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“Master of None” and Its Weak Portrayal of Religious Issues

"Master of None" and Its Weak Portrayal of Religious Issues -

Master of None is back on Netflix, delving into many of the same relatable themes and emotions that made the first season so enjoyable; including love, sexuality, family, dating, race, religion, career, and finding your passion.

Though the first season ended (SPOILER ALERT), on that Eat, Pray, Love note, with Dev and his girlfriend breaking up and Dev flying off to Italy to pursue his passion of pasta (#jelly), the start of the second season is a much happier one. It begins with Dev living in the beautiful city of Modena, Italy, working at his pasta internship (ugh again – #whatadream), immersed in  the culture of the slow, small town and (for the most part) not bothered by dating apps, career choices, and his life back in New York. Soon enough, though, Dev hops on a plane and jumps right back into where his life left off, back to his life that every 20, 30-something can relate to.

One particular episode, “Religion” caught my attention. The episode starts off with children being unwillingly dragged to their places of worship, setting the stage for the contentious relationship with religion to be seen through the rest of the episode. The feeling seems to be universal, as we see Dev’s friends, Denise (Lena Waithe) and Tanvi (Lakshmi Sundaram) both sharing their own experiences with religion. Denise’s role in this season revolves around her sexuality and coming out to her family. In this episode, she shares that a lot of her more religious family members weren’t so accepting of her sexuality. We also meet a new character, Tanvi, who talks about how her parents forced her into having a four-hour long Hindu ceremony for her wedding, but she agreed to it, and in exchange played all rap at her wedding reception (the very explicit versions).

"Master of None" and Its Weak Portrayal of Religious Issues -The beginning of the episode foreshadows Dev’s own relationship with religion. Young Dev is at his friend’s house, tries bacon for the first time, and is in love. Immediately at that moment, as if his mother were watching (as all mothers constantly seem to be), gets a call from her telling him to come home and that eating bacon is against their religion. Sneaky young Dev takes another bite, anyways.

Fast forward years later, to the present, Dev’s more religious family is in town for the end of Ramadan to celebrate Eid. We first meet the aunt, uncle, and cousin, Navid (Harris Gani) at dinner, where Dev’s father tells him into act much more pious than he actually is, and Dev awkwardly stumbles past questions about prayers and the mosque. Later, away from the watchful eyes and prying ears of his parents, the cousin confesses to drinking at which point, Dev introduces him to bacon. Together, they decide to skip Eid prayer to go to a BBQ festival, panicking wildly when they think they are about to get caught by the Navid’s father, Dev’s uncle.

Young Dev is at his friend’s house, tries bacon for the first time, and is in love.

After this almost encounter, Dev decides that he is too old to be lying about his religious practices (or lack thereof) and at a dinner with the family, including the aunt and uncle, decides to order a pork dish. The show raises a fragile, complicated issue, but I don’t agree with how Aziz Ansari resolves the matter – as he ultimately treats it like a clear cut math problem, which it clearly isn’t. Essentially, if you’re old enough to make your own decisions, then you shouldn’t have to hide things like dietary preferences or alcohol intake. Those may seem like insignificant lifestyle choices, which they probably are to most, but they represent something larger. While I’m not providing a right or wrong answer to how one should tackle such issues (I certainly don’t know myself), I do think the show fails to weigh certain considerations. Of course at the end of the episode, Dev’s father comes to discuss with him why he believes that his actions were wrong. He tells Dev that eating pork in front of his mother makes the parents feel as though they’ve failed at raising their child. Still, I’m not satisfied with the way it ends.

Generally, I think the show does a good job at dissecting relatable issues; whether it be interracial dating, coming out to your family, or finding the best tacos in the city. Here, I think the show could’ve done a better job at discussing this particular issue, maybe because it hits so close to home. With Dev’s family, as is the case with many others, religion and culture are so closely intertwined, that it’s sometimes hard to pull them apart. Eating pork in front of family members that have raised you not to do so is disrespectful in my own opinion. While some may claim (and as the show tried to claim) that by not coming clean, you’re hiding your identity when you shouldn’t, I don’t necessarily think drinking or eating pork are habits that speak to you as a person or define you in any major way. It’s more of a minor inconvenience, which shows respect for the way your family was raised, you were raised, and your culture. Especially when, like Dev, you only have an occasional meal with your family. It shouldn’t kill you that much to avoid a drink or pork chop for a few hours if it can spare your mother’s heart for a bit. Unfortunately, I just saw Dev’s actions as selfish and thoughtless.

What’s also frustrating is the immature way Dev explains what religion means to him, saying it’s only about being called a terrorist and being stopped at the airport. While admittedly comical, it’s an unfair portrayal of how a lot of other young American Muslims feel. While I do believe his statements were meant to be a generalization of how young people feel about religion generally, because Islam is currently in the spotlight all.the.time (and not the good kind of spotlight), with so much misinformation in the media about Islam and so few shows with Muslim leads, the show has an even greater responsibility of not making incorrect generalizations about young American Muslims. Maybe that’ll be for Season 3…

Still, after all this complaining, I do ultimately like the show. It’s definitely worth the weekend binge. 😊

You can figure out if it’s your cup of tea by watching the Season 2 trailer below…

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"Master of None" and Its Weak Portrayal of Religious Issues -

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