In this op-ed for the Hollywood Reporter, Ramy Youssef, star and creator of his self-titled Hulu show, Ramy, discusses the pressures of being a trailblazer in Hollywood. And here are some snippets:
– About a year ago, as I was leaving [Friday] prayers, a middle-aged man firmly grabbed me by the arm. I didn’t know who he was, and before I could ask, he started yelling. “You’re the comedian,” he exclaimed. “…I heard you’re making a show. Finally someone will make us look good. Everything about us out there, it’s so bad. They don’t know who we are! Make us proud, habibi. We’re counting on you. You’re the first.”
– We’re in a landscape that’s obsessed with firsts. “First” is a demarcation that’s eagerly attached to anyone or anything marginalized or unexplored, like we’re in middle school rushing to touch base — the first LGBT this, the first Asian to be nominated for that, the first Latinx to be seen eating a sandwich at this spot usually reserved for the Hollywood elite. As a creator put into this category, the idea of being a first has raised a lot of questions for me.
– In America, statistically, the average Muslim family would be a family of black Muslims — who are the largest group of Muslims in the United States. As an Arab creator, I’m showing an Arab Muslim family. But, since this is the “first Muslim show,” is it my responsibility to dive into their storylines too? If I don’t, is that an act of erasure and violence?
– I don’t know the answers to a lot of these questions, but ultimately my choice was to make the show that I was uniquely qualified to make. In the plethora of Muslim experiences, mine is just one, and I chose to wholly focus on that and that alone. I chose to make a show that isn’t obsessed with checking boxes. A show that feels the only responsibility is to tell an honest story from a singular point of view. A show that is hopefully given room to grow — and therefore organically encompass other facets and storylines of what it might mean to be a Muslim in America.
Ramy is currently streaming on Hulu.