Aziz Ansari: The Right Messenger For “The Woke Moment” (despite his Me Too allegation)

Aziz Ansari wants to be better in Right Now, shouldn’t we embrace him?

Earlier this week, Netflix premiered Aziz Ansari’s new comedy special, Right Now. Ansari wasted no time to address the sexual misconduct allegations against him. Allegations that that knocked him off his pedestal last year. Allegations that made me rethink my thoughts on Ansari, who I penned as “the voice of the millennial generation.

“I’m sure there’s some of you that are curious how I feel about the whole situation,” Ansari says in a softer, lower pitch voice. “I felt so many things in the last year or so: there’s times I felt scared, there’s times I felt humiliated, there’s time I felt embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible that this person felt this way.” However, Ansari falls short of an apology in the special. We do not know if Ansari and his accuser, Grace, have spoken privately. It’s also not our business unlike Grace wants it to be.

Last year Grace told that Ansari pressured her for sex while on a date at his apartment. Grace was 22-years old and described the encounter as “the worst night of her life.” This allegation was unlike many of the other high profile sexual misconduct allegations that were toppling powerful men in every industry. Instead, this allegation started a conversation about dating and what may be implied and what is not while dating. Dating has changed, thanks to applications like Tinder. If someone pays for dinner, does that mean that you should sleep with them? The answer is no, but when someone like Ansari is paying for dinner do you feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do? If you invite someone up to your apartment does that imply sex? These were the conversations people were having.

Unlike others who have faced allegations, Ansari is willing to have the necessary conversation that not only addresses his sexual misconduct allegations but also allows us to have an essential conversation about those allegations. At no point in the special does he come across as defensive or angry.  He is empathic. He is human. Yes, he falls short of an apology, and honestly, I am not so sure an apology in such a public forum is appropriate, but it’s not my place to say. That is something for Grace to decide and many of us, including myself, would welcome to hear her thoughts on the special. With that said Ansari’s ability to understand the moment, and understand that he is an influential young man that so many young men and women look up, and come across as authentic is something that should be valued.

Ansari bookends his comedy special addressing the allegations but honesty, for me, it’s the middle that is so worthy of our attention. Ansari’s ability to address racial issues and how different generations see things differently has always been his greatest gift. The meat of his comedy revolves around “extreme wokeness” and the deeply rooted irony that comes with people who just became woke in the Donald Trump era — which yes, does include the “me too” movement. Right Now is much more subdued to his pervious specials or Master of None and I can’t help but think it’s because he is a bit cautious.

“Things don’t just become racist when white people figure it out.” Ansari says to laugher. He makes a point hat many white people keep a check list of how many woke things they do in a day: “playing a game where they’re, like, tallying up points for doing nice stuff.” Bitching and complaining about wokeness should come off as super out-of-touch, especially if you’re picturing Tom Haverford say it, or if any old white guy says it, but Ansari never comes across as condescending. He never comes across as the expect on this issue. In large part because he too is still learning how to navigate this “new woke world.”  There is a moment where Ansari tries to compare right-wing troll to elite online liberals, but he quickly recovers.

Ansari does not pretend he is perfect. He says he is trying to be a “better person.” Aren’t we all? Shouldn’t we all learn from our mistakes?

We, like Ansari, need to be open to the fact that we aren’t perfect and that to be better we must have a conversation about how to be better, how to be more aware, how to treat others better and most importantly how to treat ourselves better. It’s easy for us to judge a situation we hear about on the news and instantly say something on social media. But for us to really move forward, to progress and to be ‘woke’ we need to understand each other and to let ourselves be vulnerable to tough conversations. In many ways, Ansari is a useful messenger for the woke movement because he wants to be better and do better.

Ansari concludes addressing the allegation again by saying: “It’s made not just me but other people more thoughtful, and that’s a good thing.”


Aziz Ansari’s “Right Now’ directed by Spike Jonez is now streaming on Netflix. 

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