It’s been an amazing year for Aziz Ansari. A Madison Square Garden live stand-up show! A brand spankin’ new Netflix series, Master of None! And his latest essay for The New York Times makes us love the comedy powerhouse even more.
Published on Tuesday, Aziz starts with an anecdote about calling Short Circuit 2 star Fisher Stevens, an actor who shaped his perception of Indians in American television and film. (If you don’t know, Fisher, a white man, played an Indian in the film…in brown face.) Aziz recalls Fisher admitted the cultural insensitivity of the decision, pointing to the tone-deafness of the time as a main culprit. Now, Mr. Stevens says he’d never take on such an offensive gig.
It’s good Fisher admits the error of Hollywood’s ways, but Aziz relents this brand of obliviousness (perhaps not as explicit) permeates the industry today. “I loved The Social Network (2010), but I have a hard time understanding why the Indian-American Harvard student Divya Narendra was played by Max Minghella, a half-Chinese, half-Italian British actor,” Aziz writes. (Though Aziz does play devil’s advocate a tad. He says he auditioned for The Social Network, but tanked. He offered a similar story for more recent miscasting in this year’s The Martian.)
But then he spilled the real tea with this quote:
“Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an “everyman,” what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man. The “everyman” is everybody.”
Check. Mate. Aziz just nailed Hollywood’s race issue in three sentences. It’s so frustrating to see so many talented, qualified minority actors play second fiddle to their white peers based on what a few bigwigs think is marketable. He echoes this sentiment at the end by referencing Arnold Schwarzenegger, of all people. If Americans can get on board with a robot with an Austrian accent, he says, they can certainly support an Indian actor in a leading role. “We gotta get a robot that has an American accent!” he writes. “Just get a white guy from the States. Audiences will be confused. Nope. They weren’t. Because, you know what? No one really cares.”
Damn straight we don’t. Thank you for slaying our lives (as per usual) with this article, Aziz. Read the rest over at NYTimes.com