Monday, June 16, 2008
Aliens in America
Aliens in America is a show on CW33 at 7:30/8:30 PM Sundays. Here's the show info from the website, http://www.cwtv.com/shows/aliens-in-america/about:
Justin Tolchuck is a sensitive, lanky 16-year old just trying to make it through the social nightmare of high school in Medora, Wisconsin, with the help of his well-meaning mom Franny, aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary and his beautiful and popular younger sister Claire. Although he's bright and funny, Justin is also shy, socially awkward and pretty much resigned to the fact that he'll never be one of the cool kids. Franny, however, is the kind of take-charge mom who micro-manages her family, and she's come up with a plan to help Justin: she signs up for the school's international exchange student program. Picturing an athletic, brilliant Nordic teen, Franny is sure this new friendship will bestow instant coolness on her outsider son. However, when the Tolchuck's exchange student arrives, he turns out to be Raja Musharaff, a 16-year-old Muslim from a small village in Pakistan. Raja is thoughtful, responsible and wise beyond his years. To the Tolchucks and everyone else in Medora, he's also just about as foreign as a foreigner can be. While the rest of the family is slightly freaked out by the Muslim in their midst, Gary is comforted by the fact that the host family receives a monthly check to help with expenses. This fits right in with Gary's money-making schemes, and when he sees how hard-working and respectful Raja is, he's totally on board. As for Claire, she's too busy with her friends and her new boyfriend to pay much attention to their houseguest, but Raja is smitten from the moment he first sees her. After the initial shock wears off, Justin is quickly won over by Raja's humor, gestures of friendship and by their common status as outsiders. Despite the cultural chasm between them, Justin and Raja develop an unlikely bond that just might allow them to navigate the minefield that is contemporary high school. It's going to be a very interesting year for Raja, Justin, his family and the entire population of Medora.
So, when I first saw the show, I was annoyed that a Pakistani Muslim character would be named "Raja," because that is usually an Indian Hindu name. And I was annoyed by the first episodes portrayal of Raja as a drooling, deprived boy who had never seen a scantily dressed girl before. But I've seen a couple of shows since, and I think it's a good show in some ways.
We saw one episode in which Raja states that Muslim teenagers do not date or interact with women until marriage or engagement, i.e. they must stay chaste until they are husbands. So then one of the characters said, "No wonder their young men are so angry!" My husband and my brother took great offense at this remark. I said it was just a joke. But they insisted it was wrong to relate the beliefs of Islam (no sex before marriage) with the image of angry Muslims (terrorists). I agree with that, but it did seem like a harmless joke. Still, as we watched, it was great to see that Raja does not compromise his beliefs for anyone, even when he himself is tempted to do so. He is a wise and confident Muslim and often teaches everyone around him the true meaning of things. And for the most part, it is accurate in its portrayal of Islam (although not always perfect--but good enough when considering the lack of decent Muslim characters on TV)! The other characters in the show often discuss sexual "humor," which can be annoying, but if one ignores that, it's a refreshing show with a premise that is unique and needed on TV. There have been a couple of episodes with Muslim women wearing hijab as characters.
Have you seen it? What'd you think? If you visit the show's website (above), you can download full episodes on the computer. (They should pay for me this advertising, huh?!) One thing about it that all the sudden it will have a crude sexual image or joke--so have your hand on that remote and don't watch it in front of Mom or Dad ;-)