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Overview of Legally Brown

Question:

Discuss about the Muslim Shore Coming Out Legally Brown.

This essay provides a case study on Legally Brown, a new, outrageously funny Australian comedy series that puts politics and culture on the line of fire. It presents a comic angle on the experience of being a Muslim in Australia (Cherney and Murphy 2016). This essay critically discusses the comic presentation of racial and social division in the country. The show not only presents a comedy on the culture and religion of the Muslims residing in Australia, but also makes funny comments and jokes on the white Australians and this is what has made Legally Brown stand out from other comedy shows.

Muslim Shore: Coming Out – Legally Brown is an Australian comedy television series that is being played on SBS from 23rd September 2013. It is a comedy show where the host Nazeem Hussain presents a comic and funny angle to the experience of being a Muslim in Australia. This ten-part series has been produced by Jhonny Lowry and is hosted and co-written by comedian Nazeem Hussain (YouTube 2017).This show features stand-up comedy in front of live audience, interspersed with pre-recorded scripted comedy as well as characters and hidden camera stunts. Nazeem Husssain in this show has parodied various aspects of the Australian culture and at the same time has poked fun at his own religion, people and culture, who is himself a Muslim residing in Australia as his parents immigrated to Australia from Sri Lanka. Here the host have tried portraying in a comic way the various flaws and loopholes present in the mindset, religion and culture of people belonging to both the communities and religion. This unique concept of the show has been formulated in order to understand how educated people in today’s society react when their flaws are identified and projected in front of the audience. The show tries to read people’s mind and attitude in relation to their own religion and people and that of people belonging to different religion and cultural background. The show demonstrates in a funny and clever manner the most crucial aspect of society in recent times that is the aspect of racism and religious hatred. The term ‘other’ has often been used in order to refer to migrants, who are now residing in other countries with different religion and cultural background. The uniqueness of the show depends on the hilarious presentation of  various serious social issues such as racism, religion, culture, language and ethnicity.

As portrayed in the Australian comedy show, language is considered to be one of the media through which ideas, feelings and thoughts are represented in a culture. Culture can be defined as an exchange of meanings between two or more members of a belonging to a particular society (Hall 1997). People belonging to the same culture often has the same thought and view points and are also able to understand each other’s feelings and emotions in a easy way. The comedy show has projected this aspect of cultural difference in a parodic manner through the character of Michelle and Aziz. Michelle has converted into Muslim from Christianity, but is considered as an outsider and Lamees a pious Muslim makes fun of her accent and of her limited knowledge about the religion (Foucault 2013). Whereas, on the other hand, Aziz is considered a gay because of the tattoo of Jesus on his arm, who is a man, thus making the homely and conservative aunt Shiyama feeling shameful about the the fact (Langton, Palmer and Rhea 2014). The show validates the argument that culture primarily depends on the meaningful interpretation done by its participants of the happenings around them and making a sense of the world around them in a broadly similar manner. In addition to this, culture also regulates and organises social practices, influences our conduct and as a result have real and practical effects.

Cultural Differences and Parodic Representation


Proper communication also plays a crucial role in influencing racism and religious hatred.  For example, the news media in Australia has previously used the term ‘other’ for referring to Muslims and Arabs residing there. According to reports, Nada’s comment indicates a period of intense racialised reporting and public debate, which in turn triggered both physical and symbolic violence, thus producing an intense feeling of exclusion and an upsurge in racial harassment and violence directed at both Muslims and Arabs residing in Australia (Dreher 2003). In order to improve the scenario, various researches and studies have argued for improvement in media representation of culture, race, religion, ethnicity, Islam and the inter play of cultural differences (Evans and Watanabe 2016). Gradually this racial violence became gender based and girls and women wearing hijab were particularly targeted and harassed by members of other religion and community.  However, in recent times media representation of Muslims and Arabs residing in other foreign countries has changed drastically as can be perceived in the new Australian comedy series Legally Brown, which has dealt with the concept of racism, ethnicity and culture in a very bold and clever manner (Vaughan et al. 2015). It has also obliterated the racial discriminations that were often been portrayed by media previously in a very witty manner. The show does not prioritize any one religion over the other and has instead placed both Christianity and Islam on one foothold by making fun and parodying the flaws and hypocrisies of both the religion in an equal and fair manner. This comedy series very well proves the changing face of media and a how media can be utilised as proper source of communication thereby propagating brotherhood and unity between different races and religion, instead of provoking violence, hatred and false notion among people living in a society or a country.

Strategic attempts have been made by Australian government in order to remove the issue of race prevalent in the country. Subsequently, Australia had abandoned its infamous White Australia Policy, against non-European migration and in favour of multiculturalism. Such changes resulted in transformation of the Australian mind set from one of overt White Supremacy to an egalitarian alliance of various diverse religion and cultures, where the concept of race became irrelevant and obscure (Churchill, Baltra-Ulloa and Moore 2014). Multiculturalism is perceived as an undisturbed accomplishment by a non-racist, a society free of cultural boundaries that welcomes difference and is able to co-exist peacefully in harmony (Marti 2015). However, in reality racialism still exist in Australia, but the trope of multiculturalism has allowed Australians to perceive themselves as tolerant and inclusive by masking the reality of racialised economic, geographic and cultural discrimination. However, treating everyone equally does not account for the racialised discrimination in life chances. This new type of racism has altered the socio-political scenario by reducing overt racism through violence, verbal abuses, physical threats, but rather through covert rhetoric under the guise of ‘cultural preservation’, ‘nationalism’, political correctness and at times even through silence. This new type of racism is particularly apparent in Australia where ‘difficult conversation’ tends to be avoided. In recent times, Australian government is implementing significant policy changes in Australia’s welfare state, which reduce entitlements and benefits provided by the state to individuals and family based on their financial eligibility, is often referred to as ‘means testing’ (Garling et al. 2013).Australians are willing to engage about gender and class but only from a limited standpoint. This gets reflected in the limited number of work that has been done on the intersections of class, gender and race in Australia. They demean the experiences faced by Indigenous and migrant Australians by refusing to consider any other inequalities experienced by these groups, but only the ones pertaining to race.

However, the media representation of racial, religion and cultural discrimination has taken on a different route, by the presenting an amalgamation of various races and religions where people from one religion background is willing to convert into another religion and is also enthusiastic about learning the beliefs and faiths of the newly adopted culture and religion. The host of the Australian comedy series, Nazeem Hussain, an Australian Muslim does not hesitate to mock and make fun of his own religious beliefs, that is, Islam (Thorpe and Galassi 2015). This type of shows helps in producing a positive effect on the minds of the audience, where religion, cultural and racial segregation is seen as least important, by hilariously the beliefs and faiths of people from different geographic, cultural and religious background.

Media and newspapers serve as the most important channel for communicating with the population regarding various social, political, cultural and economic issues. They must be utilised in a proper manner for the purpose of communicating to the world various sensitive issues pertaining to religion, race, culture and others in an accurate and fair manner, which in turn would eventually lead  to the spread of unity and brotherhood among people coming from diverse religion, cultural, geographical and racial background.

References:

Cherney, A. and Murphy, K., 2016. Being a ‘suspect community’in a post 9/11 world–The impact of the war on terror on Muslim communities in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 49(4), pp.480-496.

Churchill, B., Baltra-Ulloa, J. and Moore, R., 2014. Difficult conversations. Routledge International Handbook of Race, Class, and Gender, p.21.

Dreher, T., 2003. Speaking up and Talking Back: News Media Interventions in Sydney's ‘Othered’Communities. Media International Australia Incorporating Culture and Policy, 109(1), pp.121-137.

Evans, N. and Watanabe, H. eds., 2016. Insubordination (Vol. 115). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Foucault, M., 2013. Politics, philosophy, culture: Interviews and other writings, 1977-1984. Routledge.

Garling, S., Hunt, J., Smith, D. and Sanders, W., 2013. Contested governance: culture, power and institutions in Indigenous Australia (p. 351). ANU Press.

Hall, S., 1997. Representation: Cultural representations and signifying practices (Vol. 2). Sage.

Langton, M., Palmer, L. and Rhea, Z.M., 2014. Community-oriented protected areas for indigenous peoples and local communities. Indigenous peoples, national parks, and protected areas: A new paradigm linking conservation, culture, and rights, 84.

Marti, S., 2015. Embattled Communities: Voluntary Action and Identity in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, 1914-1918 (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Western Ontario).

Thorpe, K. and Galassi, M., 2015. Diversity, Recognition, Respect: Embedding Indigenous Services at the State Library of New South Wales, Australia. In IFLA World Library and Information Congress: 81st IFLA General Conference and Assembly.

Vaughan, C., Murdolo, A., Murray, L., Davis, E., Chen, J., Block, K., Quiazon, R. and Warr, D., 2015. ASPIRE: A multi-site community-based participatory research project to increase understanding of the dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women in Australia. BMC public health, 15(1), p.1283.

YouTube, 2017. Muslim Shore: Coming Out - LEGALLY BROWN. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2oHeVS6a8A [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].

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