Aziz Ansari thanked Netflix for getting 'what diversity really is' in a candid speech.
'Let's have a show where there's a token white guy.'
Aziz Ansari is the co-creator and star of "Master of None," a show that's pretty revolutionary for a sad reason: It actually reflects the diversity of the real world.
"Master of None" has a diverse cast in terms of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
And that's not as common as it should be in Hollywood.
So when Ansari was honored at the Peabody Awards on May 21, 2016, he gave thanks where thanks was due.
"I want to thank Netflix and Universal for believing in us and letting us tell our stories," he said.
"I think they really seem to get what diversity really is. It's not, 'Hey, let's give this white protagonist a brown friend!' No. It's, 'Let's have a show where there's a token white guy.' And that's what [our show] is."
In an entertainment landscape still embarrassingly homogenous (behind and in front of the camera) Ansari is right: Netflix stands out.
Hollywood tends to create content that's overwhelming white, heterosexual, and told through the male perspective (didn't you watch the Oscars this year?). In Netflix's original programming, however, you'll find quite a few projects that buck the trend.
Series like "Orange Is the New Black," "Narcos," and "Master of None" prove TV can certainly be successful, sans-white leads. Superheroine "Jessica Jones" is breaking down gender stereotypes when it comes to action series. "Sense8" is piling on awards for its groundbreaking inclusion of LGBT characters and themes. And it says a lot that the company's first original theatrical film — "Beasts of No Nation," starring Idris Elba — featured an all-black cast.
"We’re programming for diverse and eclectic tastes and for an increasingly global audience," Cindy Holland, Netflix's vice president of original content,told Variety. "So the folks working on those titles and the folks here at Netflix serving those consumers have to increasingly be more reflective of the audience we serve and the programs we make. It’s something we’re very focused on."
It's not just Netflix, either. Other streaming services — namely, Hulu and Amazon Prime — can boast relatively diverse original content as well, with hits like "Transparent,""The Mindy Project," and "Difficult People" breaking the mold.
Still, across virtually all platforms (streaming or not), there's ample room for improvement.
Thankfully, diversity in television is, slowly but surely, getting better (to Ansari's delight, I'm sure).
Although streaming companies have largely led the push for change, network TV is beginning to come around.
But could this desire for diversity simply be a hot trend that'll surely fade?
That's a firm, "no" from Holland, who said Netflix is "absolutely" committed to making its programming even more diverse. It seems like they're not alone.
Diversity on TV shouldn't be all that revolutionary. But until it isn't, at least we have Ansari's candid acceptance speeches to look forward to.