Here’s the thing about being good at something, exceptional even. Having qualities that surpass human expectation often invites additional attention, which in turn is able to amplify your flaws. When LeBron was in his “being a human truck (or at least a mid-sized sports utility vehicle), his inability to shoot the long ball (not anymore apparently) was one thing his detractors focused about. And so it goes, creating an expectation excellence can have an unwanted side-effect of highlighting the one thing you’re not actually good at because you’re so good at doing everything else.
During it’s first season, Master of None set very lofty expectations, leaving us to ponder how they were going to match it in season two. We travelled along side Dev through the emotional adventure of what it’s like to live in a modern world where nothing is certain, relationships are mostly vain and human connection often arrives with a side of heightened anxiety that is ever-present all around us with social media and instantaneous methods of communications. And yet, the show managed a delicate balance of real and fantasy that made Dev easy to relate to, and more importantly, feel authentic as a human you could picture yourself hanging out with as opposed to a comical caricature. I personally could think I knew a Dev in my life. The show hit that out of the park.
Second season follows a similar formula and takes through a lot of delicate topics that may seem too awkward for other shows. While some choose to skim the subject and give you just the basics, like your parents giving you the sex talk for the first time, Master of None comes prepared with diagrams and illustrations. It’s ready to educate. Delicate subjects, such as the one in the Thanksgiving episode are given care and nurture to flourish. They go into the emotional depth and demonstrate the producers’ and writers’ closeness with the subject matter, an understanding of the modern realities and most importantly for Master of None an enveloping respect for all genders, races, orientations and religions. It is even more jarring then how in the final act, Master of None mishandles the myth of the “friend zone.”
For years, us men decided to live in the world where being genuinely nice and or aware of the females around us entitles us to something more than friendship. We’ve invested into a one-sided relationship/fantasy where us liking the girl is enough and by association she should be into us because we’re nice to her. A myth that has launched many a meme from scorned fuckbois across the world who stand as raving examples of perceived male entitlement to the female attention. Fuck that shit.
The show decides to fulfill this fantasy of Dev liking someone who is motherfucking engaged, spending time with her and her developing those feelings back. It justifies the entire “friend zone” myth that at least three idiots somewhere are currently saying verbatim “if only she could see what’s in front of her eyes.” What if she can? What if she sees a great friend who is there for her, being able to compartmentalize his own attraction with rational that a) he cares for this person and thus wants her to be happy and b) a woman isn’t obligated to be attracted to you just because you’re nice to her.
Yes, there are situations in which long-time friends can discover a previously unknown romantic connection, most of the time it is a one-sided myth built up to perpetuate this feeling of “being overlooked” to pat down an apparently fragile male ego that is unable to deal with rejection that’s not even rejection. It’s just not a sexual attraction.
When Master of None leans into this theme so eagerly it does itself a disservice by straying away from portraying a level world it has so carefully established before and surrenders to an archaic male fantasy that is frankly, bullshit. While I have (and do) felt Dev’s pain of that kind of one-sided attraction, it would be more important not to idolize the “perfect scenario” but rather tackle the difficult discussion around the more common variation of this. What if the option was for them to just be friends? What if that’s the way the world actually should work? For all the service it gives to a lot of other difficult topics, it’s more so surprising that Master of None misfires so blatantly in the end.
Romanticizing this particular scenario is part of the problem. Just because we like a female friend doesn’t mean they have to like us like that. A whole culture has been built around this kind of shit and it’s detrimental to keep perpetuating this perfect outcome.