Written by Malin Evita
Amina is a geeky 26-year-old Muslim PhD biochemical engineering student (with a secret love for hill-billy guitar music) searching for a husband. In her endeavours to find the perfect man with the perfect eyebrows, she is by mere, perfect, coincidence led to the punk band Lady Parts holding auditions for a new lead guitarist. Dove-eyed Amina has no intention of joining this band, and when Saira, the band’s leader, grows comically determined to have her join them, Amina reveals that even if she wanted to, she couldn’t. Not only does she have terrible stage fright, but let’s just say her stomach doesn’t go easy on her—through the front and back.
In this very moment, standing in a halal butcher’s entrance confronted by four people of her exact opposite, the storyline is kicked off. Lady Parts’ overly dramatic commitment to getting Amina to join them and Amina’s journey of self-exploration ensues with goofy skits and roaring laughter. As I swallowed this glorious show created, written, directed, and produced by Nida Manzoor for Channel 4 in one go, the thing that struck me the most was just how unwaveringly cheering, silly, and funny this show was.
Yes, all of the main girls’ characters break stereotypes themselves: from the niqab-clad, vaping band manager Montaz (Lucie Shorthouse) sporting fingerless leather gloves; Aysha (Juliette Motamed), the cursing, queer drummer with her dramatic eyeliner and bike helmet; Bisma (Faith Omole), the Black zen bassist happy-family-mother who draws sci-fi comics about periods and vaginas (‘Apocalypse Vag’); Saira (Sarah Impey), the tattooed, grunge looking leader struggling to open in up in her relationships so she pours everything she has into this band; to, finally, Amina (Anjana Vasan), who may be innocent, awkward, and quite the nerd desperate to get married—but she wants that. She isn’t pressured by her parents, as the trope usually goes. Instead, her parents are actually open-minded, sex-positive people with their rock n roll gear ready to support her all the way.
And while Amina gets involved with the band, she is never told that this means she has to give up her marital desires. She is never told to take off her hijab (*cough* Elite) and never told that she has to change who she is. Lady Parts is merely an extension of her person, a new way of expression and self-exploration.
In so many ways, We Are Lady Parts breaks the tired character stereotypes Muslim women are portrayed as when they, so rarely, are on screen. The show touches on many themes and the diversity of the British Muslim community. From relationships, family dynamics, queer identities, motherhood, sisterhood, misrepresentation in the media, etc. But through it all, it stays light-hearted and never dwells into trauma porn. It never takes away the humanity of these girls. Sure, there’s conflict and microaggressions. That is an unavoidable part of life for people of marginalised groups. But in the end, Manzoor lets the girls be happy.
And this is something she fought tooth and nail to do. Several studios wanted her to turn it into a drama and have the main characters die and experience that hollowing pain, as she told Saved By Old Times. “I thought if I was going to look at this aspect of my identity I’d want to do a show on Muslim women that’s funny, because that’s so important. It takes away your humanity when you’re shown not to have any sense of humour, and all the Muslims I know are hilarious,” the showrunner said in the same interview. It paid off, and her first solo project will undoubtedly be remembered for its revolutionary joy.
“There are so few representations out there, people were upset when it didn’t speak exactly to them,” she says. “Which is why it can’t just be my voice, it has to be loads of Muslim female voices coming in, taking up different spaces and speaking different truths, because there isn’t one truth. And, actually, Lady Parts is about fighting to have the confidence to speak.”Nida Manzoor to Saved by Old Time
All of this isn’t to say that it is a perfect representation; nothing ever will be. As Manzoor says in the quote above, she doesn’t want these girls to be mascots of a humongous community with endless depth and range of different experiences. This is her story, and it’s also a comedy. As you can tell by the earlier character descriptions, the main girls are completely cartoonish. In fact, the whole show’s visuals roar with animation and comic strip inspiration.
From the dramatic zoom-ins, kicking in off doors, daydreaming skits, subtle comedic sound effects… It breaches all laws of reality. But then you realise that Amina’s narration is not another cheap and lazy way of exposition. It is her telling you this story. Suddenly, all of the over the top imagery screams with her geeky personality. This makes the story all the more intimate and utilises voice-over narration to make it so personable. You know that if any of the other girls narrated it, it wouldn’t even be close to the same story.
On that note, the one thing I would love to see more of in a future season two (knock on wood) is an exploration of the other girls. Most of the focus is on Amina and Saira, and then there is a little side storyline for Aysha. But Bisma and Montaz aren’t given quite the same depth as the others. Of course, given that the season only consists of six twenty-five minute episodes, it makes complete sense and attempting to get an in-depth portrayal of all five girls would be near impossible.
With its revitalising punk music, interesting and contrasting characters, and old-school goofy comedy, season one of We Are Lady Parts gets just about as good as you can. A woman thinking she wants one thing but actually needing another is not a new concept or story, but the way Manzoor has composed it all and with Vasan’s charismatic performance, makes it all feel like a fresh breath of air—with the slight scent of someone vaping underneath their veil near by, of course.
U.K. audiences can watch the show on Channel 4, and Americans can stream it on Peacock.
Written by Malin Evita
Evita is the host and producer of the podcast, Instagram curator, and a writer focused on script, cultural commentary, and film analysis. She is a Vocal grand prize winner and currently studies Professional Writing at college. Through storytelling, she aims to amplify empathy and human connectivity.