Chad White, Master of himself, who is he kidding?
Light spoilers of Master of None follow.
Fan theories about shows have been floating around since the age of television began. They range from the common time loop for characters as seen in the ageless vacuum that is The Simpsons to Will Smith’s titular character of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air dying prior to his departure for California and the series taking place in Heaven. But most if not all theories are crackpot ideas meant to only further interest in the show. Viewers build their own backstories if they’re not given any in order to build upon their fantastical views. But doing so is important as it adds to a somewhat deeper appreciation of the subject matter. The idea behind fan theories isn’t to tear down an aspect of a form of media; they’re meant to explore the world the media builds using concrete evidence. If you can prove that Joker is the true hero of The Dark Knight with a detailed explanation, then do so. If you can disseminate why Sid from Toy Story became a garbage man (in order to save toys from being thrown away!), by all means, take it on. With that being said, theories can come from out of nowhere and pertain to nothing important in particular. That’s the beauty behind fan theories; they’re meant to be fun and not taken entirely seriously.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can finally introduce my latest theory: Master of None is about the character of Dev and not a series about creator Aziz Ansari.
What is Master of None?
It’s a Netflix exclusive series from the minds of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang. The series follows Dev (Ansari), an Indian-American actor living in New York where he goes on auditions where he is asked to use an accent, goes on dates that end in awkward sex, and learns life lessons along the way. These include the difference between men and women in the eyes of social media and learning to listen to old people. He is joined on this journey by his friends Denise, Arnold, Brian, Benjamin and his newfound girlfriend Rachel.
Who is Dev?
Dev Shah is the main character, duh. But what’s important about him is his nationality (Indian) and who is playing him. Recently, Ansari has been living the junket life in order to promote Master of None. In most if not all of his interviews, he has mentioned the small amount of Indian actors in American media. From movies to television shows, it seems that the West lacks diversity in entertainment – a known fact to many people. The character of Dev is important in that he is a leading Indian actor, even if he can’t seem to land and/or keep a lead role, which means he and Ansari are more or less the same. “But Aziz probably wrote the character for himself! Your theory is wrong and dumb!” Listen, he most likely 100% did write Dev in his eyes BUT you can’t judge something until you’ve gotten all the facts.
Why does this matter?
Okay, so Aziz wrote Dev for himself. Or did he? What if the character of Dev Shah is meant to be the surrogate for Dev Shah, the real life man? What if there is a separate universe inside of the Master of None universe that Shah and his friends occupy? If shows like Parks and Recreation and even The Simpsons has taught me anything, it’s that shows can exist in and out of time both for a joke and for story effect. Movies like The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel and Good-Time Slim, Uncle Doobie, and the Great 'Frisco Freak-Out' starring the great Troy McClure don’t exist but Elon Musk sure does and BOTH exist in The Simpsons universe. So, Dev Shah is a real human man that is an Indian American actor living in New York trying to get past the stereotype that Indians have to live with. And if you don’t believe me, look at the terrible movie Dev was starring in. I don’t think The Sickening was going to be a big hit.
How did you come up with this?
This is where things may get a little shaky but stay with me. Master of None is very good. It’s funny, truthful and takes on the norm that television shows (or online shows) have come accustomed to. However, it’s strangely acted. I’m not looking for the comic timing of Eddie Murphy or the character study abilities of Daniel Day Lewis but characters come across as stilted and jagged, kind of like a game from Telltale running on last generation hardware. Dev in particular is acted to a level more akin to early 2000’s pre-9/11 public service announcements from afterschool Nickelodeon specials. That’s not to say it’s terrible but it’s not as great as, say, the writing which is phenomenal. And that’s where the magic of the show and this theory stem from. Ansari acts Dev with such wooden personality that this show could be about a show that’s created by Shah himself, not Ansari. So, in the end, it was Shah’s choice to act Dev with the stage presence of Groot. We get to see Dev’s acting chops on several levels from forced auditions to high level, green screen driven scenes in a movie. Ansari could’ve easily experienced everything that Shah has been through; there’s no doubt about that. But these are more tailored to Dev’s character than Ansari.
The format adds to this as time jumps over unimportant periods like Rachel and Dev’s last few months of being together. Would it have been nice to see the two grow as adults? Sure but we don’t have 22 episodes to do so. The series almost effectively squished together eight or so months into a talky montage of three minutes. Dev didn’t want everyone to see the boring, trivial details of life with him and Rachel. He wanted to get to the hot stuff like Rachel’s inability to keep clothes off of the floor. Hot stuff.
So where does this leave the theory?
Ansari created Dev who created Master of None. The show, while utilizing both real and fictitious parts of Ansari’s life, is about Dev Shah, the real actor and human. Shah created and starred in Master of None.
In the end, did any of this matter? No. But was it fun? Entirely.