A group of residents in the northeastern Armenian town of Alaverdi are boycotting a Shant TV show called Khopani Tesutyuny (“The Labor Migrant’s Theory”), saying that it harms Alaverdi residents’ dignity.
“In the soap opera, depicted as an Alaverdi native is a girl who goes from the marz [province] to Yerevan to study. The game and figure that the girl embodies is far from the figure of an Alaverdi resident,” reads the statement published in a Facebook page called “Alaverdi residents protest Shant TV’s new soap opera” [AM].
The group is asking the TV station not to use the word “Alaverdi” and to apologize for presenting them “as typical of villagers, gaudy, naive, and in other negative light”.
“If the show’s scriptwriters want to show the character of a student who’s gone from the marz to the capital, why did they choose an Alaverdi resident in particular? They need to show a generic figure and not associate it with any residential location.
“Besides, the girl is presented as tasteless, rural, and far from civilization. Is it right to present this character in the name of any residential place and is it right to present such a character at all? Already there are stereotypes in our society that are hardly possible to break over years. This way we are enforcing these stereotypes,” says one of the organizers of the initiative, Alaverdi journalist Marianna Pepanyan.
Shant TV responded to the accusations expressed on Facebook, saying “the project’s creative team pays great attention so that no offensive word or phrase directed at anyone — neither to Lori residents nor residents of any [other] marz in Armenia — is ever heard on television.”
In comments made to Life.Panorama.am [AM], someone from the TV station said: “The only segment that anyone might have misunderstood, that the city of Alaverdi was called a village, is the part when in the second episode, at about minute 7:30, actress A. Kirakosyan, embodying the character Hayarpi, says, ‘They would fix my hair better in Alaverdi’; then, at minute 10:00, she says, ‘I would even call my household members from the village to the party.’ We assure you that doesn’t mean that she lives in the city of Alaverdi and she calls it a village. As for the character Hayarpi being backwards or tasteless, that’s not at all the case, since the character is quite informed and pretends to be naive and supposedly doesn’t understand anything [only] when it benefits her.”
In an interview [AM] with Zhoghovurd newspaper, actress Anahit Kirakosyan said, “They have no problem with ridiculing anyone; they simply aim to create a comedy sitcom.”
“I myself am a Lori native: I was born in Vanadzor, and it would be funny if I made fun of myself. I’m proud that I’m from Lori and I respect people from Lori,” she said.