Within the first minute of the new Peacock show "We Are Lady Parts," it's clear the main character and her parents are practicing Muslims — but according to its creator, Nida Manzoor, the comedic series isn't about religion.
It centers around five U.K.-based Muslim women who are in the punk-rock band Lady Parts, a rebellious act given their faith, which the show references through protagonist Amina's resistance to play guitar for a suitor and his parents. (It's later revealed she struggles with nerve-inducing vomiting.)
(There's irreverent dialogue in the trailer below.)
"(Religion) is one aspect of their identities as women who are trying to find their voices and carving place for themselves in a world which doesn't always allow for them to be and express, especially as artists," Manzoor told TODAY. "It wasn't really about them grappling with their faith. It's more just having the confidence to speak their voice and to find an audience."
When Manzoor set out to make the show, which premiered on NBC's streaming service in early June, one goal was more authentic representation of Muslim women. Still, she doesn't expect it to speak to the whole community.
"I was slightly frustrated with the kinds of representation I've been seeing, especially with Muslim women as being oppressed, as being these victims, and I wanted to show them like I knew them, with all the joy and warmth and silliness," she explained. "I'm just one voice, and I've written quite a particular story. ... That's why it's exciting. Hopefully this will encourage new voices and different stories."
The characters approach traditional expectations for women in a range of ways. Amina's best friend, who's not in the band, is happy to be engaged in her mid-20s, and Amina is looking for a well-rounded partner herself. Meanwhile, lead singer Saira is resistant to commitment, and bassist Bisma, who's Black, has a school-age daughter. Drummer Ayesha is initially shown rehearsing without her hijab, her dark curls commanding more of the screen than her face, while band manager Momtaz blows vape smoke through her niqab.
Yet none of these women are "having a crisis of faith," Manzoor said. "I was wanting to show different kinds of Muslim women ... and not making a judgment of, 'This is the right way to do it,' or, 'This is the wrong way to do it.' It's down to the individual and what each person wants."
This depth has led to a largely positive reception to the show, especially from Muslim women.
"I realized from the kinds of articles coming out just how little there is of women being Muslim just being people in the world. So many of the pieces that came out were quite passionate from Muslim women who could see themselves in a way that they hadn't before," Manzoor recalled.
"One of the things I heard one of the writers say was giving these women interiority has meant so much," she added. "(It's) made me think we're not doing enough of this. ... There's been a real positive reaction to them being allowed to be funny, as well. Always they're portrayed as very solemn and lacking in any humor."
These responses "mean everything" to Manzoor because she's been wanting the same things as a TV viewer. "To know that the show has succeeded in that way, it has been really heartwarming," she said.
Another way the show avoids stereotypes that Muslim viewers have appreciated: Amina's mom and dad.
"(They're) not like the stereotypical kind forcing their child into an arranged marriage," Manzoor explained. "Her parents aren't trying to force her into any which way. They're just wanting her to be who she wants to be, and that was a really fun thing to explore with them."
Perhaps the secret to Manzoor's success is that she didn't fixate on the kind of viewer for whom she was making the show. Certain terms and jokes may make more sense if you're familiar with Islam, but it's by no means a barrier.
"I find when I'm trying to second-guess what an audience wants or needs, that can pull me away from why I'm even making the show, so I've just stayed quite inward while I was making it," she said. "I just was hoping what I find interesting will connect to other human beings, too."
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