Peacock’s ‘We Are Lady Parts’ Is Brash, Brilliant, and Revolutionary
5 Muslim women rage against the machine in this wickedly funny British series.
As film and television slowly becomes more inclusive, there continues to be massive cultural blind spots in representation. And few marginalized groups have been as ignored in popular culture as Muslim women. Too often Muslim women are cast in the same patronizing archetype: the meek, submissive woman oppressed by her religion, her culture, and her family.
And when these women are the focus, their stories tend to fit the traditional child of immigrants narrative, i.e. a young person desperately fighting against the rigid mores of their culture (Think Bend it Like Beckham, Double Happiness).
It’s a story well worth telling, and its been told many times. But there are SO many more compelling and innovative stories to tell. Stories like Nida Manzoor’s We Are Lady Parts, a brilliant new six-episode comedy series about a five-woman Muslim punk rock band in London. The series centers on Amina Hussain (Anjana Vasan) a nerdy microbiology PhD student who is desperate to find a husband. Amina teaches guitar to children, and remains haunted by a middle school talent show performance that ended with her vomiting on the front row. According to her best friend Noor (Aiysha Hart), Amina must suppress her more independent traits to nab a husband.
Across town, punk rock band Lady Parts is realizing that their sound needs something extra: a lead guitarist. If you’ve ever seen a movie about bands, you probably know where this is going. But We Are Lady Parts brilliantly subverts its traditional story structure with rapid-fire dialogue and wonderfully developed characters.
The band is made up of hot-tempered lead singer and guitarist Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), who works in a butcher shop and struggles to commit to her boyfriend. There’s confident and badass drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), who uses her handsome brother Ashan (Zaqi Ismail) to lure in Amina. Bassist Bisma (Faith Omole) is an earth mother and actual mother, who draws hilariously violent feminist comics. And finally, there’s mysterious band manager and lingerie saleswoman Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who vapes thick clouds of smoke from underneath her niqab.
All five women have distinct personalities that are brought to life by authentic, lived-in performances. They are united in their feminism, love of music, and their complex relationship to faith and family. It’s a radically nuanced (and frankly long overdue) portrait of the dichotomy facing many modern Muslim women.
The wickedly funny series delves into the surreal, thanks to Amina’s elaborate fantasies and day dreams. The five women share an easy, warm chemistry, which comes through in their music. Songs like “Voldemort Under my Headscarf” and “Bashir with the Good Beard” are catchy, punk anthems filled with darkly funny references. Fans of Chewing Gum and Derry Girls will find a kindred spirit in the show’s raunchy humor and rich cultural specificity.
At a scant six episodes, season one can be consumed in a single night. My only complaint of the show is that there’s not enough of it. The world needs more of this bold new series. In the meantime, I’ll just keep streaming the soundtrack, which is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Deezer.
We Are Lady Parts is currently streaming on Peacock (and available on Channel Four in the UK).
(image: Laura Radford/Peacock)
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