Black trauma should not be mocked or used for distorted conceptions of art.
By Rachael EdwardsLast weekend, I decided to watch the latest season of Orange is the New Black. Admittedly, I felt guilty for succumbing to boredom and pledging my allegiance to a whole weekend of Netflixing with no chill, but why not? Before season four, I was a devoted fan. However, after watching Black trauma being dangled over our heads and paraded around for good ratings and the sake of staying relevant, I made the premature assumption that I was not going to watch the next season. But I foolishly decided to continue watching. If you watched season four, you know that it ended on a cliffhanger with Daya (Dascha Polanco) pointing a gun at the prison guard, Humps (Michael Torpey). This scene followed the eruption in the cafeteria where Poussey (Samira Wiley) is suffocated to death under the knee of the white, irresponsible, poorly-trained prison guard. I’m still not sure if the scene of Daya pointing a gun at a prison guard was a way to pacify Black viewers after watching Poussey’s limp body on that cold prison floor, but still – fuck ya’ll for that. Season five opens up with Daya still holding the gun and eventually shooting Humps in the leg and as a result, a days-long prison resistance ensues. Taystee (Yvonne Parker) takes on the responsibility of trying to avenge her best friend’s death through negotiations. Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) is cuddling up to her rapist. Red (Kate Mulgrew) is trying to make sure that Piscatella (Brad William Henke) gets due justice after hurting her and her ducklings.
Hasan Minhaj's eloquence and ability to reflect on micro and macro levels is so inspiring. I feel transformed for the better after spending an hour and change with him and his epic storytelling abilities.If you had told me even 10 years ago that there would be so much amazing Desi representation in visual media in the year 2017 I would have laughed and said, “Yeah, in an alternate universe.” But here we are, with Mindy Kaling trailblazing for South Asian American women and headlining her own show after a hugely successful writing and comedy career; Aziz Ansari starring as the romantic lead in his own show after fantastic supporting roles on shows like Parks and Recreation; Hannah Simone repping for all us biracial South Asians on The New Girl and Priyanka Chopra kicking so much butt leading Quantico. And adding to this glorious Desi-American masala we have Hasan Minhaj who is a Daily Show correspondent and also featuring in his new Netflix comedy show Homecoming King. Minhaj’s Homecoming King is a bittersweet love letter to his experience growing up Indian and American in Southern California. Equal parts hilarious, vulnerable, and real, Minhaj details his childhood as the only brown kid in a mostly-white Davis, as well as his journey to become the Daily Show funnyman we know and love so much. Using his charismatic stage presence and electric writing, the first thing he tackles is his heritage. His parents had an arranged marriage, and their first big experiences as a couple were moving to America and having Hasan; but Hasan’s mom had to finish her medical degree in India, so she didn’t live with Hasan and his dad for the first eight years of their life in California. With buckets of empathy, Minhaj details life with his Indian dad as they navigated America together as well as their many cultural clashes. Hasan, after all, is American in a way his dad will never be and their relationship was encapsulated by that push-pull dynamic of many immigrant families. Some of Minhaj’s most raw moments in Homecoming King are when he talks about his complicated relationship with his dad and reflects on the difficult experiences that become so meaningful in retrospect. And never is the generation gap of first gen immigrants and their parents ever so clear as in how Hasan and his dad responded to the racist attacks on their family in the wake of 9/11. Mr. Minhaj put his head down and took the abuse — Hasan interpreting this as a kind of immigrant tax the older generations feel they have to pay for living in this country and being non-white. On the other hand, Hasan was filled with a new rage that he and his American family would and could be scapegoated in this violent way with impunity. Minhaj’s comments about the “audacity of equality,” that he as an American-born citizen would not stand for this abuse when the older generation see it almost as a rite of passage, are incredible and illuminating. We can sum up the Trump regime’s entire ethos in response to the “audacity of equality” that today women, black and brown Americans, immigrants, the LGBTQIA community, disabled, and other minorities have the nerve to believe that they are equal and deserve equal human rights. Minhaj is a phenomenal wordsmith indeed. What’s so remarkable about Minhaj’s show is that in spite of an overwhelming theme of racism and the Indian American and Muslim immigrant experience, Minhaj somehow manages to find the points of comedy in each of the situations he and his family survived. I found myself belly laughing through tears at so much beautiful resonance in his experience and my own, even though our backgrounds are nothing at all alike. And Minhaj’s marvelous ability to shift from physical comedy to tearful emotional vulnerability smashes so many stereotypes not just about South Asian men and Muslims, but about masculinity in general. These are unicorn qualities, for real. One of the most important and my favorite aspect of Homecoming King — like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None — is that Minhaj’s writing does not rely on cheap comedic tricks that tear other people down in order to elicit a laugh or two at the expense of another marginalized group. I mean, there isn’t even one joke about him going out, getting wasted, and pulling jackass stunts for quick laughs either. The show is just so real, and so human. There is nothing so refreshing in this era of orange-tinged horror to be able to laugh with someone on a pure level that taps into our shared humanity, compassion, and empathy. This is dignified comedy, and I hope it prompts a whole new generation of comedians to follow in its footsteps. And while he does poke fun at family quirks in the most good-natured of ways, and details the foibles of being a Third Culture Desi Kid in America, the overwhelming theme of his show surprisingly ended up being one of forgiveness. For so many of us Others in America, our experience begins to be defined by the shitty things that (often white) people say or do to us that remind us just how much we don’t belong here.
Master of None promotes a vision of America that is enriched by the complexities of its immigrant communities, instead of persistent racist narratives.In Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Dev Shah is an aspiring actor living in New York City. He’s cute, charming, and a gourmand obsessed with pasta. His love life is equal parts adorable and painful. Oh, and he’s also an American of Indian origin, a fact that shapes how Dev moves through the world, but only becomes a big deal when we look at the serious lack of diversity in television today. Like the Wachowski Sisters’ Sense8, the diversity in Master of None is thoughtfully presented as a natural matter of course of life in NYC. Dev’s best friends are a white dude (Eric Wareheim), a black lesbian (Lena Waithe), and a first gen Chinese-American man (Kelvin Yu). He and his Desi actor buddy, Ravi (Ravi Patel) commiserate over their stereotyped casting calls and auditions. Dev dates women of all ethnicities and types, and through his relationship with Rachel (Noël Wells) becomes a feminist ally — basically, he’s a freaking unicorn. A brown dude as not just a lead of his own show, but a romantic lead at that, is groundbreaking for the South Asian American community. Master of None just aired its marvelous second season on Netflix and it is some serious balm for the troubled soul, in many ways especially because of how compassionately it tackles the issues of being an immigrant in the United States. Like the actor portraying him, Dev Shah is a first generation immigrant who has only known life in the USA, unlike his parents who came over from India with great difficulty. While every immigrant family has a unique story, Master of None thoughtfully shows the threads that bind these disparate life experiences. Related: 9 Desi Feminist Activists You Need to Know
13 Reasons Why had many ambitious goals. Here are 13 reasons why it fails at every single one of them. (Content warning: discussions of suicide, sexual assault and self-harm) Based on Jay Asher’s young adult novel, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why follows the aftereffects on
Created, written, and often directed by The Wachowskis of The Matrix fame, Sense8 follows the lives of eight individuals around the world who discover they have a special connection that allows them to peer into each other’s lives, minds, hearts