Master of None, “Indians on TV” episode

I recently exploring a number of shows and one I came across was a show called “Master of None”. The general premise is that Dev, the protagonist, is an actor wandering through life in New York. Compared to Fresh Off the Boat, I don’t like it as much. My reasoning is that Fresh Off the Boat has a way of taking stereotypes and twisting it into something very humorous and positive. Thus giving some agency to the minority protagonists while at the same time providing a large amount of humor to laugh at. However, I didn’t find Master of None have the same technique that Fresh off the Boat had. It is in the very same category as Dr Ken, it doesn’t take the stereotypes associated with the minority protagonist and twists it around into something funny. As a result, it didn’t feel as unique compared to the other comedy shows. However, I do find Master of None better than Dr Ken. The humor in Master of None doesn’t feel forced while in Dr Ken, the protagonist just plain does random things (strange mocking voices, random funny voices etc). Although it can feel uncomfortable at times, because, this is an actor that is lost in the world and the idea can feel uncomfortable.
However, while Master of None does not have the technique of taking stereotypes and twisting it around, there is one episode that greatly emphasizes what minorities have to go through on TV and Film. It is Episode 4, Indians on TV. In this episode, the protagonist and his friend, Brian, were auditioning to be a nameless Indian cab driver. The producer wanted the actor to say the line in a offensively stereotypical Indian Accent. While Brian just plain accepted doing thing, Dev decided to not say the line in an accent. The producer requested that Dev say the line in an “Indian” accent, which Dev outright refused to do and just said something along the lines of “why can’t I just say it normally?”. The producer then just told Dev to go and said she would contact him when she needs him. However, the way she said it implied that she was not going to call him at all. This is something that many minority, not just Asian American, actors face in when going into the media. This scene here really exemplifies what minorities have to go through in order to get even the smallest of roles. This is just a nameless Taxi cab driver that only had 2 lines throughout the entire movie that was being made, but already the room prior had around 5 people, many of them minorities who were willing to take the role. This is because of the drastically limited roles that those minority actors had to face, especially with Yellowface/Blackface/whateverface allowing white actors to play in minority role, thus making the available roles even smaller. So, many of them had to conform to the roles that the producers want to even get a minor CHANCE of getting any role whatsoever.
And this lead to another interesting point in the movie. Brian said that it is just nameless driver role, Dev just needed to put on the accent so he would at least have a chance of getting the role. Yet Dev continues to refuse, since it would perpetuate the offensive stereotype. Brian reasoned that this is just a stepping stone to bigger and better roles. However, I have to disagree here. While Brian’s idea seems sound, perpetuating the role and stereotype will only further exaggerate the stereotype. Doing nothing is also a large problem, since there are many other minority actors willing to play the role, or if no minority actors at all want to play the offensive stereotype, then they can have a white actor whateverface it (wear makeup and exaggerate features) which will making things even worse. Resisting it only winds up like Dev’s situtation, where he is rejected by the producer and is replaced by another minority actor who is still to subject him/herself to such stereotype. It is a lose-lose situation, no matter what is done, it is going to end up just perpetuating the situation. However, there is some good news.
According to Kent Ono, author of “Asian Americans and the Media”, many Asian Americans are bypassing the whole selection process by simply producing their own videos, and publishing it on video sites like Youtube. That way, they can express themselves in any way they want, thus avoid the many issues of needing to following stereotypical roles that producers would want. There have been many independent studios that create their own works, so it is creating a small gradual shift and breaking these stereotypes.


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