Hekayat Banat: Stereotype-Filled Show about the Lives of Women
Dina El ShirbeenyHoureyya Farghali...
According to the show’s makers, Hekayet Banat is supposed to be a realistic portrayal of the lives of young Egyptian women. We beg to differ. Women don’t wake up with perfect hair, makeup and false eyelashes or do spend the vast majority of their time and effort thinking about men. The show focuses on a group of four friends of whom one, Salma (El Shirbeeny), is interesting, another, Ahlam (Mubarak), has a distracting accent, the third, Mariam (Ayman), is useless while the fourth, Camilia (Farghali), is downright irritating.
Ahlam, whose mother is desperate to find her a husband, works at a mobile phone company and is in charge of coming up with cute, funny text messages to send to the clients on a weekly basis. Salma has just graduated from college and dreams of fame. Camilia works in business but has a ‘phD in men’ while Mariam sits at home all day and has to ask her douche bag fiancé for permission before doing anything.
The show could’ve had potential had it not been for the fact that it deals in clichés. It shares the same spirit as films such as Think like a Man and He’s Just Not That into You to the point that the girls (and guys) seem more like archetypes than characters. The girls specialize in sweeping assumptions about men; how they only think about sex, how they’re all bound to heat on you if you don’t switch up your look regularly, how they don’t give two hoots about a girl’s mind and are only concerned with how she looks. Men don’t come off looking too good here but then again neither do the women.
Out of the four leads, the only one who comes across as an actual person, someone you could imagine knowing, is Salma. While she may have a couple of screws loose, she’s a lot more natural than the other girls. She doesn’t undergo a character reversal upon seeing a cute guy the way that Ahlam does, she doesn’t act like Regina George on crack the way that Camilia does nor is she a ridiculously naive person who lounges around, wasting her life like Mariam.
The infuriating thing is that we all know girls like the leads but in addition to their defects, they have plenty of positive things to balance out their characters. Who among us doesn’t know plenty of Mariams – girls who know close to nothing about sex or girls who ask their partners for permission before breathing; or Camilias – high maintenance girls whose love lives are always filled with some kind of drama no matter how ridiculous? But the point is that real life Mariams and Camilias aren’t defined by these traits. On the show however, they’re not given a chance to transcend them.
Production wise, the show looks pretty good and so do the leads. Special props go out to whoever decided to let Salma sport naturally curly hair. Yes, it’s another case of the crazy girl with crazy hair, but it’s a start. Besides, her hair looks great and as we all know, the styling is one of the main reasons these shows are so popular. However, the absolute highlights are the numerous scenes of the girls yelling at leering imbeciles and beating harassers over the head. Watching them get their own back is just strangely cathartic.