Amina Hussain (Anjana Vasan), the narrator of We Are Lady Parts, would like to have it all. And she’d like to have it all without vomiting all over the stage every time she’s the center of attention, thank you very much. She already has quite a lot: she’s working on her PhD in Microbiology, she has understanding parents and a squad of best friends, and she teaches guitar in her spare time. But her friends are all getting engaged and she’s barely dating. And her music is a big deal to her, but it’s a turn off to the young men in her Muslim dating pool. What’s a young, aspiring Bridget Jones to do?
Join an all-Muslim female punk band, obviously. Amina’s parents raised her right.
This show is what female empowerment looks like at street level, from the female creator/showrunner to the four female stars who play their own instruments and the characters who narrate their own lives.
Lady Parts, the band, consists of Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), rhythm guitar player, lead singer, angry feminist and Halal butcher; Ayeesha (Juliette Motamed), drummer, Saira’s sister and indignant Uber driver; Bisma (Faith Omole), bass player, wife, mother and comic book artist; and Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), dedicated band manager and lingerie salesperson. In the pilot, Saira decides the band needs a lead guitar player to round out their sound for an upcoming audition. Amina isn’t interested in joining a band, but Saira hears her play guitar with her students and becomes convinced that she’s a perfect fit for Lady Parts. They negotiate a deal for Saira to convince her brother and Amina’s crush, Ahsan (Zaqi Ismail), to go out on a date with her in exchange for Amina auditioning with the band.
Neither relationship is an immediate success. Over the course of the season, Amina examines her own life and relationships and what she wants, as opposed to what her off-beat parents and her tradition-minded friends want for her. Each of the band members does the same to varying degrees, with Saira given the most focus as a counterpart to Amina. The two women appear to be opposites at first, with only music and their religion in common, but as they get to know each other, they discover they are more alike than they thought.
And more different. Which are both tropes, but that’s part of the point of We Are Lady Parts. It’s firmly grounded in its characters’ Islamic community as it explores universal themes and situations. It’s that rare balance of relatable and original, heart and humor, with love and respect for the community it depicts, while not afraid to critique and satirize.
Creator Nida Manzoor, who wrote and directed all 6 episodes in season 1, took inspiration from her own life and from classics such as This Is Spinal Tap. The band plays a mix of fantastically punk covers and hilarious originals written by Manzoor and her siblings Shez Manzoor (who also scored the show), Sanya Manzoor and Benni Fregin.(X) Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, played in a bar filled with working class white guys, was a favorite, along with originals Ain’t No One Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me and Voldemort Under My Headscarf.
Fans who miss Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Adam Schlesinger’s irreverent musical sense of humor may want to check out Nida and Shez Manzoor and their siblings’ work. Those who like the quirky narration of Jane the Virgin, Fleabag and Never Have I Ever or the raucous humor of Derry Girls might also enjoy this show.
Words cannot express how much I love We Are Lady Parts. This show is one of my spirit animals. There is not enough punk music in this world made by musicians other than cis hetero white guys. I watched the whole thing in one session. Mr Metawitches watched along with me and loved it just as much, for the comedy, heart and music.
With 6 episodes that are each 24-25 minutes long, season 1 is about the length of a long movie. I’m looking forward to watching it again slowly, so I can savor every moment. Some of the jokes come at you fast. As does the punk music, which is as it should be. It would be marvelous if Lady Parts becomes this decade’s Monkees, releasing many albums and doing concerts in real life, once Covid settles down and Amina works through her stage fright. 😉
We Are Lady Parts has already been renewed for season 2. According to Wiki, it’s available on a hodgepodge of services in various countries:
“We Are Lady Parts premiered on [BBC] Channel 4 television on 20 May 2021, with all episodes simultaneously becoming available for streaming on All 4… The series premiered on 21 May 2021 on Stan (Australia) and Sky New Zealand. The series premiered on Peacock in the United States on 3 June and premiered on Showcase in Canada on 9 June.”
I’ve purposefully kept this review vague because it’s delightful to let this show hit you in the face without knowing too much about it or already having the jokes spoiled. But if you want to know more before making a decision about watching it, this NY Times profile of Nida Manzoor’s creative process is a good place to start. You can watch the trailer and first 5 minutes of episode 1 below. 🤓
Images courtesy of peacock/BBC.