Writer and director Nida Manzoor brings us a brand new comedy that effortlessly connects the worlds of four Muslim women and punk rock.
There are some things you don’t expect to see, but when you see them you wonder where they’ve been all your life. Channel 4’s latest quick-witted comedy, We Are Lady Parts, is exactly one of those things. Focusing on the lives of an all-female Muslim punk band hailing from east London, the six-part TV show is gloriously joyful, funny and clever in equal measure. Not only does the show seamlessly blend together four Muslim women’s love affair with punk rock – a genre typically saturated by white artists – but it shows different types of Muslim people, particularly women, in a cheerful light.
The series starts out by letting us into the world of awkward, geeky and shy PhD student at Queen Mary University of London, Amina Hussein, played by Anjana Vasan (Mogul Mowgli), who’s comedic timing is second to none, as she sets off on her quest to find a husband. What’s more apparent, though, is her secret love of music. American folk rock musician Don McLean takes the top spot as her favourite artist and her instrument of choice is the guitar – although she only plays in private due to a heavy case of stage fright.
By chance, Amina finds herself at auditions for lead guitar of Muslim punk band Lady Parts but doesn’t actually audition. In fact, she runs away – much to the intrigue of the band’s current members, who all have careers as varied as their punk personas: Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) is a halal butcher by day and lead vocalist by night; foul-mouthed drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), whose ‘take no prisoners’ attitude works pretty well in her day job as an Uber driver; bassist Bisma (Faith Omole), who sells feminist graphic novels; and upfront band manager Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who works in a lingerie shop.
Over the course of the first couple of episodes, the band discovers Amina’s guitar skills and she grows to love playing with them. That’s not to say it’s all perfect. Initially, she has hesitations about the lyrics of one of their songs, Voldemort Under My Headscarf, where she implies it’s a little too inappropriate. But later on in the series, Amina’s frustration with her dating life leads her to pen her own punk-laced song, Bashir With The Good Beard – a nod to Beyoncé’s famous ‘Becky with the good hair’ lyric. This is a new representation of Muslim women on screen, as they’re all people who defy the typically passive portrayal we so often see on TV.
The show is brimming with the punk rock music they create and showcases their experiences with love, culture and wider frustrations. You can’t help but fall in love with their passion for it. The multiple car montages where they can be seen singing along to songs like Toxicity by System Of A Down speak to that very feeling. The music is in large part a reflection of the show’s writer and director Nida Manzoor’s love for it. Although she’s previously directed BBC Three’s TV show, Enterprice (starring Kayode Ewumi and Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge) and two episodes of Doctor Who
The brilliance of We Are Lady Parts
In contrast, Amina’s close friendship group, headed up by her soon-to-be engaged best friend, Noor, have an outlook that falls on the more traditional side. When one of their friends accidentally sends a playlist packed with sexually-charged songs, including Ginuwine’s Pony and Bob Marley’s Girl I Want To Make You Sweat to use for the engagement party to her finance, it’s clear that music so explicit isn’t accepted. Tears are dramatically shed, but again, this a moment of humour rather than contention. It’s important to see humour injected into these situations when it can verge on being a very serious issue. This show aims to add a lightness into our perceptions of Muslim women.
At the heart of it,
Images: courtesy of Channel 4