Man Like Mobeen star and creator Guz Khan is creating meaningful narratives for the underrepresented – and we are so ready for great and unfiltered content.
In somewhat of an alternate universe, I am here believing that BBC have cast a hit comedy-drama series with a Muslim lead that is not a farcical caricature. Could it be true?
It seems that Guz Khan has made exactly that happen.
I remember when Man Like Mobeen was initially announced, one of my first thoughts was I hope they don’t mug this guy off for a show. I had been an avid follower of Khan right from the viral Pakisaurus video and YouTube clips to the Ramadan skits, but a whole show with the BBC triggered some all too familiar doubts. And that’s no disrespect to Guz, but because usually, when brown people become mainstream, they have to leave their identities, social concerns and beards at the door.
Previous shows on big platforms that feature Muslim characters have been hugely disappointing for an array of reasons, the main being that when it comes to comedy, television tends to steer towards making these characters the butt of all jokes and miss the opportunity to bring their communities to light. Comedy can be clever and conscious, yet it so commonly becomes tasteless and the same-old same-old; we’re not laughing at the quips and crafted humour, we’re just laughing at your people.
There is a cyclical struggle when it comes to representation, because a lot of us, including those with some sort of agency in the media world – just cannot quite grasp the concept. Representation does not just mean seeing people who look like us on the telly, it’s a much deeper pocket than that. Too many times we see identities get co-opted into tv shows without providing any sort of benefit for the people that are supposedly being represented, and if that’s the case then we are better off without that type of wishy-washy representation.
However, when I saw the very first scene of series one – I was very pleasantly surprised. If Man Like Mobeen was unapologetically showcasing racial profiling in the opening scenes, then surely, they are doing something right here.
Man Like Mobeen exhibits thoughtful characterisation. Mobeen is not a token character, the show sees him interact with other characters from similar backgrounds who have their individual nuisances and relevance to the plot thus they in turn also do more than serving as tokenised characters. We can laugh at “Uncle Shady” because we are presented with other three-dimensional Pakistani characters that function alongside him. He is not cast as the singular representative of that particular group, which is what makes it harmlessly funny. We can laugh because Uncle Shady is a funny character, and we can laugh because Eight is daft and innocent, not because Pakistani men are laughable. That’s the nail on the head. If Uncle Shady was the only Pakistani character in the show and cast as a stereotype, the entire premise of the series would collapse.
This, for me, is what distinguishes Man Like Mobeen from other shows that have attempted representation in the comedy-drama scene. Khan weaves drama and comedy to navigate structured plots.
That is far more than representation, it is working to create meaningful social commentary.
The scenarios of the show translate to real contemporary social issues which are relevant to the communities Khan is portraying on screen. Alt-Right and Anti-Islamism, working-class life, NHS cuts, gang coercion and peer pressure – just to name a few of the topics Guz Khan has not been afraid to put on screen.
To Andy and Guz, keep creating meaningful content.
Brother Guz, thank you for keeping it real.
Article By Shazmeen Khalid