By Janaya Greene
Brown Girls gives us a peek into the lives of best friends Leila and Patricia: two twenty-somethings trying to live their best lives while navigating messy romantic relationships and attempting to further their careers in Chicago. Throughout the seven-episode web series viewers learn about Leila, a Pakistani-American writer taking charge of her queerness—though it is no walk in the park, and Patricia, a Black musician experiencing all types of commitment issues. Though the two are struggling to make sense of themselves, in addition to their familial and romantic relationships, they’re having fun with it and find solace in the fact that, at the end of the day, they have each other.
Check out the pilot here!
Leila isn’t shy in the way that films usually portray South-Asian women. She may struggle to find her words, but when she does, she stands tall in them. This is clear when her romantic interest, Miranda asks, “Leila, what are we doing?” in regards to their not-so-official relationship. Leila doesn’t seem to want to loose Miranda, but she only draws blanks when trying to define their relationship in a way that she’s most comfortable with as someone who only recently began to claim her queerness. Instead of not responding at all, she retorts with variations of “Why can’t we just play it by ear?” and “Why can’t we just keep it casual?”
In addition to romance troubles, Leila is trying to make her mark as a writer. She works as a secretary at her day job while hustling with publications like Gawker to earn extra cash. After she and her sister Mussarat discuss the struggles of being a writer: still writing for “exposure” after years of pursing it and a lack of benefits, the series presents one of its funniest moments: Leila coming out to her sister.
After a mix of awkward silence and random ramblings that scare the living hell out of her sister, Leila says, “I’ve been sleeping with women. I’m queer,” to which Mussarat anxiously responds, “..and?” Though disapproving family members are a huge part of the familial coming out process for many, some of us also have family members who are unfazed when learning that a loved one is queer. This scene was comical and quite important, as it shines a light on the multitude of responses queer people receive when sharing their sexuality.
Unlike Leila, Patricia is quick to vocalize what she wants and whom she wants. We’re introduced to Patricia after Leila tells her about the unpleasant talk she had with Miranda. Like most good friends would, Patricia calls out Miranda’s “crazy” and “stalker-ish” ways, while also calling Leila out for hooking up with her older, married boss.
But Patricia’s love life isn’t without its own drama: the series reveals that she and a long-time boyfriend recently broke up. To seemingly heal the pain, Patricia has sexual flings and declares, “Single Girls Club Forever” to emotionally distance herself from connections. She even kicks a guy out at four a.m. after their night together, though she was nice enough to call him an Uber. The series also reveals that Patricia’s mom and dad’s relationship is losing its passion, which could deepen Patricia’s commitment issues even more.
Moreover, the location of the show makes a grand statement in itself. The show was shot in Pilsen, on Chicago’s lower west side. The neighborhood is predominantly populated by Latino residents, though gentrification is slowly changing its demographics. Chicago overall is one of the most segregated cities in the nation. Leila and Patricia’s interracial friendship, as two women of color, spoke a lot to the Chicago the city should to aspire to be. Though very diverse, socioeconomic disparities in Chicago are prevalent. Growing up, the only non-Black people I knew were some of my teachers and local store owners. Patricia and Leila’s friendship shows a culmination of cultures that Chicago politicians should strive for in integrating communities of color and expanding opportunities.
The essence of the city was very present as well, with Chicago Transit Authority bus stops, posters of Chance the Rapper and songstress Jamila Woods, who makes a cameo in an episode and was the inspiration for Patricia’s character.
Fatimah Asghar, writer of the series, told Broadly, that this series isn’t a response to Broad City or HBO’s Girls, and it’s pretty evident that Brown Girls is a jewel within itself. Just as white women in New York City have an interesting story to tell, two girls of color in Chicago do too. Brown Girls highlights everyday women of color trying to figure out this thing called life . From eggs and Flamin’ Hot Cheeto brunches to having each other’s backs in club fights, Brown Girls gives women of color what they’ve been asking for for so long: a narrative that’s fun and messy and captivating all at the same time, yet ensures that the unpredictability of life can be perfectly fine too.