What’s more relatable—and fundamentally American—than crippling credit card debt?
That’s one of the main questions that Sara Zia Ebrahimi, a Philadelphia-based filmmaker, tackles in her new serio-comic web series “Bailout.” Set against the backdrop of the late-aughts financial crisis in Philadelphia, Iranian-American Shalah/”Shay” (played by New York-based actress Lida Darmian) deals with the fallout of a downsizing layoff, family conflict and illness, and the aforementioned credit card debt while offering wry examinations on her environment’s persistent and seemingly indomitable issues. In one hilarious bit from the first episode (which you can see above), Shay points out a man sitting spread-legged to her friend Nina (played by Baltimore-based actress Kantice C. Wilson) and opts to sit like him during a painfully awkward work meeting about coming layoffs. The five-episode series tackles these persistent problems with a mix of dry humor and realism that makes it relatable to anybody—but especially young people of color struggling to reconcile their identities with the world around them.
Ebrahami, in a statement on the series’s website, identified both a need for relatable storytelling and alternate, realistic depictions of women of color as motivating factors for Bailout’s development:
Credit cards are such a quintessential manifestation of American dominant aspirations, allowing us to live our lives among surplus and excess so that we can feel successful . The reality is that most of the “middle class”–another strong Americanism that doesn’t exist in much of the developing world–if you consider their debt-to-income ratio, are in fact “poor.” I am struck by how, in countries that don’t have the illusion of a vibrant middle class, poverty looks so different than debt-laden American poverty. It’s the tension of this aspect of American culture that has most interested me when writing this script. […]White people in America are afforded a wide spectrum of representation. All of us, no matter what race we belong to, are trained by the media to believe that white people can be nerds, artists, engineers, rich, poor, shy, outgoing, etc. But the rest of us as marginalized groups are not given that range, and our representations are narrow, and as a result, often very stereotyped. The reality is that every racial group has the counter-culturists, the conservatives, and the various subcultures; there’s no one way to be ‘Latino’ or ‘Iranian’, even though the media tries to convince us otherwise, and many of us buy into that and recreate that in our communities. The issues that I am exploring in this script add dimension to otherwise flat representations of women of Iranian descent in the diaspora.