Ramy Season 3 Review
My take on how Jews are portrayed in the new season.
Any Ramy fans in the house? I want to talk about Season 3, which premiered on Hulu September 30. What Vanity Fair calls a joyfully miserable comedy follows an Egyptian American on his spiritual journey to become a better Muslim, but keeps slipping up.
I'm talking about this show because of the way Ramy Youssef, the star and writer of the show, portrays Jews in the latest season.
I first started watching because my Jewish Syrian friend recommended it. He told me Ramy's family reminds him of his own Middle Eastern family. Navigating his 20's in the NYC area as a first-generation, semi-religious man? Being hounded by his parents to settle down and find a decent job? I could see the similarities, and I needed a new show.
Seasons 1 & 2 = amazing television. From the diverse cast of comedians (Mohammed Amer, Steve Way), clever writing, and dark jokes about serious topics like 9/11 (and feeling guilty you caused it as a young boy by ejaculating), I told everyone and their mother to watch it.
Then came Season 3. Readers beware: the rest contains spoilers. I knew we'd be in for trouble when I heard Bella Hadid, a Palestinian-American model who is known for spreading dangerous misinformation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and her dad for spreading outright antisemitic claims), was to star in it. But I was still excited to watch, and I've always respected Ramy for supporting Palestinian rights AND not saying terrible things about Jews or Zionists, which is a sad low bar to have.
The season's plot focuses on Ramy still working for his uncle's jewelry store, and choosing to do business with Israelis. This is selling out, apparently, because everyone close to him is horrified, including his old Jewish flame who belittled Birthright. Ramy's response: but it's Jews and Muslims working together! Shouldn't that be the answer? Which left me nervously wondering the whole season... is Ramy's willingness to work with the Israelis (who are NOT the Israeli government, by the way, just rich citizens) really the path to peace, or naive infantilism? Knowing how often Ramy fucks up constantly in the show, I was guessing the latter. And I was right.
Episode 2 brings him to Israel to meet his business partner, an Israeli woman made out to be the villain of the season, a woman who doesn't care about a Palestinian boy detained by the government, and who gets her nephew's finger chopped off for straying from his faith. Look, I don't mind how they portray the Israeli government and the scenes in the West Bank. Checkpoints and the IDF going into Palestinian homes is unfortunately real. But to show his Israeli business partner as a pawn of the Israeli government is stereotypical, boring, and a little antisemitic.
If the Israeli aunt is evil, then her nephew, Ramy's friend who gets his finger chopped off, is stupid. Yuval's character is painted to be a dunce: he can't do anything right for the family business, he's unreliable, oh and get this - he's supposed to be orthodox but doesn't even know that Moses and Pharaoh didn't like each other, and Ramy has to be the one to correct him. Should I even mention the part where Yuval says he dropped his family's tefillin and had to fast for 40 days? He was also a sex addict "living in sin" at the local massage parlor.
At the end of the season, Ramy loses an expensive watch that belonged to the Israelis and takes it as a sign from Gd that he shouldn't have taken their blood money. Ugh.
Am I being sensitive? I don't think so - I thought the bit where he says "congratulations" to the Holocaust survivor was funny, and even his West Bank antics where he accidentally gets a boy arrested was clever. Ramy Youssef is extremely talented, but as I wrote last week, people are stupid and I'm SURE some viewers of the show might not know many Jews and think we're all screw ups, or that our culture is evil and strict and we chop off our family members' fingers when they fall short in the eyes of Gd. If that were the case, I'd only have three fingers left by now!
If you've seen Ramy season 3, what did you think?