Monday, September 24, 2007

Kick: Busting Myths that Muslims Can't be Queer

MMW thanks Melinda for the tip!

Australia’s TV show Kick presents Australia’s first Middle Eastern lesbian: Layla.

This article touches on Kick, its history, and its newest character, Layla, and examines issues of how her sexuality is discussed on the television show. I’ve been watching this on YouTube (there are links to the different episodes in chronological order at the bottom of the post), and as far as Layla’s sexuality is concerned, I think it’s done really well. While the show does focus on her relationship with a colleague, it doesn’t present that as her only facet. There are plenty of scenes with her family, and sex doesn’t seem to be the primary focus of the show.

Overall, Kick does well in being consistent with ethnicity in its casting: all the Middle Eastern characters except for one (Layla’s brother Osama is played by Stephen Lopez) are filled by Middle Eastern actors. Layla herself is played by gorgeous Nicole Chamoun.

Also, I really appreciate that Layla’s mother and sister are shown without their headscarves at home, where they normally wouldn’t wear them. I value this about Little Mosque on the Prairie, too. A lot of non-Muslims assume that hejabis wear headscarves all the time: in the shower, to sleep, etc. Showing women with headscarves in the home is just reinforcing this idea. Kick and LMOTP do us a favor, I think, by illustrating the fact that hejabis don’t wear scarves at home (unless non-family males are present).

One thing that bothered me a little was the fact that Layla’s mother and sister wear headscarves, but Layla does not. As far as I’m aware, this hasn’t been discussed in the show. The lack of headscarf could be used to “mark” Layla as different. The characters of her mother and sister aren’t very deeply developed in the program, but their underdeveloped characters don’t present any problems in the plot, so they remain unmarked. Layla’s lack of headscarf could symbolize her difference from her family (her homosexuality, her refusal to comply with her mother’s wishes that she marry, etc.).

Kick does an excellent job is portraying Layla as a regular human, presenting her conflicts between her feelings and her family and their traditions as painful, but not sensational or exotic. I’d be interested to see what the Middle Eastern LGBT community has to say about this.