Aziz Ansari on Hollywood's Diversity Problems: It's 'Strange' That It's Only White People in Nicholas Sparks Films
Ansari also took on the inordinate amount of harassment female celebrities face online
Aziz Ansari, speaking Friday night at The New York Times‘ TimesTalks in New York City, had a one-word assessment of Hollywood’s progress on diversity.
“When people like ask me, ‘Do you think like the diversity stuff is getting better?’ I’m like, ‘No.’ ”
For example? Nicholas Sparks movies.
“There’s a poster right outside our writer’s room, it’s one of those Nicholas Sparks books where it’s just two white people just staring at each other,” the Master of None creator and star said. “It’s like, there’s been 20 of those movies – not once is it a black woman staring into a guy’s eyes.”
“You know, everyone has romance in their lives,” Ansari said. “It’s strange that every time it’s two white people falling in love.”
TV isn’t immune to this problem, either: “I looked at some lineup of like new shows and it’s like, MacGyver, Training Day with a white guy – what are we doing?”
Writer’s rooms can be the same, he said. “You have a writer’s room and someone’s like, ‘Well let’s hire one black guy or one woman to be in this writer’s room.’ And it’s like, no you should hire a couple.”
The bottom line, according to Ansari (who has tackled racial subjects before): “There’s not enough protagonists that look different.”
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“Excuses get so tiresome and I think everyone’s seen through the bulls—,” Ansari said. “‘There’s just no stars that look like that.’ Well how come you find the white guy stars? You make it happen for people that look a certain way … And the people that are part of the system, they know how to make someone famous, they just don’t do it for people who [don’t] look a certain way.”
What Ansari said he has seen a lot of is “window-dressing diversity” – “where someone looks at the cast and they’re like, ‘Damn that’s a lot white people, ummm, what if Ludacris is the friend? What if we just get an Indian guy and throw him in there?’ And that doesn’t really solve the problem.
“Make the main person someone that looks different then the person that’s always a main person,” Ansari said.
Of course, women face their own hardships in Hollywood, Ansari said. Just think of foot fetishists.
No, really: “I think I was talking to some of the cast mates on Parks and Recreation, I think I was talking to Aubrey [Plaza], and she was telling me like, if you start typing ‘Aubrey Plaza’ into Google – or any female celebrity’s name for that matter – if you start typing it into Google, the first thing that comes up is ‘Aubrey Plaza feet.’
“There’s just this insane online foot culture and it doesn’t exist for guys, and then I started thinking about, you know how there’s just kind of the online harassment of female celebrities that just doesn’t exist for men.”
And he had examples. “The amount of death threats someone like Amy Schumer gets versus the amount of death threats Aziz gets, it’s a pretty big difference,” Ansari said. “Like you can put me, Drake, Lil Wayne, any famous guy, and no one comes close to the death threats that like a female celebrity gets. It’s a pretty terrifying thing.”
But Ansari said he’s doing his part to set these issues of inequality right.
“If you’re a minority that gets an opportunity like I have in Master of None, I think it’s on you to bring up other minorities with you. Have a diverse writer’s room, look out for all minorities, not just people like you,” he said.
“I hope things change.”