Aziz Ansari’s Netflix special Right Now aims to wake the woke, to shine a light on those who believe their surface-level cultural intelligence is anything but self-gratifying. And I think it should offer a long overdue wake up call; but I doubt it will.
The cultural climate today is not unlike extremest religious circles you’d find in the ancient world; you misstep, or even be accused of a misstep and you’re done.
We live in an age where all sins are treated equal and there is no trial or fair hearings in the courts of social media; all those that commit a crime despite varying degrees of seriousness have their careers cancelled without due process, as media and the public strive to get our hot takes out fast to maximise re-tweets.
Social Media might have brought back the community town square, but it also bought back the horrible elements of it too. We don’t stone people to death anymore, but we break their careers and lives at whim.
Last year, Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual misconduct by a woman who went on a date with him, drawing a call to cancel the comedian’s career on social media immediately. The backlash was Cosby levels.
However after the initial wave of pitchforks had passed, people started to realise his story was a lot more ambiguous than that of Cosby, Weinstein or R Kelly. The woman’s allegations, published on Babe.net, sounded like a bad date to some or sexual assault to others.
See the Hot 97 team discuss it below:
During the discussion, host Laura Stylez says:
“One thing I want to point out is that this woman came out after she saw him on the red carpet wearing the #MeToo pin, so she felt like she needed to tell he story.
“But to me this sounds like a bad date. Like yeah he was an ass, he was aggressive, he was all of that too… but I never saw anything that said forceful – people are saying he sexually assaulted her, that’s not sexual assault.”
Perhaps the biggest learning for men everywhere can come from Whitney Cummings’ interview on the Joe Rogan podcast.
Joe Rogan kicked off the Aziz Ansari discussion by saying: “You don’t have to try and tank a guys life from a bad date… this is poor judgement and cruelty.”
Whitney Cummings, director of the film The Female Brain, provided some valuable insight in response:
“I don’t think this person coming forward is equating it to rape. Men are less able to read emotional cues on faces than woman are… We (women) have evolved to cry four times more easily because men have a harder time reading emotional cues on faces.
I know that in my 20’s, and I’m freezing up just talking about it, when men made physical advances to me and I would be giving off these non verbal cues and I wasn’t saying no, but my body was saying no.
“I’m not saying a guy was supposed to read my body language. But that’s what was happening because I froze up because of my trauma response, and I was scared.”
Watch Joe Rogan and Whitney Cummings discuss the allegation:
If we aren’t blinded by our own self-righteousness, we can learn a lot from Ansari’s special despite what you think of him.
Aziz’s perspective is rare. He has been both the victim and the advocate of progressive wokeness and in one of the high points of the set, he dances around the anxieties and arrogance of the White Woke chasing approval from other White Wokes.
Without giving away spoilers, the set has the typical Aziz smile and fun, yet it’s mixed in with very serious reflective moments of culture, his family and his personal experience with the allegations.
If you were to read the transcript, you would be lead to believe it was a very angry set, however his delivery masks this as he gets his point across through a wave of consistent (self reflecting) laughs.
The whole time Aziz is addressing issues of race and progressive wokeness, it’s not hard to see the allegations have changed his perspective on life, he admits this at the end of the set.
Even when calling out racists, Aziz does not seem to blame them. Even when he brilliantly traps the crowd into admitting they have an opinion on an event that never actually happened, he doesn’t accuse them. He simply shines a light on it (forgive me for sparing details but I am avoiding spoilers here).
Of course you can’t help think that every bit in the set is to highlight the fact that he feels unfairly judged, and some think this is selfish. However selfish or not, we should take a moment to consider he might be right.
After all, Aziz was a poster boy for wokeness, and in his special Right Now, it appears he’s telling us that going through this experience has been the thing that has actually woken him up.
Aziz concludes his set by thanking the audience for coming to the show, in a very touching conclusion.
“It means the world to me because I saw the world where I don’t ever get to do this again,” he says. “And it almost felt like I died. In a way, I did.” In a close-up, he says: “That old Aziz […] he’s dead.”