April 18, 2019

BINGE | Youssef Wrestles with Islam – 'Ramy'

"Once you have sex, you just care about plot."
Ramy Youssef | Ramy Hulu

There are plenty of millennial stories about the children of immigrants struggling to adopt their own identities while often abandoning the ancestral ideals of their families' homelands. However, comedian Ramy Youssef dramatizes his own life experiences firmly trying to maintain his Egyptian-Muslim roots while growing up in post-9/11 New Jersey as a second-generation Arab-American.

Hulu's fresh, new ten-episode dramedy series Ramy is such a thoughtful, nuanced portrayal of devout young Muslim-Americans struggling to live truthfully, reconcile their faiths, and find themselves. Youssef is so earnestly funny and raw with his emotions. On the surface, he's another aimless 27-year-old young man full of his own multi-generational malaise yet his self-awareness and the way he details the specifics of his life so sublimely make the show stand out from the pack.

While the bulk of the series follows his point-of-view as both a regular American young man and practising Muslim, the conflict of identity goes beyond his male perspective moving to other female members of his family to expand the narrative of their identity. We see how young and older Muslim women in Ramy's sister Dena (May Calamawy) and mother Maysa (Hiam Abbass) are treated in their diverse but still very repressive communities and how it affects their faiths.

How Youssef, alongside his co-creators Ari Katcher, Ryan Welch, and executive producer Jerrod Carmichael, generously explores the complex realities of the inner lives of supporting characters is a refreshing yet familiar change of pace. His family's story feels universal despite how specific their lives are dramatized. The portrayals of Muslim men and women of various ages and backgrounds provides such rich material not often seen on American television.

What's most remarkable about Ramy is its thoughtfulness in the title character's genuineness in trying to be a "good Muslim" amidst a life full of contradictions or alienation while being true to his own experiences, faith, and desires as an American-born child of immigrants. Its original and well-meaning take on religion is quietly revolutionary in its everyday ordinariness.


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