HomeAsian Americans"Unfair & Ugly" sitcom questions South Asian Muslim communities' stereotypes, taboos, and...

“Unfair & Ugly” sitcom questions South Asian Muslim communities’ stereotypes, taboos, and expectations

Immigrant Neighborhood

First-generation Indian and Pakistani Americans, Yumna Khan and Nida Chowdhry, have created a six-episode dramedy, Unfair & Ugly, to challenge taboos that prevail in Muslim South Asian culture, reports The News on Sunday.

Unfair & Ugly is a phrase-twist on the skin-bleaching creams like Fair & Lovely which are incessantly marketed to desi communities in a bid to convince women that lighter skin will make them more beautiful and even marriageable. The show also takes on heavier topics of mental health and racism, two oft-ignored conundrums that South Asian communities are apt to ignore while providing the representations all South Asian Muslims know they desperately need, reports My Salaam.

“I want to tell stories because I always felt like the other,” said Khan in an interview to the Huffington Post, referring to the contemporary sitcoms where screen representation is overwhelmingly taken by a white-majority cast.

“I’m so deeply intrigued, fascinated, and obsessed with media representation, and how much moving images impact people, their psychology, and how it influences politics and society,” adds Chowdhry.

Authenticity in representation of Muslim culture has been sorely lacking in a post-911 world, where Muslim Americans are far too often either stigmatized as the “other,” overly sympathized with in the wake of some polarizing national debate, or casually dismissed as unimportant. Yet, in 2014 alone, almost a quarter of South Asian children in the U.S. were born to immigrant parents. The cultural gap that these children go through, often in a bid to make sense of their surroundings and new environment, presents both challenges and rewards. Some are able to adapt. Others, still, are lost in the perpetual reckoning of their dichotomic identities.

In many ways, Unfair & Ugly is a blend of diversity as varied as the dramedy’s creators. Both Khan and Chowdhry come from unique backgrounds, varied perspectives, and different experiences. Yet the attitudes they seek to challenge in distant desi countries and communities are as prevalent here in the United States as they are elsewhere, reports The Orange County Register.

Through their humorous show, these Californians underline the lack of media representation of immigrant families and their social and cultural taboos. They also emphasize that flaws can be highlighted with an objective of opening up the immigrant communities to self-reflection and necessary scrutiny.


Still, it’s television.

“Television is about entertainment, about providing an escape for people,” Chowdhry said. “And people we see every day are funny and deal with life’s challenges with a smile on their faces. People are resilient.”

Several teaser mini-episodes have been produced. The pair hopes to debut Unfair & Ugly sometime this year.

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