Aziz Ansari just defended ... red-staters? Yep. And he has a point.

If you're going to paint everyone from the southern United States with a broad, red brush, don't do it around Aziz Ansari.

Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP.

The comedian, who grew up in South Carolina, recently sat down with New York magazine's Jada Yuan to promote the second season of his critically acclaimed Netflix series "Master of None."


The interview went well — except, Yuan admitted, for one moment: when she made an off-the-cuff remark suggesting Ansari's series — which follows Dev Shah, a son of Indian immigrants, and his diverse set of friends living in liberal New York City — is a love letter to the "blue states."

Her comment didn't sit well with Ansari.

Ansari doesn't like when the term "red state" is used to mean people who are backward or ignorant.

It's been his experiences as an Indian-American who grew up in South Carolina — one of the very "red states" often cited that way — that shaped his viewpoint.

As he explained to Yuan (emphasis added):

“Look, don’t say ‘red-staters,’ because when you say ‘red-staters,’ you’re saying, like, ‘dumb, racist people,’ and there are plenty of white people there who are not dumb, racist people. Maybe I’m just very quick to react when, as a culture, we try to paint this whole large group of people as one specific thing. Because that’s what, as a minority, you deal with all the time. It’s just people looking at you and being like, ‘You’re this. I know exactly what you are.’ And you’re like, ‘Shut up! That’s not me. You don’t know me.’”

Ansari's point may be obvious, but it's one we often forget in this politically charged time: simply living in a red (or blue) state says nothing more about your values than your shirt size does. Just because a state swings red or blue in an election doesn't mean that everyone living in that state or district automatically adopts the majority viewpoint.

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP.

Don't mistake the comedian's soft spot for red America as excusing harmful, dangerous rhetoric though — Ansari's been among President Trump's toughest critics in Hollywood for months.

Ansari never wanted his comedy to get political. But in the era of Trump, he couldn't stay silent.

With every anti-Muslim speech or policy proposal from the president, Ansari's own Muslim family is personally affected.

The day after Trump's inauguration, Ansari hosted "Saturday Night Live," hilariously slamming white supremacy and providing the comic relief so many of us desperately needed in that moment. Last summer, he penned a blistering takedown of then-candidate Trump's harmful immigration policies in the New York Times, in which he's quoted as discouraging his mother from going to a mosque for her own safety.

Donald Trump wants to ban Muslim immigrants like my parents, so I wrote a piece for the @NYTimes telling him to go fuck himself. Link in bio.

Posted by Aziz Ansari on Friday, June 24, 2016

Ansari is not afraid to go on the offensive and address racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in his comedy. However, the butt of Ansari's jokes are, specifically, dangerous people and ideas that are helping to keep xenophobia afloat — not every single person who happened to live in a state that went red for Trump in November.

To assume or imply that every person living in a red state embodies the stereotype of being backward or ignorant erases the work of people like Scott Shaffer, in deep-red Texas, who's been laser-focused on stopping harmful bills from passing through Congress. It ignores the people who turned out in droves in Wyoming last week wearing colorful tutus to support LGBTQ equality. It forgets the thousands of women who marched in places like Cincinnati and Tucson the day after Trump's inauguration in defiance of misogyny and discrimination of any kind.

These people of the resistance are red-staters, too — just like Ansari. That's a crucial and often overlooked point to remember.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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