Friday, April 15, 2016

Strong Female Character Friday: DS Shahara Hasan (Bodies)

So far in Arab-American Heritage Month, we’ve celebrated by looking at Tzipporah from Prince of Egypt and how she subverts our expectations of “historical” Arab womanhood and by examining Gazelle from Kingsman and how her characterization pushes back against our stereotypes of female submissiveness or “oppression” in Arab culture

Today, then, we’re going to look at a character who represents a much more common modern experience than either of these two, a woman who wears a headscarf but also interacts in a 21st century technological police force. Who holds true to her Muslim culture but openly admits to not being particularly religious. Who lives in a secular society, balancing the weight of her past and familial expectations against her future and career aspirations. And who is absolutely kickass. Today we’re going to look at Detective Sergeant Shahara Hassan from Vertigo’s Bodies.

Now, you’ll be forgiven for not knowing precisely what I’m talking about here. Bodies, an eight-part miniseries comic that came out in 2014, isn’t exactly the kind of big name comic event that got everyone talking. Or if you did hear about it, you probably heard something along the lines of how confusing it was, how the baffling mystery never really made sense, or how the four story structure was really unnecessary. I’m not saying any of that is true – I certainly enjoyed it – but rather that you’d be entirely forgiven for not really knowing much about DS Hasan at all.

So, Bodies is, as I said, a comic. Written by Si Spencer with art by four different artists, the comic follows four distinct storylines in four distinct time periods. In each story we follow a detective investigating a murder. The hook is that all of these detectives are solving the exact same murder. And not like a copycat – they are all solving literally the same murder with the same body of the same victim who comes back to life. It’s a weird story.

All of our heroes live in London and in each case the murder gets embroiled in the social conflict of the day. So for Detective Hillinghead, working in Victorian England, people are wondering if this killing is related to Jack the Ripper or the recent crackdown on “sodomites” in that part of town. In the 1940s, Detective Weissmann finds himself on top of a powder keg when the body is accused of belonging to a German spy. In the hazy futuristic wasteland of one of the stories, the body becomes part of a larger conspiracy about amnesia clouds and what has happened to society.

But we’re concerned about the story that takes place in present day London, where the murder in question is giving to DS Hasan to investigate and quickly becomes embroiled in an ongoing conflict with a group of xenophobic protestors. In other words, in the present day, the story becomes one about Islamophobia, anti-Muslim sentiment, and how a society afraid of change can quickly turn violent. 

I won’t go so far as to spoil the actual story of the comic for you – partly because I don’t understand it well enough to ruin it – but suffice to say that in each case, the actual circumstances are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot more going on here, and for a lot longer, than seems immediately clear. What matters for us today is how DS Hasan comes off in the story and what that says about our cultural representations of Arab-descended women.

Shahara Hasan is a complex figure and one that we can appreciate for her complexity. First introduced in full body armor as she breaks up a race riot, she’s conflicted about her role as a police officer, but not conflicted enough to quit. She calls the police “the biggest gang there is” and seems uncomfortable associating with him. But neither is she comfortable when her coworkers verbally identify her with the “Islamic agenda”. DS Hasan doesn’t really fit anywhere, and while she’s quick with a quip or a witty rejoinder, she’s still painfully aware of this.

Basically, DS Hasan is a very good cop in a very bad situation. She’s invested in her culture, even going so far as to still wear her hijab on duty and in her personal life despite not being particularly religious. She’s fending off the advances of a fellow detective, but she sometimes wonders if she wants to fend them off or if she wants to give in. She’s worried about her family with all this anti-Muslim violence going on. And she’s trying to investigate a case that stubbornly resists logic or sense.

She’s got a lot going on.

Eventually the investigation itself turns on her, with Hasan being accused of terrorism and murder, a convenient scapegoat who asked too many questions and had the wrong color skin. Don’t worry, there is a happy ending, but it’s worth remembering that competent and kickass as Hasan is, she still can’t totally escape the glare of institutional racism. Her bosses love her when she solves cases, but as soon as there’s a whisper of doubt around her, they’re quick to throw her to the wolves.

And in a lot of ways, I think that’s what makes Hasan such a fantastic character. Because we recognize her. Tzipporah is historical and Gazelle exists in a world of superspies and supervillains. Shahara Hasan, for all that her story is very strange, exists in a world we can recognize as her own. 

She uses humor to deflect harassment. She has to deal with allegations that she slept her way to her position and also that she’s a secret terrorist reporting back to Kabul. She’s a complicated woman living in a world that rejects her complexity, and I can totally sympathize with that.

It’s also interesting, though, that the story makes a point of reminding us how intensely British Hasan is. I mean, she’s a Muslim and she’s Arab-descended and she’s very attached to her heritage, but she’s also a London girl. She talks about growing up rooting for England’s national football team and liking fish and chips and how the color of her skin and the scarf on her head don’t make her any less British. Not at all. 

To top it all off, she’s a detective in the police force, an occupation you rarely see a Arab-descended character in, let alone a female Arab-descended character. She’s taken this position because she likes protecting people, and again that’s a subversion of our usual expectations about Arab womanhood. She can wrestle a perp to the ground and shove a boot between his shoulder blades to keep him from coming back up without missing a beat. We just don’t see that very often.

I suppose what I’m getting at here is that DS Shahara Hasan is notable if only for how normal she is.

I mean, it sounds silly, but it’s true. One of the defining factors in how Arab-descended characters are represented in Western culture is how they are so often othered. They are placed in a role as the exotic “other”, someone different from the protagonist and the audience, someone who they cannot or will not understand. Shahara Hasan, on the other hand, is not some elusive other. She is us. She’s a perfectly normal modern woman, and that is her strength.

She’s a perfectly modern woman who wears a headscarf. Hundreds of millions of perfectly modern women do. She’s a perfectly modern woman who works as a police detective. Lots of women do that. She’s a perfectly modern woman who has to deal with harassment at work both because of her race and because of her gender. Again, many many modern women get the joy of dealing with that one.

DS Hasan is an Arab-descended woman who reminds us that she’s human too, just like us. She has to fight the forces of xenophobia and racism and sexism, but we aren’t given the luxury of siding with her opponents. Instead, we’re right there with her, locked into her perspective and forced to admit that she is not the other. She’s just like us.

She isn’t a superhero, she isn’t a cartoon character, and she’s not a walking stereotype in a scarf. She’s a person and she forces us to recognize that. If nothing else, I am grateful to Bodies for that. 

I mean, I’m also grateful for a lot of things because Bodies is a great series, but definitely this. So thank you, Si Spencer and thank you Meghan Hetrick (the artist for Hasan’s story). Thank you for giving us a fully realized Arab-descended character who forces us to recognize her humanity. Who is capable of being sexual without being sexualized. Who wears a headscarf but refuses to enter a mosque. Who represents the complexity and beauty of the modern world.

Detective Sergeant Sharaha Hasan is someone we need.


  1. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer.Thanks! Whenever you want to start your website you should visit here.It helps you in save on your hosting purchase.
    active hostgator promo codes

  2. Awesome post you are to be shared and its be too good for all of us people.Thank you for sharing with us, and we sincerely hope you will continue to update or post other articles.
    mobile phones prices

  3. I visit your site such a broad number of times HostGator Coupons And I respect your satisfying work to keep up and do the all around requested astounding post like this one.

  4. I love this article here is more informative information Delhi Escorts for us thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Superb selection of Delhi Escorts Services colors! There’s definitely too much to find out about this topic.

  6. I am really happy to read this blog post, you have many information put it on this article, am really suggest to my all dear friend to visit this blog post and collect this useful and valuable information.

    Delhi Escorts Services
    Delhi Escorts

  7. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing blog that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.
    Escorts in Delhi
    Escorts in Connaught Place
    Escorts in Dwarka
    Escorts in Saket
    Escorts in Vasant Kunj

  8. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work.

  9. Positive webpage, where did u think of the data on this posting?I have perused a couple of the articles on your site now, and I truly like your style. You rock and please keep up the successful work.
    Escorts Agency in London

  10. The majority of you should have a feel for young university women as well as this is only for their horniness. Our Escorts Bangalore handles to conduct a series of maiden Escorts Bangalore that show up from advanced universities of the town. These enchanting girls are below to appease you and also please your lust right in the manner you called for.

  11. Model Escorts in Delhi on our site are independent women that work in all areas of Toronto. Having said that, while picking an Independent Delhi escort here you don't need to deal with the most common concern that clients have when choosing an independent call girl.

  12. We are giving attractive Independent Escorts in Delhi who are crafty during sexual execution and have an excellent introduction to this speciality. These Delhi independent escorts do as well as can be expected while making you fulfilled.
    Call Girls in Delhi
    Delhi Escorts
    Bollywood Actress Escorts in Mumbai
    Russian Escorts in Delhi
    Call Girls in Gurgaon

  13. Your website is so nice and it gave me such good information. Happy to read on this topic and data is truly good.
    Russian Escorts Service in Bangalore
    Russian Call Girls Service in Bangalore
    Call Girls Service in Bangalore

  14. Thus these independent VIP Escorts in Delhi are hard to find in the market at affordable rates. The satisfaction that you will get from these girls is unparalleled and you will cherish the moments throughout your life.
    Delhi Escort Services
    High Profile Escorts in Delhi
    Female Escorts in Delhi
    Bollywood Actress Escort in Delhi
    Tv Actress Escorts in Delhi

  15. These girls perform every sexual activity with great vigor and intensity and are very cute. You will experience the best phase of your life with these Russian Escorts in Delhi. You will love to make love with the sexy looking escorts.
    Airhostess escorts in Delhi
    Housewife escorts in Delhi
    Bollywood escorts in Mumbai
    Tv Actress Escorts in Delhi
    Delhi Escorts

  16. I should concede that your post is truly intriguing. I have spent a great deal of my extra time perusing your substance. Much obliged to you a great deal!
    Sitecore Certification

  17. The excellent website I have ever seen! It is very difficult to find the quality works as you may see here. This is really great and useful information you may get!
    Best Machine Learning Course

  18. if anybody looking for devops training can get the details on DevOps Course

  19. Thank you for sharing the information. Salesforce CPQ Training will help you to build a strong career in the IT field.

  20. Thankyou for sharing information
    i am really enjoy this websites.

    Thankyou for sharing information

    ([ best machine learning course]

    ([ sitecore training ]

    ([ms business intelligence certification]

    ([latest technology 2021]

    ([data science with r course]

    ([tensorflow certification]

  21. Thank you for sharing the information.The knowledge gain will be actively used in practice.
    sap analytics cloud training

  22. Here everybody is sharing such information, so it's fundamental to see this website, and visit.
    sap analytics cloud course

  23. Thank you so much for sharing. Keep updating your blog. It will very useful to many users.
    sap analytics cloud online training

  24. What I want to share here is that special connection that it's rare and very beautiful, keeping in shape and doing sports it's a part of me,
    so let's get to know each other better. I am the best Mumbai escort. I'm a beautiful woman who loves very much to meet new people, I have a great sense of humour.
    Mumbai Escorts
    Model Escorts in Mumbai
    Russian Escorts in Mumbai

  25. igmGuru: We are one of the finest Online training Company you can ever come upon solely focused and dedicated to your career development. We have partnered with several well-known companies and prestigious institutions and individuals to train the next generations in IT technologies.

  26. Thankyou for sharing the information. Website is so easy to use – I am impressed with it.
    machine learning certification]

  27. Thankyou for sharing the information. Website is so easy to use – I am impressed with it.mulesoft training

  28. Great post ! This was actually what i was looking for and i am glad to came here!
    PingFederate Training
    MuleSoft Training

  29. Nice article, thanks for sharing informative content. I like the content of the post.
    power bi course

  30. Thank you for sharing such good information. Very informative and effective post. Keep it up!
    power bi training

  31. Nice content, so much convincing and easy to grasp. DevOps Certification Thank you for sharing.

  32. Nice Article. Very informative. I learned new information from your article, you are doing a great job.
    Training for devops

  33. Write Great article. You are such a Great blogger and your website is inspiration for me to start a blog. This article is very helpful for us.
    DevOps Training


  34. Website is so easy to use – I am impressed with it. Thankyou for sharing.
    Devops Course

  35. Thank you for sharing such good information. Very informative and effective post. Keep it up!
    Power BI Certification

  36. This article has alot of valuable information. Great work. Thank you for sharing this with us. Learn more about machine learning course here and build your Career.

  37. Great nice and informative article, Really helpful blog. thanks splunk training for sharing the information

  38. Nice article. This has a lot of information. Thank you. Also learn about python course and other courses to gain more knowledge and build your career.

  39. nice and valuable words with great information loved it. thanks uipath training uipath training for sending this content.

  40. Amazing blog, so much convincing and interesting. Thank you sap analytics cloud training

  41. Thank you so much for all these ideas!