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Little Mosque, Big Ambitions: Intersections Between Comedy and Multiculturalism in Little Mosque on the Prairie

  • Author / Creator
    Friesen, Jay
  • This dissertation explores the relationship between comedy and multiculturalism by considering what many commentators have called the first Muslim sitcom, the Canadian series Little Mosque on the Prairie (Little Mosque). While past studies have examined various aspects of Little Mosque, this project contributes uniquely to the conversation by focusing on the importance of comedy in delivering social commentary and using critical humour studies to analyze the series. While the field of humour studies tends to emphasize comedy’s positive qualities, the sub-field of critical humour studies questions this assumption and instead examines how humour exists within complex systems of power, ideology, and culture. When Little Mosque debuted in 2007, it was novel because the majority of its characters were Muslim, a first on North American screens, and, moreover, depicted diversity within both that religious community and rural Canada. These elements offer a fertile place to study how the series depicts multiculturalism using comedy, particularly in the Canadian context. This dissertation fills a gap in existing studies by contending that the show’s use of humour factors heavily into how the series delivered social commentary. Following an introduction of that outlines the theoretical framework and methodology, Chapter 1 of this thesis looks at the historical and cultural context of Little Mosque. Here, it is argued that Canada’s history of multicultural policies, as well as its comedic culture, provided a uniquely suitable context to produce the series. In Chapter 2, Little Mosque is analyzed as it relates to the genre of sitcom television. With respect to offering social commentary, the sitcom is traditionally thought to be an uncontroversial (and often conservative) genre, which runs counter to many of the aims Little Mosque’s producers had for the series. Accordingly, this chapter analyzes the first three seasons of the series, arguing that sitcom conventions amplify some types of social commentary while suppressing others. In the final section, Chapter 3, investigates how Little Mosque’s producers aimed to change the trajectory of the series in seasons four through six by adding more conflict to the storylines. Here, an argument is made concerning how cultural attitudes regarding humour shape the types of social commentary Little Mosque could make about racism, social inclusion, and multiculturalism. Based on this analysis, a final case is presented, contending that Little Mosque works more as a reflection of societal attitudes than it does to modify them. Ultimately, this allows for an appreciation for how Little Mosque is, and will continue to be, a piece of social commentary, albeit one that demands careful attention to how humour changes the subtleties of said commentary.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2019
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/r3-4y37-t382
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.