Is 'Master Of None' Telling Us To Settle?

by Amy Mackelden

As any self-respecting human being should do, I marathoned Aziz Ansari's Master of None in its entirety in just 48 hours. New to Netflix, Ansari's starring vehicle, which he co-created with co-star Alan Yang, is both funny and insightful, whilst sometimes being so close to the bone it's even more uncomfortable to watch than Girls. I'm definitely in the school of thought that considers uncomfortable comedy total genius: The writers here are capturing life's idiosyncrasies so perfectly that it's gut-wrenching. But, at the same time, there's so much sadness in Master of None 's portrayal of Dev and Rachel's romantic relationship, that it actually had me wondering if the takeaway message wasn't that all relationships disappoint you eventually so you may as well settle down with whoever you're with right now. And, that's depressing.

I'm not trying to simplify the complexity of the show's relationships, which do an amazing job of destroying stereotypes and crafting story lines which are surprising and true to life. But, there seems to be a thread running throughout Season 1 of Master of None which suggests that everything's boring eventually: The sex will die, you'll want different things, and cheating will become no big deal. Is this the message Ansari's show wants to leave us with, or is the series simply exploring all manner of relationships, big, small, and inconsequential?

The romance between lead characters Dev (played by Aziz Ansari) and Rachel (played by Noël Wells) is very real, from their meet-cute on a one-night stand, to the brutal arguments they have when they start living together. Some of those fights were like a stomach punch for me as I recognised disagreements I'd had with previous partners about cleaning the apartment or not using gifts they'd bought for me. Pinpointing the pivotal moments in a relationship like this is smart writing at work, and I'm all for realistic representations of love on TV and in pop culture. God knows we've been spoon fed too many Katherine Heigl rom-com fantasies over the years, and we all know that the end of the movie is never the end of the story. Sure, the protagonist gets with the supposed love of their life, but what happens next? Here, Master of None honestly portrays what the day-to-day of living with someone is like.

So, I'm not concerned by a lack of accuracy — the relationships in Master of None are bang on reality. What worries me is where these representations leave us, and what we're meant to garner from them as we go about our own lives. While I've been in relationships much like Dev and Rachel's, in which the sex dies off quick and you're both just willing it to be over, despite the fact you're still super fond of each other and snuggle while uttering adorable pet names — this is not the sort of relationship I'd want to be in forever. Sure, it's unrealistic to expect amazing sex to always be the case in a relationship, but the sex in Master of None is deliberately awkward and stilted after the couple have been together a while — is it too much to hope that passion might last a little longer? How about in Girls, when Hannah and Adam get back together and still love sleeping together? Or Mr. Big coloring outside the lines? Are we meant to disregard the possibility of long relationships in which the sex is still great years in? I personally don't think so.

Ansari's show cleverly explores the moment in your early thirties when everyone around you is getting married and settling down, so the pressure on you to do the same is intense. But, sometimes, when you look ahead to the future with the person you're currently dating, all you see is a graveyard. And that's tough. Do you take the plunge and hope for the best? Or do you hold out for something more? Master of None explores these questions, and then some, but I couldn't help feeling that its ultimate message was that sometimes we expect too much from the people we're with and it'd do us well to dial back those expectations. I couldn't disagree more with this sentiment, and think that settling for anything less than want-to-rip-each-other's-clothes-off, can't-stop-laughing-at-each-other's-jokes love is basically bullsh*t.

You might think I'm living in a dream world, but as a person who's been through some pretty major breakups, including the breakdown of a marriage, I know how important it is to stay focussed on the things that are most important to you. Relationships are absolutely about compromise, but if you're not getting your needs met in a major way, then considering marriage is quite simply crazy, in my opinion. What Master of None gets totally right is the drive each of us feels to fulfill society's expectations of us, even if our relationship isn't necessarily heading in the cookie-cutter, married-with-children direction. Relationships are hard, and Aziz Ansari knows this. So, I'm already excited for a potential Season 2, even though I expect it to be every bit as gut-wrenching as Season 1.

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