Greg and Zanna watch a series about a band called Lady Parts.
Number of Lady Parts: 5
Success of Lady Parts: 5
Cultural importance of Lady Parts: 5
The reason this feels like an important show is because it tells a story about a marginalised group, but is not about their marginalisation. That is, it's not a show about a band of Muslim women trying to achieve musical success; it's a show about a band trying to achieve success and they're Muslim women. And it's in the mainstream. And it's a comedy.
It's odd how groundbreaking the show feels, given how technically and structurally ordinary it is. It's sweet and funny, and it never hides from the fact we all know where it's going from the beginning. There are many things that elevate it: the characters are complex and interesting, some of the music is lyrically brilliant and melodically excellent. But looming over everything is the uncomfortable fact we should really have had stuff like this years ago, not because it's good for us, which it is, or because the alternative - unrelenting cultural homogeneity - has been bad for us, which it has, but because it's right.
This six-part comedy series hinges, like so much of life nowadays, on a social media cancellation. This cancellation is followed, unlike so much of life nowadays, by social media redemption. I argued briefly with Zanna that this critical moment was lacking in causality. She disagreed, explaining that that's how social media works. I didn't think that was true but I was suffering through a cold; had been suffering through a cold for more than a week, and she was sick of it. Several times during the preceding days, she had told me I appeared to be "fine now". This far into my illness, she found the very sound of my voice repellent. There was no point using it to try to carry on an argument - it would only have made things worse.
We Are Lady Parts is a story about a band looking for a guitarist. They find her, but she's a nerd with stage fright problems, which causes a series of obstacles to appear in their way as they try to achieve their goal of succeeding in an audition/talent quest. At the last moment, just when it looks like all is lost, hang on! It's not!. From there, they make the short dash to triumph, there's a feel-good anthem to finish, and ... scene. You've seen it all before. You've never seen anything like it.
When I asked Greg what he thought of We Are Lady Parts, the six-part series that we binged in one miserable evening when Greg was on day 14 of the winter cold that keeps on giving, he said he thought it was formulaic. He wasn't wrong: the arc of the series was a pretty standard fish-out-of-water story about a nerdy girl who joins a punk band. The difference is that neither the fish, nor the water, nor the dry land on which the fish flaps around, is what we usually get in mainstream television - and that's what makes this series so charming. Groundbreaking, even.
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Amina, a 26-year-old Muslim biologist on the hunt for a husband, gets roped in to joining an all-female Muslim punk band, despite suffering from crippling stage fright and a belief that performing music is haram (sinful). There's romance, grief, some pretty great punk bops and girl power that seeks to undo the screen stereotypes of Muslim women.
Amina's parents, too, aren't the usual conservative first-generation immigrants pressuring her to find a husband. They're the opposite, and very funny. Did I mention it's a comedy? There are wonderful moments of magical realism, a la my favourite light entertainment series Jane the Virgin, as well as some complex character struggles.
Rather than bearing the weight of representing all Muslim women, each of the band members is afforded the opportunity to be their own unique character, independent of their religious beliefs. The lead singer Saira is non-hijab-wearing, has commitment issues and is struggling with the death of her sister; the drummer, Ayesha, is a partially closeted lesbian; and the bass guitarist, Bisma, is a comic artist, potty mouth, "Earth mother and actual mother". The women run almost the full gamut of the female experience.
The series feels short, like watching a movie that keeps getting interrupted with credit sequences. It's a complex story that, in order to keep it light and fun for a mainstream audience, only scrapes the surface but has the potential to go to some interesting places in a second series.
Greg tried to argue that just because we've not seen this kind of story told from a Muslim perspective before, we shouldn't forgive formulaic storytelling, but I was so sick of listening to his nasal, croaky voice, I ignored him. Come on, winter - it's been two weeks of his leaking mug and I can't take it anymore.
We Are Lady Parts is now streaming on Neon.