The Movie or TV Show: We are Lady Parts (2021)
One Sentence Premise Summary: Four women in a Muslim punk band want to expand and decide to recruit another Muslim woman with marriage and career aspirations.
Where You Can Stream It: Peacock (As of June 30, 2021)
Why I Streamed It: Peacock has done a very good job extending the NBC comedy brand. I found myself enjoying originals like Saved by the Bell (yes, it’s actually good) and Rutherford Falls (which is a bit up and down times but is clearly going for some of the same representational aspirations as this show), but this feels like the strongest of the three. Also, that one sentence premise is a hell of an attention grabber.
Why You Should Stream it:
This show was a bit of a revelation. Many shows have great premises, but the follow-up sometimes doesn’t work. Maybe you get a good episode or two, but comedies are especially difficult to pull off given the number of characters, shortened season, and trying to be so many things to so many people.
Muslims are often cast in very specific ways on television, and many of those portrayals aren’t positive. Then a show like this comes out, and expectations are high. The pressure is on to try and be all things to all people. Something like Crazy Rich Asians was great to see, but it did not represent anything except the very highest of the high class. Game of Thrones only had a couple of Black coded characters (not to mention the numerous other problems the show has with colorism), and their treatment was a major point of controversy because lack of representation.
We are Lady Parts is certainly not obligated as a piece of art to represent the number of experiences it does, but viewers will see specific characters, all of whom have varying relationships with the Muslim faith, but Nina Manzoor created something that was both funny and found a way to say something about what it means to be a Muslim in the world. Although this show takes place in England, the experiences here feel universal.
For a show to be so specific in six episodes might be a testament to the way England formats their television shows. I’ve seen other British comedies like Spaced and Coupling that have been able to achieve something similar in their own spaces. Edgar Wright has been a point of comparison in the visuals and even the snappy dialogue, but having a Muslim women at the helm means the female characters get to be something other than a girlfriend or object of desire.
Amina is the primary focus as the narrator and outside being introduced into the world of punk rock. Anjana Vasan is very good as the narrator and it was great to see her parents be supportive of her journey. Amina wants to get married, but her parents encourage her to wait. It feels like a show like this could easily have the parents be an obstacle, especially when it comes to her wanting to be in the band. Amina has problems with performing and is conflicted about what she wants that the ending feels especially cathartic.
Saira, Bisma, and Momtaz are great characters in their own right. Saira is the only one who does not wear a hijab but that doesn’t make her a bad Muslim. She goes through her own family journey and has to reconnect with the main characters. Bisma is married but is able to explore her own art interesting ways (she even has the best quote of the series). Momtaz wears a niqab face veil…but works at a lingerie store. This show defies conventions constantly and manages to be funny throughout.
With a comedy, it’s really hard to say why something is funny. You could end up just quoting lines back and forth. This show works because the characters are written in such a way to where they have specific traits and say things they could only say. Here’s hoping for second season as these characters deserve to have more of their journey told.
Best Performance: All of the performances are so good and specific, and a lot of this has to do with the great writing. The characters I respond to in a lot of television shows are the ones who project this ora of not feeling emotions but in reality being the one who are in their feelings the most. Sarah Kameela Impey does a wonderful job balancing her emotional journey while also still being funny. It would be easy for her to be an outsider or the one turning away from her faith, but I appreciate that even though she is at a distance from being Muslim, there is still an element of faith, and the music helps her get through these issues.
Best Quote: Sisters, don’t be ashamed of your bodies. Your blood is your friend.-Bisma
Final Grade: B+
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