Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
In 2019, writer and director Ramy Youssef debuted his semi-autobiographical television series, Ramy. Youssef’s series is a coming-of-age story that documents the typical trials and tribulations of entering adulthood all while navigating these issues as a young Muslim Egyptian American. The creation of the show in part serves to address common Orientalist misconceptions regarding religion, customs, and gender roles that exist in mainstream media, especially in a post 9/11 world. Youssef’s intention is to derail the trajectory of this discourse by offering an often overlooked first-hand portrayal of a diasporic Arab and Muslim experience in America that defies the predominant image in Western film, television, and news over the past several years. The discursive nature of contemporary mainstream media has contributed to Orientalism in the way that scholarly discourse has done in the past. In his book Orientalism (1978), Edward Said outlines how this discourse originated in the travel literature of the past which detailed the perceived images of the East by the West. As the discourse has shifted from travel books and continues to evolve in modern film and television, it has diminished the space for characters to exist beyond their stereotypical images. Overturning Orientalist beliefs requires an often silenced and underrepresented voice like Youssef’s to be heard and acknowledged.
An overview of Ramy’s characters and their controversies provide an outlet for understanding Youssef’s positioning and approach regarding present-day Orientalism. Having considered the message expressed through his show’s characters, it is also important to take into consideration that Youssef does not speak on behalf of all Muslim Arab Americans. I argue that Youssef is only able to capture the essence of a single experience that contributes to the dismantling of Orientalist ideas. In order to completely overturn Orientalist beliefs, it requires additional Arabs and Muslims to directly share their experiences as well. Moreover, it demands the hegemonic powers in film and television to participate in the accurate representation of these narratives first before systematic Orientalist views and their monolithic depiction of Middle Eastern and Muslim figures can be broken down.
Hanna, Mary, "A Whole New (Eastern) World: Ramy Youssef’s Role in the Undoing of Orientalism in Modern-Day Media" (2021). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 762.