“Jack of all trades, master or none” is an old saying that tells of individuals who may have the skills necessary to complete basic tasks in many fields, but lacks the capability to truly and expertly finish a particular job. In Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None, we see this saying in action. The show is groundbreaking in that it takes on divisive issues, especially in the current political climate of the country, like immigration, racism and other racially toned issues like diversity in television, sexism, family, and relationships. It does not seek to be particularly enlightening in any of the subjects the show takes on, but is rather content to continue, or at least start, a conversation about them. As writers of the show, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang perpetuate ideas that serve as fodder for such a conversation that seems to be more valuable than ever today, taking on controversial themes with little regard for typical television norms. It is important to note that the show’s production and subsequent streaming by Netflix allows for a more free-flowing creation that is neither dependent on nor driven by ratings in the same ways as ‘normally’ aired dailies that Master of None could be compared to like Modern Family and Louis.
On the other hand, the show is representative of the aforementioned aphorism for the very characters themselves. I couldn’t quite figure out why or even pinpoint how I found the characters, particularly Ansari’s character Dev, to be more relatable to me, until I began to better analyze the show and unpackage its purpose. The characters are incredibly developed even though they seem to be overly selfish or even lazy at times. They are constantly jumping from one job or party or fling to the next, never seeming to settle on anything and often even disappointed following an actual decision. They are full of angst and the scenes depict an honest awkwardness as the characters are consistently self-aware of their position in society. They are the epitome of what it means to be a millennial. Stephanie Talmadge, writing for the online magazine The Week, discusses how Ansari was able to encapsulate the “bizarre paradox” that is the life of the millennial. Although it is true that these characters are not ‘masters’ of anything, they embody the superficiality that exists in everyday life – a reality that is driven by apps and one-night-stands, hyper connected to the present with no real attention or recognition of the past while simultaneously nervous about and oblivious of the future.
I find this show to be captivating because it approaches everyday life for my generation and doesn’t seek to sugarcoat the consequences. I knew that I would give this show a chance from the day I heard that not only was Aziz Ansari the lead character, but also the producer and writer. I have always felt connected to him for no one reason in particular from his come-up as RAAAANDY from Funny People and throughout his career as a stand-up comedian, his role as Tom Havorford in Parks and Recreation (another favorite), and even as an author. His latest stand-up routine was heavily influenced by his book, Modern Romance, which I feel serves as the backdrop to Master of None. In it, Aziz went on a sociological and scientific journey to discover how dating, relationships, and intimacy have changed in the twenty-first century.
In the opening scene of episode one, before the title screen even, the audience sees Dev in the middle of a one-night-stand with Rachel in which the condom breaks. They immediately consult google to find out what could happen, before calling for an uber to an all-night convenience store. Dev, like a gentleman, purchases the Plan B for Rachel and the show never stops from there. As a romantic comedy, the show continues as Dev pursues Rachel in its trajectory, but aims to provide a holistic escape in its depiction of reality.