Diversity Aboveground: Family Outing

Apr 24, 2015

The family of Halal in the Family

Do you remember those family sitcoms where junior or sister got into a bit of a mess? One of the parents had to intervene and the dad gave a lecture but it was all resolved in less in 30 minutes so they ended up having a huge laugh about it? The whole episode started with a cute song featuring the family’s adorable photos?

Then, various sitcoms like Roseanne, The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle subverted the genre into a twisted shell of its former self?

Well, there’s a brand new sitcom where the dad always means well, the mom rolls her eyes at his antics, the son’s an over-achiever, the daughter gets excited about math and it feels like the whole family could burst into a hug at any moment.

Oh, and they’re Muslim. Plus, the cast and production team are Indian.

Halal in the Family is about the Qu’osbys. Yes, say it aloud. That’s an intentional homage, as well the dad’s loud sweaters, to the United States’ favorite television family in the 1980s. There are the obvious jokes on purpose so the children are cringing along with you. Each episode contains a moral lesson just like that “very special episode of Blossom” but with more contemporary problems. In fact, the themes were decided with the help of an Advisory Council of various Muslim and Middle Eastern rights groups.

Aasif Mandvi

Even more important than playing the dad, Aasif Mandvi created this series with Miles Kahn. They’re both writers on all the episodes and produced it. Their background on The Daily Show reflects on the series, not just guest star Samantha Bee, but also in the fine line of satirizing old sitcom ideas while including themes like religious bullying, terrorists and government spying. There is an occasional stereotypical Caucasian like the bigoted redneck or racist blonde but they’re supposed to be self-aware, broad caricatures unlike The Andy Griffith Show using Romani stereotypes or the Muslim as terrorists stereotype that’s been on almost every show ever. This last instance is sent up in Halal in the Family as they assume a new Muslim friend must be a spy because Homeland tells them so and because he’s… *gasp* …Caucasian!

You might remember the last Muslim sitcom family…

That’s okay, you’re not having memory difficulties. It never happened, at least not in the United States. Halal in the Family is a first so surely, the networks were fighting over who would get to show it, right?

None, none wanted to show it despite ABC willing to take a chance on series revolving around Asians, African-Americans and Hispanics in the United States. Mandvi, Kahn and their friends went to the next logical place.

The Internet.

Bobby for Class President!

With a goal of $30,000, a page on INDIEGOGO was born. They’ve raised almost $40,000 but you can still contribute to receive perks like a Signed Photo or for $5,000, a Date Night with Aasif.

Surely, after production was completed, then a network was interested?

Nope, but they were able to make a deal with Funny or Die! The web site hosts the series on the original site and Youtube as well as taking over some of the promotion responsibilities. The low budget does show in the quality of sets and other things but also makes it even more reminiscent to the original family sitcoms.

Could this be the future of diverse entertainment? Why should audiences be forced to wait for the networks to catch up when they can just finance what they want to see themselves?

There are only four episodes of Halal in the Family and each episode is short enough that you can binge-watch the whole series in about half an hour. Instead of wasting half an hour playing Candy Crush, you could watch this.

However, depending on who’s around you and whether you’re at work, you should be warned that the outtakes during the credits have a preponderance of the word “shit!”.

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Kung Jin

Two pop culture figures have been Outed as homosexuals.

In Mortal Kombat X, Kung Jin has a scene where he discusses fighting and whether to train further at Shao Lin because he fears he won’t be accepted. Raiden tells him, “They care only about what is in your heart. Not whom your heart desires.”

The cinematic director for Mortal Kombat X, Dominic Cianciolo, Tweeted “I see people are picking up on the subtle exposition contained in Kung Jin’s flashback. Glad we have observant fans!” Later, he clarified that “yes”, Jin was homosexual.

Some have voice their complaints and wondered why sexual orientation should even matter in a video game. In a post-GamerGate world, that seems kind of ridiculous. Why should it matter? Why can’t a person be able to choose whether they want to play a character they can personally relate to? Why can’t video games more closely resemble our multisexual, multiracial, multicultural world? This is a very positive step into that direction. The game even has an interracial couple.

Now if we could be able to play a Zelda game as a female…

Ice Man

Bobby Drake and his teenage X-Men cohorts have recently been plucked out of their happy 1970s home and thrown into modern times alongside their older counterparts. They remain just as awkward and maybe a little changed by the experience.

Jean Grey has become comfortable enough with her telepathy that she confronts Drake after he says something that borders on sexual harassment about a female teacher. Apparently, that’s okay from a heterosexual male but not a closeted homosexual. In some ways, it’s very uncomfortable to read her demanding that he comes to terms with it right that second. On one hand, it seems arrogant of Grey to force Drake to admit his sexuality to anyone including himself. The following panels sum up what could have been spread out over a few issues until the readers guess what’s going on like in Young Avengers. On the other hand, this could mirror a more realistic experience by many of the readers. Not everyone will be polite and understanding of a person’s sexuality being their business. They might even be worse than Grey, demanding to know sexual questions and anatomic parts.

Drake does admit to being a homosexual and theorizes that his older self was too concerned with the ramifications of being a mutant to even think about being a minority in this way, too. This development will be addressed in future issues. Jean-Paul Beaubier, the first homosexual X-Men, also encourages him, “You can’t hide yourself again, Bobby. Embrace who you are. That’s how I live. Screwed up and fabulous.

Shawn Ashmore who played Drake in the films congratulated the comic character on Twitter, but there’s no word on whether this will be added to future Fox films. Drake looked very close to Rogue, his girlfriend in the previous films, at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past but maybe they were really just Besties like Barton and Romanoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron. What if all those times that he seemed annoyed with Wolverine was actually a crush that he could never hope to resolve or be reciprocated?

 

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John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo has been touring the country with his one man show, Latin History for Dummies (A Work in Progress). As the name suggests, he gives a comedic lesson in how the Latin community has shaped the United States. He plays the Tampa Improv this weekend with tickets just $25 at the door. Check with your local comedy club or venue about when to catch him near you.

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Who else is coming with me for Free Comic Book Day on May 2nd?

Next Week will be about diverse comic book recommendations and May the Fourth be with you!

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