The Hulu Original series “Ramy” premiered last week and has already grabbed a lot recognition and praise. This is deserving, considering it is a unique concept: a comedy series following the life of an American Muslim juggling his cultural and religious identities.
For years, Muslims have been a subject of both controversy and fascination in the entertainment industry. Following the 9/11 attacks, there have been a surge of documentaries on the Taliban, terrorism and women’s issues in the Muslim world. Even in fictitious political series, Muslims have been portrayed as monolithic, brown and inherently angry people. The Lebanese government even threatened the makers of the TV series “Homeland” with a lawsuit for misrepresenting Beirut in a particular episode.
“Ramy,” in many ways, is to American Muslims what “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have been to African Americans and Asian Americans — a story in which we are not merely the subjects, but the storytellers as well. The protagonist, Ramy, is a young Egyptian American man, self-described as an “in-the-moment kind of guy,” who is feeling social pressure to not only marry, but to also become a more practicing Muslim.
This proves difficult since Ramy, like many American Muslim men, lives a double life as a practicing Muslim at the mosque and a total playboy outside of his community. Though I enjoyed the show, I couldn’t help but feel a certain sense of familiarity in Ramy’s character.
The problem is that there are many men like Ramy around. They may differ in clothing, origin and religiosity, but they all seem to live in two worlds: their “Muslim” life on hand and their classic Western playboy on the other. Just like Ramy, when these men choose to settle down and get married, they only have eyes for the pretty, religious girls at the mosque — the ones he couldn’t stand a couple of years ago. They want to indulge in an all Western lifestyle, but only consider virgins for marriage.
Eventually, Ramy reluctantly goes out on an arranged date with Nour, the first Muslim woman he’s ever gone out with. It goes surprisingly well, until Ramy is thwarted when Nour attempts to express her sexual desires. She calls him out and accurately diagnoses Ramy’s problem. His reservation isn’t about religiosity or celibacy; it’s the fact that he sees white women as sexual beings, and Muslim women as only wives and mothers, with no sexual or romantic agency of their own. The writers were aware of the stereotypes applied to Muslim women, both within and outside the community.
“Ramy” depicts what it means to be a millennial, American and Muslim in a post-9/11 world, presenting the good, the bad, the in-between and the constant balancing between modernity and tradition. It is a show that can resonate with young Americans from other faith-based communities.
Suad Patton-Bey is a journalism major and Arabic minor from Oxford.