The entertainment industry is built to suit the millennial generation. This is the generation with its head buried in a smartphone, spending more time interacting with people on social media than in real life. And while Hollywood has spent considerable time and effort appealing that demographic, it hasn’t been one that’s gone unnoticed in the way of criticism. Even with that though, we haven’t seen something as ambitious as a whole television series devoted to a thorough deconstruction of the millennial mindset.
Enter Aziz Ansari’s quasi-documentary series on Netflix, Master of None. The show focuses on Dev, a fictional representation of Ansari himself, much in the same vein as FX’s Louie. But whereas Louie hones in on millennials from the perspective of an outsider, Master of None puts us right in the trenches with Dev, asking us all to take a good hard look in the mirror. Aziz has spent a fair amount of his creative efforts over the last year on breaking down the social media generation, but on Netflix, we get a chance to really see him dive in headfirst.
Take for example the episode entitled “Parents,” in which we see Ansari and co-star Kelvin Yu interact with their immigrant parents (the former of which casted his actual parents for the role). We see it begin with both men exasperatingly telling off their respective fathers following a couple very simple requests: help set up a new iPad and go to the grocery store. Flashback scenes then show us the incredible struggles both fathers went through in order to build a better life for their sons, showing us just how quickly the younger generation will cast off their parents once they’re out in the world. Before the credits even role, there’s a good chance you’ll already have your phone in hand with mom and dad set to speed dial.
“Parents” is just one example of the self-reflection Master of None inspires. The following episode, “Hot Ticket,” asks us to think seriously about the way we communicate in the dating world. In it, we see Dev score free tickets to a secret Father John Misty show and begin a search for a prospective date. What follows is an insightful look at how texting has desensitized us to an almost tragic extent, highlighted by Dev’s frustration over his agonizingly long wait for a response.
Why are people so rude? I’m a person, not just a bubble in a phone. Let’s just be nice! I asked this girl out a few weeks ago; she said nothing! They give you silence. Why? Make some shit up! ‘Umm, going to buy an air conditioner.’ ‘Uhhh…just put a stew on. Might be a few hours.'”
It’s a syndrome that seems built-in to our generation when it comes to courtship, causing us to ignore the advances of a potential partner rather than simply telling them we’re not interested. It shows our avoidance of confrontation and real emotion, how we hide behind technology to suit that avoidance, and Master of None nails it to an absolute tee in just one exchange in “Hot Ticket.”
There are plenty of other reasons to praise Master of None, from its Woody Allen-esque use of New York City as a backdrop, to the Richard Linklater-inspired dialogue. Ansari is a masterful storyteller, and he tells us the tale of his own life experiences in an entirely interesting and unique mode. His first try at a full TV series is more than just engaging storytelling though; it’s a challenge to all of us to wake up and start being human again. It’s far from preachy, but what it does encourage us to do is reflect on the way we treat others: our friends, our family, and our peers. Even if it’s just vowing to give your parents an extra phone call a week, we could stand to learn a lot from it.
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