Hmm, what’s the best way to respectfully portray women on television? By not writing any female characters, obviously. There, you see? The Egyptian Islamists behind the new sitcom Coffee Shop have solved sexism. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
Rather than tackle any thorny censorship issues that arise when the contour of a woman’s body is clearly visible under her wardrobe, Coffee Shop has dispensed with female characters entirely by setting its 15-episode circle-jerk-themed show in one of Egypt’s traditional cafés, which tend to have an almost entirely male client-base. Characters will talk about topical things like Egypt’s transition to a democracy (exciting!) and boners, the obtaining and maintaining thereof. Metaphorically, of course — Coffee Shop, according Taqieddin Abdel Rashid, the deputy head of Al-Hafez television, is going to satisfy “a demand for this type of cleaner art.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Coffee Shop represents the sort of TV programming that Egyptians might soon see more of now that the Salafis, a small but fundamentalist group of Muslims, have increased their political clout:
Al Hafez television is one of Egypt’s new Salafi television channels, devoted to promoting an austere version of Islam that seeks to imitate the lifestyle, and even the dress, of the Prophet Muhammad and of early Muslims. Though they make up only a minority of Egyptians, the Salafis have been in the ascendancy since the toppling of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Salafist parties won more than a quarter of the vote at the country’s last elections.
And lest you fall prey to the mistaken notion that Coffee Shop showrunners are all patriarchal, fundamentalist jerks who’ve created a show that discusses relevant political issues and excluded women entirely from that discussion as if women had no stake in the direction of Egypt’s public policy, consider Rashid’s point that, really, Coffee Shop left women out because it just respects women too much to subject them to the tawdry trivialities of TV:
We are not discriminating (against) women. Our policy in the channel is that we don’t show women at all, as an honorary gesture to (women), as Islam dictates. Women have been disrespected in art and shown as a commodity everyone can look at.
Cool story, bro. Maybe if Coffee Shop takes off you can greenlight a Egyptian remake of Nickelodeon’s Hey Dude.
Image via AP, Tara Todras-Whitehill