So I just finished Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix Original Series and I loved it (100% on Rotten Tomatoes currently, so I guess I’m not alone). I loved it for the straightforward storylines often overlooked in television. I loved it for the authentic nature of Aziz’s personal voice and experiences. I even loved it for the Seinfeld-esque nuances of everyday life (kudos to Aziz and Co-Creator Allan Yang for even entering that conversation).
Most importantly, and for the purpose of this new Medium publication, I loved the incredibly real nature of the Millennial career/life trek. Seriously. I don’t think there has been another series/film with as perfect of a depiction of what it’s like to live in your 20s/30s in 2015 with the poignant, humorous, and fresh subtleties we all know too well.
There have been a few attempts to hit the ball out of the park with the young professional demographic, recently including That Awkward Moment, The Internship, and even further back to HBO’s Girls. Yet, none of those failed as catastrophically as Zac Efron’s We Are Your Friends or #WAYF on social media (problem enough right there). We Are Your Friends chronicles an up-and-coming DJ pursuing riches in you guessed-it…Southern California! When I first saw the ostensibly unreal trailer (at the time, I re-watched at least five times), I was fired up about this flick, after all, it seemed like a mix of Entourage, HYDE (not a real movie, but Ari Gold loved it), and How to Make it in America. Like many of you, I thought: what could go wrong?
The movie tanked. Thanks to a completely obnoxious subculture, superficial storylines, and the aforementioned Zac Efron with a crew that did not broadcast itself as a desirable friend group (ironic with the title, I know). Needless to say, there are a myriad of “what-ifs” with the storyline that may have impacted its popularity. What if there was more of an emphasis on the rave-goers, instead of the DJ? Last I checked, the numbers of the former largely outweigh the latter. Here’s another: what if a character like Rachel (played by the unbelievable Noël Wells in Master of None) was favored instead of Emily Ratajkowski’s unrealistic Sophie? If I polled all of my Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat friends, I think the character of Rachel would be significantly more relatable.
This all speaks to my finer point: Millennials are a unique bunch and Master of None’s understanding of its audience is unparalleled. See, we really do not care about fluff. We care about equality (see Ansari’s character Dev and his friend group or “Indians on TV” episode). We care about impact and creating said impact in our lives (see the Citizen’s arrest scene). We also care about finding a deeper meaning in life through our friendships, relationships, and careers. Dev is constantly seeking to decipher his long-term end game. Throughout the season, he gradually matures from an impatient, answer-hungry, strictly short term-oriented individual into an adult with a strong realization that life is a process, an epic journey (Game of Thrones-esque), and by all means, a marathon.
There are ups and downs, nooks and crannies, brunches with and without mimosas.
In the last episode, we see one of the most impressive scenes of the season when Dev reads a quote from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. First, let’s take a look at the entire quote:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
Powerful, right? I bet your 11th grade English teacher would be grinning right about now. Even though Sylvia Plath wrote it in 1963, it’s actually superbly timeless, flat-out perfect for the moment in the show, and touches home intuitive life messages (and I usually hate poetry). Ansari’s team also does a fantastic job with the visuals & background song (btw, it’s Otis by The Durutti Column). I’ll be honest, it gave me the goosebumps, and made me think about the rest of my enlightening 20s in a much more holistic, introspective way.
So what are some of the highlights that directly tie Master of None to Millennials? Here are four I noticed:
- Dating today is a different Game.
Aziz Ansari is actually a guru when it comes to dating in the 21st century. His critically acclaimed book, Modern Romance, is well-researched, quirky, and hits home some of the most interesting parts of modern dating from apps and social media to affairs and the hidden psychology behind it all. I thought that Master of None (besides specifically not mentioning any dating apps) does a fabulous job of examining post-college city dating. It’s completely unpredictable, fluctuates almost daily, and just when you think you’re on a roll, there is a new obstacle in your way (like Bumble failing to update!). Dating today is just drastically different from what it once was. In one scene, “Grandma Carol,” Rachel’s grandmother, tells about her outdated dating experience, for better or worse, was much, much simpler: “He [her late husband] said ‘you’re beautiful’ and then we spent the rest of our life together.” Dating is a quintessential part of this time period, and it may agitate us all, but without a doubt, we’re in it together (get swiping!).
2. Equality for one, and one for all!
Dev’s friend group is incredibly diverse, and although at times that premise feels moderately forced, I think Ansari’s main goal here is powerful: the melting pot of America is intersecting like never before. Ansari, himself, is becoming a sort of Hollywood poster-child of the Millennial wave of entertainment, no longer largely filled with White-Americans born in LA or NYC (he’s from South Carolina). When it comes to gender equality, both in the workforce and socially, Master of None brilliantly depicts this shift. The Instagram anecdotes shared in the episode, “Ladies and Gentlemen,” resemble a VICE documentary covering these issues. It’s no easy feat to present such important, tangible issues in a comical, facetious setting. You know why it works? Millennials appreciate brutal honesty.
3. Older people are fun too.
The concept of clashing generations is undoubtedly one of the most creative subplots of the show. Besides the fact that Ansari’s REAL parents play Dev’s parents in the show (Dad’s Acting > Mom’s Acting), Ansari draws on real conflicts between Millennials, Baby-Boomers, and even the Mature/Silent generations. There is a very real tug-and-pull in society today between each with Millennials behaving drastically different not just in their careers, but relationships. We see differences in culture too; Dev’s father suggests he look into becoming a lawyer after some stumbles as an actor. Differences aside, it’s neat to know that there will always be common ground, displayed in almost every episode. Whether it’s music, Italian food, or even reading The Economist, generation gaps can be removed with any number of unique interests. The appeal of Master of None certainly is blind to demographic differences with food for thought for audiences of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives.
4. Fail, take risks, and then fail again.
Last, but certainly not least, the underlying tone of failure, risk-taking, and success are expressed frequently throughout the series. We see Dev fail with women, fail with his aspiring acting career, and even fail with watching an aging elderly woman. Yet, for all of his failures, he inevitably succeeds because of persistence. He may get cut out of a commercial for standing up for what he believes in and later left out of a movie at the last cut (he even unknowingly attended the premier!), yet he does not lose hope for a second (his swanky apartment tells us he’ll be just fine financially). Despite some epic mistakes in his relationship, Dev, like many of us, understand that our 20s, or life for that matter, is a long-game with the only consistency being there will be nothing consistent. To continue to discover/rediscover your own thoughts about society, Master of None says, is the iterative approach necessary to survive.
The end of the season is perfectly fitting for the (sigh) end of this post (SPOILER in the next sentence, so stop here if you have not seen it yet!). After Rachel leaves him to move to Tokyo, Dev is at a loss for what to do next in his life (I’m certain there are many of us in that exact boat right now); after lengthy internal debate, he decides to make a decision and stick with it (he chose a fig!). Instead of taking the conventional route to stay in NYC to continue pursuing acting, or even the unconventional route, which would have been to travel to Tokyo for a storybook romantic ending with Rachel, he pursues a path on a different trail altogether: travel to Italy on a one-way flight. Without kids, a mortgage, a wife, Dev can afford to take a major risk.
After all, there is no time like the present…
Well, there you have it: sleep-deprived, pre-Happy Hour, mid-week insight about why all of you should not just watch Master of None, but appreciate the profound nature of Aziz Ansari’s 10 episode, roughly 300 minute masterpiece. It’s just that good (soundtrack is even better — check it out on Spotify).