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If I wasn’t a fan of Netflix after Orange is the New Black (I mean, reason enough to keep the love flowing, right?) then the double bill I’ve spent the past two weekends of my life binge-watching would have won me over. Between Master of None and Jessica Jones, I feel like I’ve been handsomely rewarded for spending time I would have usually dedicated to watching movies or reading on TV.
Both shows are set in New York, so I’ve had much fun playing spot the location while watching the lead characters, Aziz Ansari’s Dev and Krysten Ritter’s Jones go about their lives. But more than that, I’ve been immensely satisfied watching these shows smartly deal with important topics – and seamlessly so, so well that you don’t even realize they are doing it, until you stop for a brief moment to let the next episode re-load. This is how TV right now should look, and feel, and show and tell us, about our lives and the lives of some people we live with (well, minus the superhero part, I guess, but hey, who knows?)
With Master of None, I feel as if I identify with Dev more than I ever have with any of the Girls characters, trying to deal with dating and love, and work and career ideals, and living in a city that offers a thousand choices a day. As Dev tries to navigate his way through texting a crush, staying in touch with his parents and figuring out the next path to take in his career as an actor who isn’t quite where he wanted to be at the age of 32, I feel like the laughter I emit when watching is mostly because I know how real those situations feel because they feel like my truth too. In between the humour are moments of poignancy – witness the way Season One ends, and you’ll know what I mean.
Beyond that, I feel like, in laughing with Dev over the commonalities we share, I have learnt along the way about the differences and things that separate us. As a white girl, I may never know what it’s like to have a person who isn’t white play a character who is, onscreen, as has happened many an incredulous time with people who are Black or Indian or Asian. The issue of representation in Hollywood is addressed in the episode Indians on TV, but it’s not heavy-handed; Ansari and his co-writer Alan Yang, don’t just chastize the system, they try to have their characters work through the issues, so we, as viewers who may not know how this feels, are given insight into the anxiety and anguish it causes and why.
In Jessica Jones, there’s very little laughter (save for Jones’ whiskey-soaked sarcasm), with its neo-noir scenes of gruesome and violent acts, staged by the villain in the series, Kilface (played so devilishly well by David Tennant). But there are women. So many women on my screen. All types – interesting, nuanced women, who exist to live their lives, and not just for the sake of men.
Suffice to say, I can’t wait for Season 2 of both shows. I’m ready for the next binge.