Aziz Ansari, of literary and Parks & Recreation fame, is coming out with his new show on Netflix, Master of None. In it he plays Dev, a lovelorn, hapless wannabe actor trying to make it big while he figures out his adult life. It also stars Ansari’s actual parents as his parents in the show and looks completely amazing.
And because there are literally so many reasons why I’m excited about this new series I’m gonna break it down in a handy, dandy list.
1. Sexualized Asian Man
For so long Asian men have been desexualized and dehumanized, and it wasn’t until The Walking Dead or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt did we really see Asian men in the role of romantic heroes. And even then both Glen from Walking Dead and Dong from Unbreakable are East Asian characters. And while they’re not the same ethnicity they are distinctly not South Asian.
The trailer opens on Dev literally in bed with someone. The ensuing scene where they’re buying plan B and he says “I got this, my treat,” is the hilarious cherry on top of a PC sundae. Ansari has cast himself in the perfect role to change the tide — Dev appears sexually available, sexually humorous and a genuine romantic. We can see him deliberating multiple pathways and considering other models for happiness than the typical “married with kids by 35.” So he’s real as well as romantic.
2. Racial Commentary
“We need you to do an accent”
“You mean like an Indian accent?”
“You know, Ben Kingsley did an accent in Ghandi and he won the Oscar for it soooooooo…”
“But he didn’t win the Oscar just for doing the accent. I mean, it wasn’t the Oscar for Best Indian Accent.”
This dialogue accurately reflects the conversation we keep having about representation — representation is vital, misrepresentation is disastrous. This is not a conversation about life-threatening race issues but discussing caricatures and stereotypes that keep us othered is crucial.
Also to have an Asian American clapping back at the tired audition format and cleverly putting a white person in their place is amazing.
3. Mundane Ethnic Stuff
On the flip side, Ansari isn’t spending every moment of the show delving into fraught race relations — sometimes he’s just doing boring things while being brown. He’s going to brunch, analyzing sexism, talking to his parents, walking through the city, falling in love, questioning life, being a dork, etc. He’s showing us the rich inner lives of people of color and it’s just as dull and wonderful as those of white people.
4. His Parents
When his father heard about the show, he immediately asked Ansari if he could be in it. Ansari says his mother took more convincing.
I love this. I love that his parents are in the story. I love that they’re not a caricature of crazy Desi parents. I love the feeling that this show exists on the same plane that our lives in the diaspora do as if the show too is an inter-generational home for all our shared experiences. I also love that Ansari is looking at arranged marriage with humor and warmth and letting his father share the story.
For us children of arranged marriages, sometimes it’s hard to convince the Western world that it’s not an out-dated model for love. We’ve seen our parents over and over again be reduced to some sort of “heathen” cliché. But to give our parents the chance to speak for themselves is a subtle and important shift. Also the advice his father gives, “We have to learn to make decisions, man,” is so perfectly Desi uncle it resonates with all of us.
I’ve said it a dozen times so far but this show is going to be so important. Even though it’s only on Netflix, we can bet through the reach of Ansari’s fame and the power of illegal streaming Master of None is going to be seen by so many people. I am definitely looking forward to the world after November 6th, when the show airs. It will be ever so slightly better.