The new Netflix original series Master of None (2015) stars Aziz Ansari as Dev, a 20-something New York actor/comedian trying to make his way in a world of passionless directors, egotistical actors, and the entertainment business in general. Ansari essentially plays a scripted version of himself, similar to Louis CK’s alter ego in Louie or Larry David’s in Curb Your Enthusiasm. His character, Dev, is outwardly sociable but slightly awkward and speaks with the same intent and delivery as Ansari is known for in his stand up and his role in Parks and Recreation. The fifth episode, “The Other Man” shows Dev struggling to decide whether he should sleep with a married woman whom he both gets along with and finds attractive. And while the shows’ comedy is born out of a traditional sitcom style—i.e., awkward characters finding themselves in ridiculous situations—the substance of the show comes from a careful examination of the minor trials and tribulations of millennials. This is a show about millennials confronting the non-problems of their time. The show is carefully geared towards people who have to check their phone every two minutes but are self-aware enough to know how pathetic that is.
Master of None tries to reveal this in moments rather than statements. In this way, the show is very different to Ansari’s stand up. Midway through the episode, Dev is on a date with a girl who responds to all of Dev’s questions with uninterested one-word conversation killers, her eyes glued to her phone. The bright glow of her iPhone 6 is painted across her face, and we later find out that her strategy is to go on dates with men to obtain free gourmet meals. She represents the perceived mindlessness of this technology-obsessed generation.
While Dev is kissing the attractive/married woman mentioned earlier, he can’t stop interrupting the moment to say things like, “Can we take a moment to talk about how cool this is?” He is more interested in talking about a great moment than experiencing it, a disposition which resonates with a technology-bred generation known for its fixation with cataloguing and advertising experiences. Smaller details help fill in the picture of this generation: Dev and his friend bickering over who’s going to pay for the round of drinks; an arrogant and unapologetic businessman cutting in front of Dev at an ice cream store (a man who happens to be the husband of the woman he’s contemplating cheating on); and Dev being grilled by the married woman about the dating app through which he met his date, which is most likely Tinder.
Master of None portrays the sort of people who can’t keep their phones in their pockets or go for a night out without posting a sixty-second snapchat story and a picture on Instagram—and this is the audience the show is courting.