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Master of None: Aziz Ansari’s Masterpiece

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix original series, Master of None, has achieved what many shows before it strive for unsuccessfully: it provides a realistic portrait of life for the millennial generation. Master of None artfully paints the picture of what it is really like, from more trivial situations like modern dating and dealing with your parent’s lack of knowledge of technology, to serious issues surrounding gender, race, and representation in the media. Ansari’s ability to navigate these topics while still maintaining a funny, earnest, relatable tone is what makes the show well worth watching.

The series follows Dev, a thirty something commercial actor living in New York, as he struggles to make meaningful connections, get a break into film acting, and find the best taco in the city. Dev is appealing because he is so realistic- he’s a fairly apathetic character that is at once kind and callous, thoughtful and self-centered. An example of his ambivalence is found in “Parents,” the second episode of the season, when Dev struggles to connect with his immigrant parents on a deeper level after having never asked them about what the experience was like. He and his friend take their parents out to dinner and, after some initial struggle, Dev hears about how his father worked at a zipper factory in India in order to make enough to travel to America and become a doctor. Dev is moved by this realization, but the next day when their parents want to have dinner again, he says, “I just wanted to do one dinner… I don’t want to hang out with Peter Chang on the regs.” While Dev is flawed, he still clearly cares about his parents, friends, and his girlfriend, which makes him a character who we can both critique and root for.

Dev auditions for a movie in the middle of a coffee shop because his Wi-Fi is down.

The strongest part of Master of None is its portrayal of romantic relationships in a modern world. In the first few episodes, Dev is notably single and goes on several first dates, all leading nowhere. The third episode features a particularly disastrous date, in which the woman impersonates Cartman from South Park, makes Dev take a Vine of her, and steals another woman’s jacket for fun. Around the middle of the series, Dev runs into Rachel, a woman he had a one-night stand with months ago. The two hit it off again, traveling to Nashville with cheap plane tickets for their first date, and they eventually move in together. In a particularly poignant episode, we watch their relationship start to dissolve as they start to question whether the other really is the one. In the finale, they decide to split up after attending a wedding together and realizing upon hearing the ceremony vows that they didn’t feel that same 100% commitment that they expected to upon finding “the one.” Dev even pictures the vows he would say to Rachel, and they don’t sound particularly passionate: “Rachel, I’m not 100% sure about this. Are you the one person I’m supposed to spend my life with? I don’t know, but we don’t really have many other options… I guess getting married is just a safe bet at this point.”

Dev is a man who likes choice, and who likes to be certain that he is getting the best option he can. He is more than happy to scour Yelp all afternoon to find the best taco stand in the city, and he wants that same certainty in a relationship too. However, too many choices can be crippling, as he discovers. He is too afraid to commit without exploring every possible romantic partner, and as a result he loses Rachel and a great relationship.

While Master of None is certainly a comedy, it doesn’t shy away from tackling deeper issues of race and gender equality. Dev’s acting career is fraught with pointed call-outs about racial stereotyping in the media and in real life. He doesn’t get a part in a TV pilot because his friend, another Indian actor, got a part and “there can’t be two.” He gets passed up for parts because he refuses to do a stereotypical Indian accent in the audition. Through including these moments, Ansari shows the more flawed side of the entertainment industry that we don’t often think about, but has broader implications for society. Ansari also tackles gender inequality in the episode “Ladies and Gentlemen.” The episode opens with Dev and a friend walking home from a club, taking a shortcut through the park, and Dev complaining about stepping in dog poop. These moments are interspersed with shots of his female friend walking home from the same club, panicked and anxious because a pushy guy she met that night is following her home proclaiming that he’s a “nice guy.” As the episode develops, Dev starts to understand how moments like these happen more than he thought and how they affect the women in his life. This realization culminates in a satisfying and hilarious moment when Dev makes a citizen’s arrest on the subway when he sees a public masturbator. Master of None isn’t heavy handed with its message, instead dealing with these heavier issues in a grounded way, so we see both their wider implications and how they affect our daily lives.

Aziz Ansari captures a slice of what life in our modern age, and how instant gratification changes how we think about love, family, and work. He addresses problematic aspects of media and society and does so in a funny, accessible manner. Master of None is a delight of a show that paints a vibrant, resonant portrait of our generation without hesitation to show both the highs and the lows.

Season one is available to stream on Netflix.

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Emily Rodriguez is a sophomore English major and Business Economics minor at Notre Dame. She joined Her Campus during fall 2014 and loves to write about style, television, and movies. When not in class, she can be found singing with Halftime, contemplating going to the gym and ultimately not going, and thinking too much about Parks and Recreation.