of those issues were just over the top. But Pirzads  have lived there most of their lives, raised their kids, established their own business and are very liberal and that is why this whole thing is so annoyingly idiotic.
I could be OK with it, if it were a comedy. In comedy you have to use the stereotypes to make people laugh. But this is not a comedy and it certainly didn’t make me laugh. As a matter of fact, it was rather tragic to know how little they knew.

Other than that, show is getting really interesting and the events seem to be turning more in favour of the ‘good’ Alphas.  Dr. Rosen turning his own daughter in, Kat finding out some aspect of her past, Hicks and his son finally understanding each other and above all the drug that makes you invincible ; the whole thing was really neat.

The Afghan Alpha II: Pirzads Having a Party

Episode 8: A Short Time in Paradise (Plot Summary)

I am still watching Alphas. Slightly losing interest, but I am still watching. I like Gary.

Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad in Alphas
Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad in Alphas

So Rachel is going to her sister’s engagement party. She is trying to get herself a date to the party so she is not “auctioned off” to her “third cousins” and not having to go on “blind dates” with them.

Now, here is what happens to the majority of Afghan girls who turn in to their sister’s engagement party with a “date”. Well, it does not happen. It is unheard of except in very rare cases of, oh, so liberal families who probably have not much to do with the rest of Afghan community.

Let us say we all wake up one day it has become somewhat normal for an Afghan girl to take a white male co-worker as her “date”, she will definitely have to buy him a nice black suit and a tie that matches her top.

Let me also let you in on another secret about Afghans. Although marrying cousins is quite normal, not all of us marry our cousins. Surprisingly most of us in west marry from other families. Even in cases of arranged marriages, it is still outside own families. Probably mother of the guy sees a girl in a gathering. Then she calls few places to identify the girl, and then find someone who is close friend of that family and asked them if they could talk to the family and organise a visit.

Another thing, the girl’s family do not usually approach to a man or to his family or in Rachel’s terms “auction off” their daughter. In majority of cases, even if it is a love marriage and the two know each other, fell in love and all, when families get involved, the  man’s family would find out about the girl’s family. They then call and ask if they can visit, then they go to the girl’s house. Get to know them, talk about their son who is very respectful, educated and responsible who loves his family, etc. Similarly, the girl’s family would talk about how many other families are interested in their daughter, who is very pretty and educated and loves her siblings, etc. They never act desperate as shown in Rachel’s case.

Let us make one thing clear. It is not unheard of Afghan girl ending up with non-Afghan and non-Muslim guy, but generally nobody knows about such relationship until they are engaged and the guy supposedly converts to Islam and has a Muslim name. Yasin and Yousuf are in public demand. In addition, being in a premarital relationship is not something you would announce to everyone in your sister’s engagement. Therefore, when you turn up with a “date” people will talk about you. There is nothing surprising about it. You are an Afghan and supposedly a Muslim, so you should not engage in dating and whatever comes with it. Doing that and then announcing it in your sister’s engagement party is simply asking for negative attention and hurting and embarrassing your family. Unless, that is exactly your intention. Even those who date generally keep it a secret.

But the talk will not be “Oh I feel sorry for her mother.” or “Her poor mom.” It probably will come up, but in most cases, they will be like “Is that guy with Rachel? Oh man, he is in jeans. How embarrassing!” or comments like “Why is Rachel not wearing something fancy? After all it is her sister’s engagement.” “Is she dating an American now? What a shame!”

Here is another one, in an Afghan gathering the host family would try very hard not to make a scene. If Rachel tells her father that he needs to go to the doctor, the dad will probably say, “I will see”. Then Rachel will say, “Promise me you will, dad!” and then the dad will possibly get mad and without yelling, make an angry face saying, “Ok. I got it. I will. Now get out of my face with your crazy boyfriend.”

The rest of the Episode 8 was ok, I guess. It was those inaccuracies that got me thinking and wrote this. Perhaps, writers should do a little research before writing and making generalized statements.

The Afghan Alpha

Azita Ghanizada in Alphas
Azita Ghanizada in Alphas

American TV Channel, Syfy, has recently started a new TV show, Alphas. It is about a group of people with extraordinary abilities.

Azita Ghanizada, an Afghan-American is playing the role of Rachel Pirzad, An Afghan girl whose superpower is magnifying her senses.

Rachel Pirzad is not an assertive woman. She is portrayed as a woman with this amazing superpower who is very passive. The show does not directly link her passiveness to her background but indirectly shows some relevance.

Her family considers her condition as an illness and feels that this illness may cause her to live alone for the rest of her life.  In the story, her mother is trying to arrange her marriage with someone that she has not met yet. It also shows that her parents are obsessed with her way of clothing. The first scene she appears in episode 1 she is telling her dad that her skirt covers her knees. Very typical, indeed!

First, when I watched the show, I was a little angry for stereotyping. I even found it insulting. However, later I realized that they had actually done this very accurately.

There you have a young educated Afghan woman, living with her parents. She wears western style cloths and is not fully covered, however she is required to get married with someone that her parents choose. She is allowed to stay out late, however she must not date….

The story of Rachel Pirzad is very typical of a “modern” Afghan. It is the story of all of us Afghans in west who are stuck between the three cultures. We have our Islamic values, Afghan traditions and newly discovered western trends that for most of us are dominating. Most of us find it very hard to manage all that.

The society that we live in is not compatible with most of our values. Obedience to parents and respect is seen as weakness. At the same time, parents are overly protective and inconsiderate towards their children. If you notice, Rachel is not disrespectful to her parents. She is trying to have a voice and make her own choices. Her parents are pushy indeed, but do not seem to be the cruel type. All they want for their daughter is to have a secure future with a decent man from a decent family.

In the latest episode, there is a guy who has the ability to make people around him angry to the extent that they start rioting. In one scene when he uses his ability where all Alpahs are present, Rachel is on the phone with her mother. She becomes angry, starts yelling and telling her mother to shut-up and that she hates her, and that she will move out; the worst things that you could say to your parents, especially if you are Afghan. It is not clear whether she has decided to leave home or she was kicked out (which I doubt). However, she says to Nina (Laura Mennell) that she will stay with her cousin. Nina offers her to move in with her.

I am not sure why so much attention was paid to her life outside Alpha team. So far I haven’t been able to see any relevance. I am not sure how they are going to shape Rachel’s story in later episodes. It seems that there will not be good relations between her parents and her in the next few episodes, which is sad, really. She didn’t intend for it to happen that way and her parents are not bad at all. It cannot be said whether she will meet the man her mother found for her, or whether she will move back with her parents. Alternatively, it could be that her moving out becomes a pivotal point in her life and she can fully focus on her power.

We will have to wait and see.

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