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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Peacock’s We Are Lady Parts is an endearingly angsty teenage dream come to life

Lucie Shorthouse, Faith Omole, Anjana Vasan, Juliette Motamed, Sarah Kameela Impey in We Are Lady Parts
Lucie Shorthouse, Faith Omole, Anjana Vasan, Juliette Motamed, Sarah Kameela Impey in We Are Lady Parts
Photo: Laura Radford/Peacock

We Are Lady Parts is at once a delightful coming-of-age story and an authentic representation of varied Muslim experiences courtesy of its five discernible protagonists. The Peacock series is about a rookie all-female punk band, Lady Parts, and how they find their voice and a burgeoning friendship through the songwriting process. Created, written, and directed by Nida Manzoor, the British comedy comprises only six half-hour episodes, but manages to pack a punch with its fast-paced, comprehensive storytelling and cogent, comical writing. We Are Lady Parts threads the difficult needle of embracing its characters’ ethnicities, seamlessly weaving them into distinctive backstories, points-of-view, and aspirations. Behind each of their musical dreams lies a deeply understandable journey of passion and self-discovery explored through a heartwarming lens.

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Manzoor has said that the show is somewhat autobiographical, and she’s co-written Lady Parts’ mostly brash, energetic songs with siblings Shez and Sanya Manzoor (along with Benjamin Fregin). This brings a sincere amount of realism to the show, which avoids portraying its women in stereotypical or familiar ways that usually cater to a primarily white audience, thanks to accurate representation behind the camera as well. There are still too few examples of Muslim women creators getting the mainstream space to develop such singular visions like Minhal Baig’s Hala, which masterfully captures its heroine’s teenage developmental stage with quiet resonance, or Bisha K. Ali’s work with Mindy Kaling on Hulu’s Four Weddings And A Funeral. Ali is now set as showrunner for Disney+’s upcoming Ms. Marvel about the MCU’s first Muslim superhero. We Are Lady Parts adds to this reflection of diversity and girl power within a community that is certainly not a monolith.

The show focuses on the members of Lady Parts, with voiceover narration by its newest addition, Amina Hussain (Anjana Vasan). Amina is a secretly talented musician and nervous Ph.D. student who longs for romance and resorts to traditional ways of finding a husband, even if she secretly harbors a crush on a college student (Zaqi Ismail). Her unrequited feelings accidentally land her at an audition for the band’s lead guitarist. Despite her serious stage fright, she is persuaded by strong-headed lead singer Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) to join the crew and help them train for an upcoming battle of the bands. While her entry is initially met with resistance by the other three members, they eventually begin to craft meaningful songs that stem from their lives, including Amina’s heartbreak and Saira’s grief. Their headbang-worthy distinctive tracks with titles like “Bashir With The Good Beard” and “Voldemort Under My Headscarf” are an extension of their joyful yet bold personalities that emerge as the season evolves.

We Are Lady Parts is not interested in straitlaced Muslim tropes—there’s no dramatic, inciting scene where removing a hijab is seen as a source of freedom. It naturally brings up topics of arranged marriages or activities that might be considered haram (forbidden by Islamic law) and attempts to thoughtfully dismantle them in unexpected ways. Amina may be looking for love in the wrong places but it’s not because her parents are pushing her in the opposite direction. In fact, they are elated when she casually mentions being in a band and are more worried for the audience who might have to witness her fear of performing manifest as vomit or even worse. Shobu Kapoor and Madhav Sharma aren’t series regulars, but manage to steal every scene they’re in as Amina’s supportive parents.

Amina’s bigger concern is handling parallel friendships—the one she’s slowly forming with the rebellious band and the one she’s inevitably moving away from with her religious college friends, especially Noor (Aiysha Hart), but even that arc finds a believable resolution. Vasan, who has briefly appeared in Sex Education and Spider-Man: Far From Home, shines in her leading role with a poignant and funny performance, whether she’s breaking out in a sweat while on stage or melodiously singing within the confines of her bedroom closet.

Among the other band members, it’s mainly Saira who gets the most fleshed-out arc as her tough exterior unravels with every episode and she shares personal details with the group and her boyfriend, Abdullah (David Avery). Impey’s performance in episode five, “Represent,” is especially hard-hitting as her character faces off against almost everyone she knows and loves. But We Are Lady Parts works strongest when the entire ensemble comes together. Faith Omole as bassist and vocalist Bisma, Juliette Motamed as drummer Ayesha, and Lucie Shorthouse as driven band manager Momtaz bring more depth to the show, even if they don’t necessarily get the meatiest plots or development. The series finds remarkably grounded ways to portray their bond, even if it’s all of them loudly jamming out to “500 Miles” in the car or patching up after an emotionally fraught fight in a nondescript alley. In that sense, We Are Lady Parts is a strong fit for Peacock, which has already found comedy success with the similarly ensemble-driven witty comedy Girls5eva, about a girl band reuniting to reclaim former glory, and Rutherford Falls, which bolsters Native representation on and off camera.

Like the latter, Manzoor’s writing also evokes a strong sense of community, because the members of Lady Parts don’t just want to sing for themselves, they want to break the mold that society often puts Muslim women into. “We simply seek to speak our truth before we are mangled by other people’s idea of us. Our music is about representation, it’s about being heard,” Saira says early on. It’s not music that everyone might relate to—with songs named “Ain’t No One Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me”—but it’s a version of their truth. The playlist (which also features Lady Parts covers of “9 To 5" and “We Are The Champions”) is as remarkable as the show’s grander themes of diversity and feminism. We Are Lady Parts is endearing and entertaining as a half-hour sitcom, but it also solidifies the need for nuanced takes on representation and how it affects audiences’ mindset. Even within the show, all five Lady Parts’ members recognize the pivotal stand they’re taking by putting their creative work on the internet despite possible backlash. The band—and by default those working on this sitcom—offer younger Muslim women the type of artistic inspiration they probably never had while growing up.

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Staff Writer (TV)