Television is one of the most influential means of mass media, alongside the Internet. It provides viewers with information that rewires the public mind. With that being said, some experts claim that television does not capture diversity.
Majority of reality shows and TV series show happy people living a great life, but forget about important social problems that the everyday people have to face. There’s an obvious lack of representation for all minorities across the board that needs to be addressed. With TV shows like Master of None, Black-ish, and Kim’s Convenience being created, we are starting to break that barrier, but we shouldn’t have to celebrate every time someone belonging to a minority is cast in a tv show, because that should automatically be the norm. In his hit TV series Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, specifically the episode titled “Indians On TV” doesn’t just identify the problem of representation; it works against it. Plenty of shows can comment on systemic diversity and race problems, but Master Of None does so within an episode that practices exactly what it’s preaching. In one scene two main characters, Dev and Ravi are talking about the “unspoken rule” that there can’t be more than one Indian in a television show without it being labeled as an “Indian show”, while the show they exist on is breaking that rule. With there being more than one Indian man on the show, they all have very distinct characters who don’t represent one of the stereotypes about Indians.
It’s important for viewers to see this because it lets them know that you can have multiple minorities on a TV show that play the role of the everyday man. “Only 16.7 percent of lead film roles went to minorities. Broadcast TV was worse, with only 6.5 percent of lead roles going to nonwhites in the 2012-13 season.
In cable, minorities did better, getting 19,3 percent of the roles” (Ansari, 2015). As Aziz Ansari mentions in the article these numbers came as no surprise to him, these numbers are nothing shocking. Growing up as an African American women, I would rarely see people who looked like me or who shared the same culture as me on screen.
Every now and then I would see an African American women on tv or in a movie, but they were often casted as the stereotypical “angry black women”. “One day in college, I decided to go on the television and film website IMDB to see what happened to the indian actor from “Short Circuit 2.” Turns out, the Indian guy was a white guy” (Ansari, 2015) like Ansari, the first time I found out that a white actor played the role of a black man was the movie Tropic Thunder where Robert Downey Jr played a black soldier. Growing up I thought nothing of it, but now as an adult I feel as if they were “mocking my race” (Ansari, 2015), just like Aziz Ansari says. The director, Ben Stiller, could’ve easily casted an African American to play the role of the black soldier. In today’s society I feel like we need to see more diverse representation on our TV screens.
With shows like Quantico and The Mindy Project having a female minority as the lead role their characters deal with their race on-screen, but not in a groundbreaking way. Even though the discussion of race isn’t heavily mentioned in Quantico, the characters aren’t “whitewashed” and told to play their typical stereotype. “The Mindy Project and Quantico have taken charge of the race conversation and are in control of the direction, and, while I might not agree with everything these shows do to depict South Asian women, I appreciate that they are having more nuanced and difficult conversations” (Metha, 2015). “For many of us in order to connect with a character or a storyline, we need to be able to relate on a human level and sometimes that also means characters that look, feel and think like we do” (Mukhopadhyay, 2015).
I briefly mentioned above how when I was growing up every now and then I would see an African American women on my TV screen, but she would always play the role of the “angry black women”, single mother, or stripper. These stereotypes are overused and tired. Not every black women can relate to that. I personally relate more to the show Master of None, because it shows you what a person of minority has to go through in order to make it, and not just in the entertainment world. Having a show like Master of None is very important because no matter what minority you are, you can relate to it on some sort of level.
With Master Of None and its cast of diverse characters, Aziz Ansari not only tells, but shows, that a series can be successful and funny without a predominantly white cast. Master Of None acknowledges that “diversity” shouldn’t just mean having one Indian guy on a show and calling it a day. I feel like the show is looking for more representations of Indians on TV that aren’t rooted in racial stereotypes or assumptions about what Indian people should look like, speak like, or do.