If you have never felt the full body tangle of ecstasy in the pit of your stomach. An ecstasy that knots so hard trying to release out of your throat. Then you have never had the experience of watching something that makes you feel so seen you may as well be translucent.
Since watching the original All 4 Comedy Blap teaser of the then titled Lady Parts in December of 2018, I have been waiting an agonising 2 years (!!) for the release of We are Lady Parts (WLP). And boy did it deliver.
I’ll first start by getting a few critical points off my chest before I fan girl over the show. As someone who has been a big advocate for accurate Iraqi representation I was disappointed to see that the two ‘Iraqi’ characters, Ayesha and her brother Ahsan, not played by Iraqis. I know for a fact there are so many British Iraqi actors who need the work and would have been brilliant. I do, for the most part, forgive this choice as the characters ethnicity was not central to the plot. However, as I’m aware that the British-Iranian actress, Juliette Motamed, who plays Ayesha was an early attachment to the show, I believe this issue could have been avoided if Ayesha was simply written as Iranian.
Now that’s out of the way *deep breath*. WOW.
The rush I felt every moment of the show was overwhelming.
In most representations of the muslim community that we’ve seen over the years, (think Elite or Hala ) the muslim characters’ are very much struggling within a world that’s not theirs. Not so in We are Lady Parts. In fact, Saira, Ayesha, Amina, Bisma and Momtaz live their lives making the world bow to them. Let us not forget this is a punk band after all. In Bisma’s own words on a day trip to the English countryside, “Our forefathers fought and died in the white man’s wars for the express purpose that we would be able to sit here on this here land and smoke this here doob”.
As soon as WLP may start to feel like a fantasy where these muslim women can exist without a care, the show breaks that fantasy with a sobering moment.
We see this when Momtaz’s tireless efforts to find the band a venue are met with a barrage of rejections and then again when the band does finally play in what turns out to be a very unwelcoming pub. The show does not shy away from the realities of muslim existence in what sometimes feels like an increasingly divisive and prejudiced world. But what’s refreshing about WLP is that the show speaks to Islamophobia without ever once feeling didactic or forced.
One of my absolute favourite things about the show is that not a single one of the three major love interests, Zarina, Abdullah and Ahsan are white. And, not a single one of WLP women takes off their hijab or sheds their faith for a lover muslim or otherwise. And the sky did not fall down. Phew!
What’s more, Ayesha and Zarina’s romantic relationship is pleasantly normalised within the show. As soon as there is an attempt to point out the elephant in the room, when Zarina is interviewing Ayesha for her promotional editorial for the band, Ayesha openly asks for Zarina to ‘not go there’. And with these words any viewers even half wondering the same thing are explicitly this is not that kind of show.
WLP creator Nida Manzoor beats us at misinterpreting the shows intentions with Zarina’s traitorous editorial about the band titled ‘The Bad Girls of Islam’. In fact, Zarina plays a crucial role throughout the show. She is the manifestation of all the fencing in muslim women face. Her editorial reduces the band to ‘anarchic rebels’, the image both the band and show have been fighting from the start. The band is consequently on the receiving end of twitter hate and the hashtag #fakemuslims, a term muslims who have tried to step out of the box know all too well.
Within this overwhelming ostracism that almost breaks up the band indefinitely, the editorial exposes the band to a whole world of fans. People that understand them and feel seen in their music. In this story arch, Manzoor cleverly portrays the likely reception of WLP and directly responds.
Ultimately the response is that these women simply ARE. They ARE muslim. They ARE punk. They ARE messy. They ARE lovers. They ARE fighters. And most of all they are their full unapologetic selves.
And just like the band, the muslim women in our real lives also simply ARE. We are multi-faceted. We have all kinds of interests. And however we are, we do not need to compromise our muslim identity to exist in our fullness.