Spoiler Alert, y’all.
I’m starting from the top. In case you missed it, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra won People’s Choice Award for favorite actress in a new TV series – for reasons which evade me. It might have something to do with her role as Alex Parrish, an FBI recruit who is suspected of being a terrorist who carried out a deadly attack. The entirety of the show is Alex trying to prove her innocence AND find the real culprit- if that’s not White Savior Complex, I don’t know what is.
Here’s the plot: If she didn’t do it, someone from her class did.
From the trailer, the cast oozed diversity: a South Indian Bollywood actress as lead, a hijabi, an African American woman as head of Quantico’s recruitment program. After the pilot, it all went downhill.
With a diverse cast leading the show and everyone being a suspect, it was only a few episodes in before the hijabi was the prime suspect.
With brief mentions of Alex having an Indian mother and white father, there is no other way of telling that she represents a minority unless you count the Om bracelet she wears, the fact that she tops her class, naturally, as Indian girls should, and most offensively, that her title as the suspect was ‘JihadiJane’ because, you know, all brown girls are suspect.
[bctt tweet=”After the pilot, it all went downhill.”]
Then there’s the overwhelming who’s-sleeping-with-who web of stories, because catching the perpetrator isn’t captivating enough. I expected as much, since the promotional poster featured Alex handcuffed, with an FBI flag loosely draped around her. I guess she was supposed to be sexy – and it definitely helped.
As for Alex’s story, she found out that her dead dad was also in the FBI, and wants to find out about more about him. She eventually does and is riddled with guilt because he was an FBI agent. Let’s not forget, she killed him years earlier because he abused her mom. This was a fact she needed constant reminding of, because as long as you’re a hero, you can treat your wife like crap. Right?
What really got to me, though, was the hijabi character. Moving past the ‘I am defying my family tradition by being here’ that all hijabis seem to have, is the lack of truth in the hijabi character, Nimah.
Nimah falls in love with Simon, a mysterious recruit with his own secret – he’s part of the Israeli Defense Force. She eventually invites him over, then removes her hijab in front of him to show him that she likes him. You know, because words aren’t what we use to express feelings. How rudimentary of you, writers, not only do Muslim women stay at home, we can’t speak for ourselves either.
Unveiling the package moment. What the actual eff?
I should also mention the Muslim-shaming ‘Oh you’re missing out’ sentiments and snickers expressed by Alex and another character Shelby towards Nimah as they talk about their flings – very mature for people training to protect the country. Thanks for pulling up that age-old stereotype about Muslim women and their relationships with men, amirite?
[bctt tweet=”Unveiling the package moment. What the actual eff? “]
If stereotyping one Muslim wasn’t bad enough, they did it to an entire Muslim community when Alex took to hiding in a mosque – because where else do fugitives hide? The FBI came looking for her there and her only means of escape was to put on a niqab.
Never in my life have I seen so many niqabis in one mosque.
Lastly, we come to Miranda, who runs the recruitment program. While I do give the costume department a good job for dressing her for her body type, that’s the only thing they’ve done well. Her backstory is her fatherless son, who’s in juvenile detention because he wanted to shoot up a school. Original. For some reason not explained, she fears and distrusts him.
[bctt tweet=”Never in my life have I seen so many niqabis in one mosque.”]
I must admit, in later episodes the show did become more captivating, as less time was spent on the characters and, as you quickly realize, everybody’s hiding something. It was ambitious to have a diverse cast as integral part of the show, but what is needed are writers who are diverse and can bring more faceted perspectives to the stories being featured. Now that’s a show I know I’d tune into.