As the fight for representation in Hollywood continues, we’re seeing more and more projects picked up that help better the representation of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) people. As one of the most underrepresented groups in television, it’s vital that we keep getting more shows that give us varied perspectives of people from the MENA region, and that is why We Are Lady Parts, now streaming on Peacock, is a bonafide smash hit.
Centered around five Muslim women from various MENA backgrounds, We Are Lady Parts gives us nuanced, complex depictions of Muslim women that we’ve never seen on American television before. These women aren’t linked to any sort of military roles, they’re not housewives or sisters here to advance the plot of their male counterparts and they’re not what anyone would have ever expected, and its such a welcome change of pace from what Hollywood has been putting out.
Created, written and directed by Nida Manzoor, We Are Lady Parts centers around Amina (Anjana Vasan), a microbiology PhD student who loves playing guitar but can’t perform in public due to her extreme stage fright. Obsessed with finding a husband, she follows a flyer for a guitarist audition when it was given to her by a handsome gentleman. That’s how she meets, and eventually becomes part of, the band known as Lady Parts.
All members of the band are Muslim. They pray, party and play together as a family, and just like any family, each of them brings a perspective and individual style to the band that makes the show incredibly unique: Lead singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) comes from a broken family; backup singer and bassist Bisma (Faith Omole) is happily married and has a child of her own; queer drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed) has some anger issues and a love for massively winged eyeliner; and they’re all managed by social-media obsessed Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who wears a traditional, yet always stylish, niqāb and burqa and parties during practice with joints in hand. Each of these women practice their faith differently and bring new perspectives of what it’s like to be Muslim to the silver screen.
Because there’s such a limited portrayal of Muslims in television, many people might be surprised by how these women choose to pratice their faith. Between the punk music, the drugs and the premarital sex, these women blow your expectations out of the water, and rightly so. It’s about time the world recognizes there are countless ways to practice Islam, just like we know there are countless ways to practice Christianity or Judaism. Viewers don’t batt an eyelash at non-practicing members of other faiths — the Jews who don’t practice Yom Kippur or the Christians that celebrate Christmas but never go to church — so when we see Muslims on screen that like to have fun and redefine expectations of what the world thinks of them, we get that much closer to a more balanced and honest depiction of what being Muslim is like.
Though, it’s those same stereotype-shattering pracitces that bring Amina and her friends trouble. Amina’s best friend Noor (Aiysha Hart) detests foul language and uncouth behavior, so Amina does everything in her power to hide her new hobby from her and her family. The same expectations viewers might have of when they think of Muslim people are the same ones that Amina and her bandmates must fight when they get bad press and misunderstood by the public. Insults they get in the show, like “fake muslim,” are identical to insults that real-life Muslims get today if they choose to practice a non-traditional lifestyle. As one of those Muslims, you’re fighting not only the stereotypes that non-Muslims place on you, but also the expectations from the Islamic community around you. When you’re not being called slurs and getting told to go back where you came from, you’re fighting relatives or family friends telling you that the way you live your life is “haram,” or bad. It’s a double edged sword that countless Muslims have to fight every single day, all over the world.
So when We Are Lady Parts depicts these struggles, it becomes more than a television show. It becomes a lens into a world that too little understand, and a magnifying glass into the struggle of the daily life as a non-traditional Muslim. Manzoor does a phenomenal job introducing audiences to a world of Islamic culture through comedy and intersectionality, and it’s a shame there are only 6 episodes to binge.
We Are Lady Parts is currently available to stream on Peacock.
Photo: Laura Radford/Peacock