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Following the May debut of its second season on Netflix, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None is the most talked about romantic comedy on TV right now.And The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj, who hosted the White House Correspondents' Dinner in April, released his own widely praised Netflix comedy special Homecoming King last month, which is itself a romantic comedy of sorts .A storyline like that, which veers almost entirely away from the traditional romantic comedy script and doesn’t feature any white people at all, is probably never going to happen on Love.And while the episode feels revelatory, unfortunately, the new season of Master of None doesn’t maintain that kind of freshness all the way through.In a recent New York Times profile of Nanjiani, producer Judd Apatow explains that The Big Sick “had to be the perfect script to try to get funding.” Though it’s directed by comedy scene veteran Michael Showalter, Apatow suggests that because the romantic comedy focuses on the experiences of an immigrant Muslim comedian in love, it breaks certain rules of the genre and was therefore a harder sell.Namely, like only a few Apatow-produced films before it (Bridesmaids, Trainwreck) — The Big Sick doesn’t center around a white guy.For that reason, among others, it does seem like a small miracle that Nanjiani’s film, which he cowrote with his wife, Emily V.
Their choices are reflective of the stubborn limitations of an industry where straight men still dominate, and where whiteness remains an integral component to what love looks like onscreen.
Yet, despite the significance of seeing Muslims represented onscreen in this way in 2017, it’s interesting that at the center of both The Big Sick and Master of None remains the story of a straight man in pursuit of a straight woman, and more specifically, the story of a straight man in pursuit of a straight white woman.
Minhaj’s Homecoming King special treads similar territory, as he spends a good deal of time relaying how his desire for a white girl in high school didn’t live up to the romantic expectations in his head (alongside the story of his marriage to his wife, who is Indian).
There’s a scene early on in the new romantic comedy The Big Sick, where the comedian Kumail Nanjiani (playing a version of himself) is sitting next to his girlfriend Emily (Zoe Kazan), talking about wine.
During their conversation, which begins flirty and fun but soon turns emotional, Emily looks at Kumail and suddenly says, “I am overwhelmed by you.” They’ve only been dating for a short while, so her admission comes as a bit of a surprise, but Kumail, looking into Emily’s eyes, unable to repress a smile, replies that he is also “overwhelmed” by her.