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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On THE NIGHT BEFORE, MASTER OF NONE and the Lack of Women of Color Love Interests

I admit, I had come to Aziz Ansari's defense a little bit when folks criticized his series, Master of None, because Dev (Ansari) doesn't have any women of color love interests. Not because that's not a justified argument (it is), but because he at least has a diverse group of friends with agency on the show. They weren't caricatures; they were real people. That's a lot for a series that has garnered so much acclaim (including mine). And I don't get the sense that he would turn down a woman just because she wasn't white. But I can very well be overreaching with that one, admittedly.

All that to say, I gave Ansari a bit of a pass with--though I think the conversation is a needed one.

Then came THE NIGHT BEFORE, the new Seth Rogen pothead film with a holiday twist that just opened in theaters last week. Isaac (Rogen) and his posse, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie, get into hijinks in New York City on Christmas Eve on their way to the coveted Nutcracker ball. And...smoke a lot of weed, get into a lot of trouble, while dodging adulthood as much as they can. Basically, like most Rogen and James Franco (who makes an appearance) films. Whatever, it was light, at times stupid, but entertaining and I was never bored. But there was a moment in the film in which Mackie's character has, let's say, a romantic encounter with a semi-rabid white woman (Ilana Glazer) in a stinky public restroom. Fine, she is a silly character. But I looked around the rest of the film and there are very few women of color on the streets, the subway, or even at the Nutcracker Ball. In New York City, where we can find diversity everywhere? It's funny how Ansari's NYC is so different from writer/director Jonathan Levine's...

Coincidentally, the only women of color in THE NIGHT BEFORE are Chris's (Mackie) mom, played by the ever immaculate Lorraine Toussaint, and Mindy Kaling, who's also been criticized for the lack of diversity on her now Hulu series, The Mindy Project. By the way, Kaling's character hooks up with Franco's character (who quite honestly is only mildly interested in her). I say this all to say that the lack of women of color as love interests highlight a persistent problem by which I can only assume that Hollywood simply does not see women of color as believable love interests unless they are playing prostitute or vixens. I mean, Chris was the only character out of his crew in THE NIGHT BEFORE that did not have a love interest--except one that ate out of the garbage and was kind of a psychopath. Seriously, Hollywood? Meanwhile, Isaac and Ethan (Gordon-Levitt) have fairly healthy romantic scenarios.

I like to think that the casting directors just went with the best actress for the roles (and for what it's worth, they're solid performances), but Hollywood doesn't have the best track record in creating a fair playing field as far as diversity goes. So, this gets a side eye.


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