Ramy: Even If You're Not Muslim, You'll Relate in Some Way (SPOILERS)

Thursday, June 25

By Georgi S. Slavchev

Ramy, the hit Hulu dramedy series written and directed by (in some episodes) by Ramy Youseff. Before Ramy, he was best known for his role in “See Dad Run” who played the loveable, funny production assistant Kevin Costner on David’s former show. This is where Ramy piqued his interest in the idea of writing, as he would shadow the hectic Hollywood sitcom writer’s room. This inspired Youseff to pursue more work in comedy, delivering stand-up all across the country, even abroad at times. Ramy Youseff however, is not your ordinary stand-up comic. Ramy mainly jokes about his life growing up as an Egyptian-Muslim-American in New Jersey, as well as the struggles that come with it, such as family. This became the foundation for what we know as “Ramy”.

The show is centered around Ramy Hassan, an American born Egyptian-Muslim millennial who has nothing going for his life, he’s failed at every attempt at a job he’s had usually at very sad attempts at startups in NYC, he doesn’t drink or smoke but has dabbled in drugs before (which is considered Haram in Islam), and engaging in constant casual sex, which doesn’t lead to anything serious afterward. He lives in New Jersey with his parents, Naysa and Farouk who both immigrated to America in the 90s and his sister Dena who is much more responsible and hard-working than her brother, studying to become a lawyer. Ramy mainly hangs out with his best friend Steve who has Muscular Dystrophy, and his two friends Mo and Ahmed who are both married and eccentric in Nature and lastly his uncle Naseem, a Racist, Homophobic, Anti-Semitist who comes off as obnoxious in nature but, he very much dearly cares for his family.

Ramy Hassan tries his best to be a “Good Muslim” which according to him, is praying five times a day, going to the mosque, and reading the Qu’ran. Ramy has committed many sins, doing things against not only his religion but in some instances, against morals in general. Ramy won’t drink and do drugs (not knowingly at least) but he will have sex before marriage, even with a married woman. He looks for purpose, what it means to be a “good Muslim”. Ramy does this through acts of kindness, which backfire from unknowingly ending up at two sixteen-year-old girls' house to sleeping with a married woman from the mosque. He either tries finding something to fill the deep hole inside him through a romanization of finding a beautiful, Muslim bride until he soon realizes that just like how he is, they also indulge in the same sexual desires but his partner was a bit more intense than he was. This was to show Ramy’s ironic double, the hypocritical standard of what he expects in a wife when he himself, is no better a human being. But in a way, in a very strange way, we can all relate to Ramy. Whether it be masturbating, being self-conscious, or feeling alone and lost in a sea full of people who just seem to have everything figured out. This gave me great respect for Ramy Youseffs abilities as a writer and director. His dialogue and action grabbed me by my shirt and captivated me with relatable, powerful conversations between two characters. I respect how the show knew when to use comedy, and not just through them in every discomforting situation like a 90s sitcom. The acting of the entire cast was great, especially that from May Calamawy as Dena, who portrayed her as I imagine a struggle which many western Muslim women and girls can identify with. Dealing with the fetishization of your religion and race by racist white men, expected to work harder and adhere to different rules than her brother. What I love about Dena is although she isn’t as dedicated to Islam as Ramy, she still acknowledges her background and protects it anytime someone challenges it. Laith Nakli as Uncle Naseem was my personal favorite, an obnoxious, terrible person. Laith made me cry with his performance because despite him being a horrible person from the way he speaks about women to the way he eats at the dinner table, he is still a good person who will stand up to any injustices in front of him, which too impressed Ramy enough to work with his uncle.

Ramy doesn’t just sugarcoat or use the typical social commentary on Muslims/Arabs in the U.S, it’s a show which focuses on the problems Arab men and women face every day, even those which don’t stand out as much still have something to hide. For instance, Uncle Naseem, who seems to be the worst family member on the show, is a successful businessman, lives in a nice apartment in the city, and exercises everyday struggles with his identity. Naseem in the second season has issues with his sexual identity, having sex with another man before and showing slight physical attraction towards another man, which is something very frowned upon in his culture. Naseem tries to mask this side of him by making sexist comments, dating women younger than him, and keeping a bravado personality, but deep down he is alone and lost. Naseem meets a man at the gym who regularly works out the same time he does, they have a moment in the Sauna, after which they don’t see each other again until Naseem finds him at a copy shop he works at. Naseem is invited by him to come by his apartment and hang out, to which he simply cusses him out. Naseem is the archetype of toxic masculinity which is usually found in our family members who came from a different time, a different place but we never ask “Why do they feel this way?” what triggers this type of thinking and if so, is it a problem deeply rooted in their soul which is struggling to get out.

What Ramy taught me was that we all have problems and we all struggle with finding out who we are, what we want, and how every step of the way counts. Our toughest fights are those which we do alone, and they are no easy thing to defeat. Life is a fucked up game which we are all trying to achieve whether it is to feel loved or appreciated, release the stress of family life and finding inner peace, but life is something which will make you fall down and break you down at times, but no one will be there to pick you up instead, you have to get up, dust yourself off, and limp to the finish line. The journey only goes on and on.

--Georgi Slavchev-Los Angeles-10am

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