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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ramy is a dramedy about a twentysomething Muslim man (Ramy Youssef) trying to find a middle ground between the traditions of his culture and the millennial milieu he consorts with in his New Jersey neighborhood. Sexual content is thoughtful and realistic, but ranges on the mature side, like when Ramy fills a (used) condom with water to check for holes, and in an intense scene, is asked to choke a woman while she masturbates in a car on their first date. There's no nudity, but we see people taking off their t-shirts and putting their hands under clothes, and hear sexual words as well as jokes about sex. There are also sexual situations with complicated cultural meaning, like when female Muslim characters talk about the sexual expectations placed on them by their parents and culture. Violence is less frequent than sex, but can be disquieting, like when Ramy and his uncle break up a street fight with a gun (no one is shot). Characters drink onscreen, but Ramy abstains due to his faith, though he does say will "probably try mushrooms one day." A character smokes cigarettes. Cursing includes "f--king," "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bulls--t," and "bitch" and there's also language with a racial/ethnic bent, like when characters talk about "white girls" with "no morals" or when an Egyptian man complains about being "surrounded by Jews." This man is called a "sand n----r" as well by a racist man. Despite the mature content, strong messages of integrity and gratitude come through, with every character represented sympathetically and many fascinating issues addressed. Characters spend time working out how to be righteous people, though the definition of what that is is under question.
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What's the story?
RAMY (Ramy Youssef) lives in two worlds: on one hand he's a standard-issue millennial bro with a job at a startup company and a busy hangout schedule, on the other, he's a devout Muslim trying to fit himself into the traditional life his family envisions for him. His culture tells him that it's time for him to marry, have children, make a career. Meanwhile, he's living with his parents, barely holding on at work, and aimlessly dating when the mood strikes him. He's not sure what's ahead for him, but at least he's trying to get somewhere.
Is it any good?
By turns sweet and sardonically amusing in the Master of None vein, this entry in the Young Man on the Verge of Adulthood genre is affecting and goes down easy. It certainly helps that Ramy's Muslim heritage makes for a lot of comical moments many viewers probably haven't seen on screen before, like when a mosque elder takes time to criticize Ramy for not washing properly between his toes before prayer ("When you address God, you must be clean!") or when Ramy's snarky sister Dena (May Calamawy) evades an uncomfortable reunion with a misogynistic uncle by pretending she has her period.
Speaking of Dena and other female characters, one of the most powerful aspects of Ramy is the focus it puts on the expectations on women in the Muslim culture. Ramy complains when his mom (Hiam Abbass) gently urges him to find a nice Muslim girl to settle down with, but Dena's already getting pressure from her parents to provide them with grandchildren. A fascinating scene in Ramy's first episode provides more perspective on what women of Ramy's age and station are going through, when a date with a "proper" Muslim woman winds up as a steamy makeout session in a car. The woman asks Ramy if he brought a condom, offers to get an over-the-phone nikah mut'ah (a temporary "pleasure marriage" that's controversial in Islam) to make him comfortable enough to have sex, and finally resorts to asking directly for what she wants sexually, which is for Ramy to choke her while she masturbates. When he demurs, she criticizes Ramy for putting her in a "Muslim box." In this scene, as in so many others, Ramy rings true -- and real, and extraordinarily, delightfully different.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of humor in Ramy. Does it help viewers understand and relate to aspect of Ramy's history and culture that we may not share? Are we laughing at or with the characters? Do the jokes on Ramy seem different from those on sitcoms that are aired on network television? How? Do the jokes that center on race, religion, and/or ethnicity ever make you uncomfortable? Are they supposed to?
Do you know any other shows that star main characters who also write and produce the show? How does Ramy compare with these shows? Why would an actor want to write a show for him or herself to star in? How autobiographical do you believe this series to be?
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