An uncomfortable delight is binge watching what some say is the first successful Muslim-American situation comedy series in America: RAMY.
Distributed on Hulu.com, the series is loosely based on the life of its star, actor and stand-up comedian Ramy Youssef.
Ramy Youssef plays a 28-year-old, Muslim-Egyptian-Palestinian-American – Ramy Hassan. Ramy is living with his parents and sister in Northern New Jersey, and figuring out what to do with his life and (lack of a) career, after the app-tech firm with which he had a gig lays him off.
Like the character he plays, Ramy Youssef is someone who thinks about faith a lot (an anomaly in Hollywood)
Ramy Hassan’s friends are concerned that the former pre-med student has no direction in his life and is still living at home.
His sister is irritated that as the boy in the family, Ramy is still babied and worshiped by their mother.
And his penis is conflicted that his soul and brain want to be deeply religious and celibate, but Ramy consumes a lot of porn and tends to sleep around a lot, especially with young Jewish women. One is attracted to his “Jew-curls” which he explains to her is a trait of many Middle Eastern men and not just Jews.
I admit that the episodes are funny, but for a web distributed series that seeks to bust stereotypes… it promotes stereotypical Jewish characters — and while it may lead to laughter, they are cringeworthy.
The pros… Ramy, the series, excels at portraying a confused millennial Muslim-American who espouses spirituality, but make immature, naive narcissistic decisions each day. It is hard to believe a woke guy would behave this way in reality, but without it, there would be no comedy. There are times when the series feels like the Israel series, Shtisl, just set in Cairo and New Jersey, instead of New Jersey. Both stars are aimless with self-absorbed fathers and uncles. The best episodes, IMHO, focused on Ramy’s sister, and on his mother – who decides to drive for a car service to overcome her loneliness, and not on Ramy. Ramy gives some of the best lines to characters portrayed by Steve Way and Dave Merheje, his friends in real life.
The cons… Ramy’s uncle’s virulent anti-Semitism is too stereotypical. He belives Jews planned the 9/11 attacks and are cheaters. The Jewish characters in Manhattan’s diamond districts are straight out of Hasidic Central Casting. One Orthodox Jewish jewelery buyer is strictly Sabbath observant but hypocritically finds ways to do business on Friday evening. The Jewish women Ramy sleeps with are unrealistic, vapid stereotypes. Would a woman high on Ecstasy really bring up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the way to a shower?
But given the cons, it is still a worthwhile soap opera to binge watch on this Ramadan.
(Top Photo credit: Barbara Nitke/Hulu)