Toward the end of 2017 the founding Scholars gathered over pints and we discussed our favorite media. We tried to sell Navani on The Good Place, we exhaled sighs of satisfactions over The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, we compared podcasts (I really like Ologies!). We discussed, at length, Master of None: Jason said that Dev seems like the best possible version of Aziz Ansari. Navani is interested in Ansari’s perspective on what it’s like to date in the modern world. I didn’t say it, but Master of None helped strengthen my relationship with pasta.
Ansari has built his career on the idea that he’s a gentleman looking for love in a world driven by technology, but the allegations against Ansari—which broke after four editors ranked their top shows for 2017—proved that he’s the same as every other dirtbag.
We asked each other if we wanted to stand by Master of None and we decided we did. But I can’t ask someone to watch season two with a straight face. (“Watch this show! The guy who won a Golden Globe shoved a girl into his crotch.”) I previously recommended season two for Ansari’s homage to Italian cinema (“like Tarantino, but less derivative!”), the Thanksgiving episode, the heartfelt depiction of New York (“like Louie, but not squicky!”), and the ease of slipping into a warm, feeling of contentment. When I think about watching season two again, I am reminded instead of the inane, ongoing conversation at how the accused can not be at fault; the victim had it coming.
Each revelation the in the #MeToo Movement is a reminder that my body and my voice do not belong to me. The concept that a woman saying no and presenting non-verbal cues—in the case of Grace, running away—is not consent is not a new concept! The #MeToo Movement is pushing YesMeansYes into greater acceptance, but backlash has come to claim that literally saying no could not have counted? Why, after these months of progress, are its supporters shaming Grace? When I think of Aziz Ansari and Master of None I am reminded of the sudden fallout in my social media feeds as my friends posted screeds against Grace, throwing her under the bus, and thus, and my experiences with it.
What did Grace expect in Ansari’s apartment after a mediocre date? Probably more wine and a two-sided conversation. What did I expect during a professional interview on a tour bus? What did I expect on the subway, at my friend’s house, at school, in my own home? To contain my own agency, to move through the world as a human being deserving of respect—not assault and harassment.
Master of None ended while Dev’s career fell apart amidst a professional scandal, when his professional partner was accused of sexual harassment. It seemed uncomfortably prescient in the wake of #MeToo, and I was relieved for how little time was spent on the fallout, but now, it seems the show, much like Ansari’s carefully crafted gentlemanly image, is more about the idea of “love” than what it means to really respect someone.