Disclaimer: every opinion expressed in written pieces is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.
The Netflix show Elite is polarizing – some Muslim viewers love it and others aren’t so happy with it. The frustration mainly comes from the fact that the TV show presents a Muslim girl taking off her hijab for a guy, and her drug dealer gay brother’s dillemma with his faith.
For those who are unaware of the show, the main Muslim characters share pretty similar plot lines. Starting off with the hijabi, Nadia, she starts off as a shy new girl at school who only studies and doesn’t want to be friends with others.
It’s safe to assume that the writers were trying to include the stereotype of all hijabis being quiet and not speaking for themselves.
Nadia accidentally spots two antagonists of the show having sex, leading them to make a bet with each other to see if the white boy, Guzman, can humiliate Nadia by seducing her. The both of them end up having feelings for each other and Nadia begins to do things like not wearing her hijab as much and having sex.
This is a common theme in almost every hijabi’s storyline and it’s pretty old to the point where there is almost no point in putting a Muslim girl in a movie or TV show because it just ends with false representation and the girl just being “saved” by a white guy as a “happy ending.”
Things are no better for Nadia’s brother, Omar, a gay drug dealer who starts to fall in love with another main character in the show. I’m sure the only reason Elite made Omar, out of all characters, to be homosexual was to turn him being Muslim as just a dilemma or obstacle in his life.
This should never be presented for any type of belief, especially the ones that are continuously being underrepresented.
There is another gay muslim character that enters the show in season 3 named Malick. Malick starts to date Nadia even though she still has feelings for Guzman. Her parents approve of her dating Malick. Nadia later finds out he is secretly gay and has been hooking up with her brother, Omar… seriously? Talk about family tea!
Malick convinces Nadia to continue dating him. He also ends up proposing to Nadia near the end of the show and she accepts – until the next day when she realizes she doesn’t want to live a lie – but the two remain friends. The season finishes with Nadia still wanting to be with Guzman as well as Omar leaving Malick for his first boyfriend.
Most Muslims would say that these characters are disrespectful to all Muslim teenagers, as the show is in a backhanded way of making it seem to the audience that the religion of Islam goes against any teens’ desires and is practically oppressing Muslims, leaving them with no choices.
The writers of Elite consist of Spanish men, aside from Abril Zamora, a trans woman. None of the writers are Muslim. The problem with this is that it shows that the writers may have used only the preexisting stereotypes they had in mind while making and shaping these characters and didn’t even think about having a Muslim writer to clarify whats right and wrong.
It’s already sad enough that having Muslim characters in films isn’t considered a regular thing, but when they are being represented incorrectly as well, it just makes it worse.
I believe that the show is trying to give off the idea that all Muslims are needing to rebel to live a happy life because otherwise they are nothing but “oppressed” kids. Which is completely untrue.
I think this is a dangerous idea to be spreading too, especially for the hijabi stereotype, since nowadays there are a lot of films expressing the idea of hijabis being oppressed and being unhappy until meeting some white boy that makes her feel “true freedom.”
These films will lead non-Muslims, or even some Muslim girls who are considering wearing the hijab to think it’s just force from parents and will completely change others idea of what the hijab is actually supposed to represent, which is modesty.
Also the show adds to the stereotype of ALL muslims having insanely strict parents, which I find pretty unfair. Sure there are Muslim parents that are strict but not all are. There are a lot of laid back Muslim parents out there who have a healthy relationship with their children.
I’m pretty sure if there were Muslims among the writing crew for the show, Nadia and Omar would probably be completely different characters from what they are currently. I’m also sure that Nadia wouldn’t need or want to take off her hijab at all through the show.
Personally, I don’t think Elite is a bad show, as a matter of fact I find the show pretty interesting. My only issue, along with many people’s issue with the show, is their idea of Muslim teens and how they’re choosing to present them.
Can I just get a TV show where the Muslim woman wears a hijab and abaya, doesn't have or want a boyfriend, doesn't defend her clothing choices, and ALSO solves crime for a living?!? Am I asking for too much?!?— Huda F (@yesimhotinthis) March 28, 2019
I watched this one show a while back called Skam, and it’s one of my favorite shows of all time because they have a strong and amazing hijabi lead that doesn’t show her as embarrassed of her religion or wanting to take off her hijab (she doesn’t remove her hijab throughout the show.)
It’s also not that hard to create a good plot line for a hijabi. For example, it could be the opposite of pretty much all the hijabi films, where the guy falls in love with the Muslim girl and wants to convert for her.
It’s not everyday you will see a show or a movie wanting to feature a hijabi, let alone a Muslim. I think if film writers are wanting to create a Muslim character, they should respect the religion of Islam and the lives of most Muslim teenagers.
I also believe that Elite should start to introduce a better portrayal of these Muslim characters. The popular show only has three seasons, who knows where it will lead. We just simply ask for good representation.