Forget the one alien in America


If I could, I’d ask the producers/writers/others at CW this: is it so difficult to imagine Muslim youth in a school setting within the U.S.? Why the tired old exchange student device? Why just one muslim student? At a very basic level, this is what sets the CBC show Little Mosque on the Prairie apart. Here we are, griping about Raja Musharraf when we could be talking about –

Amaar – a Toronto-based lawyer who moves west to a small town (Mercy) to play the imam for a community of Muslims.

Yasir – a contractor, who is also responsible for luring Amaar to Mercy.

Sarah – who works at the Mayor’s office and is married to Yasir.

Rayyan – Yasir and Sarah’s daughter, smart and snarky.

And others including Baber (the former imam), Fatima (who runs a diner), McGee (local Reverend), Mayor Popowicz, and Neil Crone (right-wing radio host).

Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie, gets it: The problem with stereotypes is not that they are false, but that they are static (Amitava Kumar). The second season begins tomorrow (Oct 3), at 8:00 p.m.


5 Responses to “Forget the one alien in America”

  1. amrita Says:

    The name itself “aliens in america” kinda gets my knickers in a knot … although we file non-resident/resident ALIEN taxes every year.

  2. aswinp Says:

    I was willing to look past that…and to be honest, I could sit through the show and even laugh at a few jokes. But I just can’t see how they can develop the show into something more nuanced.

  3. Jonathan Gray Says:

    My key concern, I guess, is exactly that, Aswin, and you hit the nail on the head — its set-up restricts a lot of prospect for nuance. Going into it, I felt that so much rested on the shoulders of one young actor, but therein lies the problem. Compare to The Wire, for instance, which is full of African American crack dealers, crack addicts, corrupt cops, corrupt politicians, etc. … yet also has many other African American characters, spreading the burden of acting and scripting across so many characters that nuance is practically inevitable. Aliens may well challenge stereotypes to a degree, but it seems to be batting in a minor league, rather than actually aiming for success in the majors.

    I’m also bothered by how often these stories are told re: small towns, so that urban America can convince itself that the nation’s rampant xenophobia only really takes place in small towns (Jon Kraszewski’s chapter in Sue Murray and Laurie Ouellette’s Reality TV makes the same argument about racism in Real World – that it’s always from rural Americans). [This isn’t a comment directed at Little Mosque too, which I haven’t yet seen]

  4. aswinp Says:

    Jonathan – I *really* like your thought about “spreading the burden of acting and scripting.” And yes, there is a hint about rural Canada and xenophobia in Little Mosque – in several episodes, characters make snide remarks about Mercy not being Toronto and so on.

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