Like its streaming rivals, Hulu has sought to cultivate diverse original shows. The recent release of Ramy fits in this new direction.
The creator and protagonist Ramy Youssef sets out with the familiar first generation American, born to non-white immigrant parents story of trying to fit into a largely White-American society.
But Ramy twists this to include a protagonist that does not seek to take the often televised road of simply discarding the religion and culture of his ancestors.
Instead, Ramy seeks to find a balance, without giving up being Muslim-American and Egyptian-American, or at least what that means to him. Youssef said in a Vulture interview,
“A lot of immigrant stories on TV and film, I feel like I’m watching someone upgrade into a white lifestyle… And this show is a wrestling match of wanting to be in both.”
Ramy Youssef, the executive producer of the show, is also a stand-up comedian. But this doesn’t really factor into the show. The plot centering around the comedian struggling to get big is scrapped for a show takes on a more contemplative tone.
The main focus of the show is the specific experience of this New Jersey millennial who is religious and culturally mixed. The show might be in the run for an Emmy.
Hello from our set! We’re filming Roundtables this weekend with some of the year’s top #Emmys contenders.
— LAT Entertainment (@latimesent) April 27, 2019
The show looks at a very specific experience, Muslims of Middle Eastern descent living in America. For fear of generalizing, Ramy Youssef makes that very clear in an interview with Deadline,
“This is really about Arab Muslims in New Jersey, so it’s really narrow, there’s a reason I called the show Ramy, because I didn’t want to call it Muslims.”
The specificity of the show is also reinforced in the variety of characters that are in it. Dena, Ramy’s sister navigates fetishism of ethnic women by white men. Ramy’s mother Maysa, played by Hiam Abbass, feels isolated from the world. In one episode she takes up Uber driving in order to meet people.
— Ghazala Irshad (@ghazalairshad) April 21, 2019
Most of the show centers on Ramy but these episodes take a dive into the women in his life. And at the same time give the story more weight.
The show has built a rich world. Characters like Ramy, Dena and Maysa are no longer caricatures in a Homeland episode, but real humans with real-life problems.
A lot of these issues are hot button experiences of sex and interracial and interfaith dating. But the show does this with meaning rather than gratuitous nudity and still without hiding said nudity. The millennial issue of economic stability is also included, with Ramy as a tech start-up employee.
Another main character in the show, Steve, gives us insight into the world of dating as a disabled person.
Steve is Ramy’s long-time friend and often the voice of reason. When Ramy thinks himself into a corner trying to adhere to his ancestral culture, Steve calls him out.
The show takes on issues that can be universal to the Arab-Muslim community as well. Like the subtleties of proving their American patriotism in a post-9/11 world and dealing with that one uncle’s anti-Semitism.
Or the especially terrifying sex talk you get from your parents. That one seems like it might be universal across cultures but not quite.
Whether it’s more cross-cultural, millennial or just human stories we’ll wait patiently for another season that puts real stories above gimmicks and stereotypes of underrepresented immigrant communities.