He may be the master of none, but he’s the hero of many. I’m now 20 episodes deep into the life of Dev… just wrapped up Season 2 of one of the most stimulating millennial-created manifestations in Netflix’s original series collection. The issue-focused, interlaced stories carry out over 10 thirty-minute segments and bring many trivialized stories to light, forcing its viewers to acknowledge the reality of the struggle. This shit defines the struggle, and illustrates how it’s not individual, but shared.
This series is not without flaws or omissions, but here’s a toast to much of what’s oh-so-right about Aziz Ansari’s second season of Master of None.
*SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED SEASON 2 OF MASTER OF NONE, KINDLY X OUT OF THIS PAGE AND REVISIT ONCE YOU’RE CAUGHT UP. IF YOU CONTINUE READING THIS YOU GIVE UP YOUR RIGHT TO GO OFF ON US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION.*
Struggle # 1 : The Interracial Relationship
Aziz does a great job of normalizing the interracial relationships that are less glamorized in the media. We see many combos: BW/WM, BW/AM, AW/WM, AM/WW. This is reflective of the human experience of 2017 and to see these relationships depicted on screen, in a normal fashion is PROGRESS. There are times when we see the awkwardness that is solely a product of cultural differences in relationships, and that’s a vital component, but for the most part the characters are shown as regular people, loving each other and handling shit just like intraracial couples do. Bravo!
Struggle # 2: The Deaf Perception
Navigating life with any form of socially constructed abnormality is laborious. But likely not in the way the rest of us think. Our bodies are equipped to make adjustments in most circumstances, as part of our survival instincts. We fail to deduce that people are able to lead totally full lives without putting a constant focus of their differences or inabilities. In ep # 6 “I Love New York”, there’s a spotlight on a young African-American woman who is hearing impaired.We see her at work, struggling to create understanding between herself and a male customer, and then being hit on by same customer- which results in the completely normal awkwardness that is experienced by every working girl.
Later we get to witness her arguing about her sex life in the middle of a store with her husband, who’s also deaf….and Caucasian. The entire section devoted to this character is mute, so you have to read subtitles, unless you’re fluent in ASL (American sign language). It’s ingenious!
The takeaway is awareness. We often carry the false assumption that people with impairments don’t carry on life just as those who society deems as “normal.” The reality is that all people have to deal with the same drama and bullshit that arises on the daily. Although the communication style is different between the hearing impaired, the differences really do seem to end there. This episodes smashes that glass box of false assumptions and leaves a new shape of normality in its place.
Struggle #3: The Black Lesbian
Growing up a part of the Black-American community, there are some things you learn at a young age : family first, F*ck the po-lice, and WWJD are among them. The latter usually being the most important. The Bible is the book of law in many of our households and even though Christian folks are quick to dismiss the verses that do/don’t pertain to them, there are some aspects that are widely believed to be hold truth. Homosexuality as a sin is one of them. This presents a serious problem in black communities; lesbian/gay/bi/trans youth are afraid of isolation and negative backlash from family and friends. Thus, they live in the fear that then starts to wear on them emotionally. Dev’s bestie, Denise’s black lesbian experience is highlighted in ep. # 8, “Thanksgiving”. In this episode, we get to see Denise come out to her mom (played by the remarkable Angela Bassett) and follow that relationship into the present, where her mother is still somewhat struggling to accept her sexuality. The coming out scene is sincere and authentic. It’s evident that the mom carried her suspicions through the preceding years, but was hiding from the truth. She weeps – and not for the fact that her daughter is gay, but for the worry that stirs within the knowledge that her life will triple in hardships as a GAY, black woman. Being black and female is hard enough. The hilarity in the awkwardness that ensues once Denise starts bringing girls home to the annual Thanksgiving dinners, which Dev is always a part of, is part of the magical formula of comic relief that Master of None serves up like hot chocolate.
Struggle # 4: The Immigrant / Second Language
One thing that’s AMAZING about New York City is its diversity. You have people from all walks of life coming and settling into the fabric of the city. The average New Yorker cannot truly be defined and is therefore non-exist. There are special groups that some fall into, and one of the most precious is the first-generation immigrant.
In the “I Love New York” episode, we also follow a trio of African immigrants from Burundi and Cameroon. They work as cab drivers and share a tiny apartment. Through the day and well into the night they encounter comedic situations – one of them gives two white girls a ride in his cab, and they completely ruin the end of the movie he has plans to see that night. They are chatting in the back of the cab as if he doesn’t even exist. Later the Africans are denied entry to a club for their lack of trendy fashion- sense, a burden many Eastern immigrants tend to share. These guys are charming and naive, hard-working and full of dreams. They end up meeting some girls later and livin’ it up after hours in the diner where one of them works – then they hit the movies. This is a short 10 minutes dedicated to telling a story rarely told.
Another side of the immigration story ( I don’t know why I want to call this “reverse immigration”) is seeing Dev living in Italy. We open with this in ep. #1, “The Thief”. Dev is walking around Modena, sticking out like a sore thumb, but doing his best to use the Italian language skills he’s acquired over 3 months in the country. He’s doing damn good, in my opinion! Millennials are all about travel and most of us can relate to feeling like a damn fool trying to muster sentences together in a foreign language. However, this is something that every American should experience in life. The native English speaker privilege is REAL. Anyway, Dev’s phone gets stolen and he has his friend’s little nephew helping him find it. They go all around the city where Dev tries to describe what’s going on in Ital-ish (like Spanglish, but the Italian version). It’s endearing and humiliating. And REAL.
Later Dev’s friend turned love interest comes for an extended visit to New York. Even though she’s basically fluent in English, Dev has to correct her use of colloquial terms and other mistakes here and there. Cultural differences and language barriers are true to the human experience and taking the time to acknowledge this is to all of our benefit.
Struggle # 5: The Objectified Woman vs. The Womanizer
I’m ending with this because it’s been a recurring theme in the media lately. However, this happens on a daily basis in women’s lives and people are quick to ignore it. The simple yet hard-to-swallow fact of our world is that it’s still ruled by men. I like to believe that most men are good, but there is no shortage of creeps out there who think that women are pretty ornaments that serve no function but to make men horny and then alleviate those symptoms of hornyness. Recently, we have seen many well-respected male icons fall due to the accusations of women who say they were sexually harassed/assaulted by these guys. In this situation, we are presented with two choices: believe the women, bash the man and cut-off all financial support of their creative work OR take the side of the man, call the women out for being money-hungry, gold-digging “hoes” and fall into the messy pit of victim-shaming. Tough call?
In ep. #10, “Buona Notte,” shit hits the fan when Dev gets some news from an old colleague that his new friend turned co-host is a creep. This guys is like an Anthony Bourdain inspired character, a guy who really knows food and has a huge following. His name is Jeff. Dev remembers comments Jeff has made about women, particularly a makeup artist from Dev’s previous show Clash of the Cupcakes. This woman recently quit the new show Dev took on with Jeff, BFF’s. He starts wondering if her departure has anything to do with Jeff, so he pays her a visit on the set of her new gig. Here, she confirms Dev’s suspicions. Jeff’s a perve who constantly made advances and even after she went over his head to complain about the jackass, he continued coming for her. How many women who fill vulnerable roles in male-dominated industries have had to choose between their jobs and their dignity/personal safety due to situations like this? Countless. Later, shit hits the fan on live television when Raven Simone calls Jeff out about dozens of accusations of harassment that surfaced on the web overnight. Of course, he says all the women are liars and just out for money. Of course, the audience gets no verification about what’s true and what’s not, as we never do in these situations. If you’ve watched this, I encourage you to recall your initial thoughts about the situation. Observe those thoughts. Who did you side with immediately? Why? Was there any room for doubt?
Master of None is no doubt a comedy on the surface layer. There is no way you can watch this and NOT laugh at some point. But it goes beyond the traditional satire and hits the nail on so many sociopolitical issues that are extremely relevant today. This is something that is absent in most mainstream media, but with an influx of shows like Insecure (HBO), Atlanta(FX), Dear White People(Netflix) the minority story is being told BY the minority, instead of on their behalf. This is the authenticity that America desperately needs at this stage in our country’s climate.
And I didn’t even cover all the struggles tackled in this season: religion, infidelity, marriage, lost love…etc. But now you have to do some work by watching and making your own assessments! Please leave any thoughts and additions in the comments!