Aziz Ansari was nominated on Sunday night for his role in Master of None, but it appears that recent controversy has seemingly at least a temporary effect on Hollywood's attitude towards the actor. Ansari's name was met with silence at the 2018 SAG Awards when it was read, in stark contrast to the applause that erupted for the other actors with whom he shared the category. Ansari was absent from the awards ceremony following Babe.net publishing an interview with a woman who chose not to identify herself, who claimed that the actor allegedly disregarded her sexual boundaries on a date.
Ansari responded to the claims in a statement released to People. He said:
"In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.
The next day, I got a text from her saying that although 'it may have seemed okay,' upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.
I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue."
Twitter was quick to point out the awkward silence in the room at the SAG Awards after Ansari's name was read.
Some also pointed out that, had Ansari won, it may have made an already uncomfortable moment even more so.
Ansari’s loss wasn’t altogether surprising (it was a stacked category), though it is a departure from the tone set at this year’s Golden Globes. The actor took home an award for his role in Master of None during that ceremony, and the Globes are often thought to set the tone for the rest of awards season. However, as some pointed out, voting for the SAG Awards was open to members until Friday, giving those who decided the honors days to mull over the controversy before casting their vote. Of course, that's not to say any of the allegations did sway votes, the voters may well have just liked Macy's performance more.
In any case, the Babe piece spurred countless opinion pieces and thinkpieces, and spearheaded a conversation about consent, and how we can better discuss upsetting sexual encounters that don’t necessarily neatly fit into a categorized box.
“Sexual assault doesn’t look any one way. It’s not only men attacking women alone in alleyways or high-powered business moguls preying on young actresses,” wrote Kirsten King of Teen Vogue. “Predators don’t come in a single form. In fact, sometimes ‘predator’ doesn’t even feel like the right word for them.”
Grace's account of their encounter also brought about talk about who is responsible for ensuring consent is given in a sexual situation. “It is not an admission of weakness, or a victimizing move, to say that it isn’t only up to women to know when to run and to be assertive enough to say ‘no’ loud and clear. It is not weakness to say that the burden of consent should be shared and that men should shoulder theirs,” wrote Jeanne Kay for ThinkProgress.
Whether Ansari will resurface in the public eye anytime soon remains to be seen, but it seems clear that his name will long be tied to the conflict outlined in the Babe piece.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.