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MASTER OF NONE: You Cannot Be an ‘Everyman’ And Own a Herman Miller Eames Lounge Chair

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None deserves much of the praise it’s receiving for tackling race in popular culture and how technology has affected our social interactions, among other issues.

And yet, the show is surprisingly tone deaf when it comes to money and how difficult it can be to live in a city like New York.

In a New York Times essay Ansari wrote: “Even at a time when minorities account for almost 40 percent of the American population, when Hollywood wants an ‘everyman,’ what it really wants is a straight white guy. But a straight white guy is not every man. The ‘everyman’ is everybody.”

Here’s the problem: Master of None’s protagonist Dev lives such a comfortable lifestyle that he looks a lot more like a white guy who works in finance than an “everyman.”

Master of None commits one of TVs most cliché faux pas: Having supposed middle-class characters live in large, expensive apartments. It’s never clear how much Dev makes — he’s an actor and I assume the TV spots he does pay reasonably well — but his massive Brooklyn apartment would likely cost $4,000 a month (prime location, wide open floor plan, recently renovated).

So he’s paying ~$50,000 a year in rent.

Now consider that in New York City taxes (combined city, state, and federal) will eat up nearly 40 percent of your salary. So if Dev makes $83,000, after taxes he’ll only have enough to pay his rent.

Not only is Dev living in an apartment out of reach for most people his age, his possession scream luxury. Dev owns an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. That’s a $5,000 chair (depending on the trimming it can actually cost over $7,000).

Now maybe you’re thinking I’m nitpicking, that few other people would notice this. But this is a show about people in their 30s, and as someone who is 32, I can say with confidence that by this point in life you’ve done enough shopping to easily recognize the Eames Lounge Chair. It’s so iconic that it’s part of MoMA’s collection.

And then there are other easy to spot items in his apartment, like his $600 espresso maker.

Further, there are plot lines based on Dev’s relative affluence, such as doing an impromptu trip to Nashville for a first date.

So how much does Dev make? $150,000? Can he really be an everyman when he earns more than 90 percent of the population?

It’s particularly bewildering that Ansari’s brings up racism in the entertainment industry — how hard it is for him to get a leading role because he’s not white — and yet there is no examination of how that impacts him financially, how the American dream is even more out of reach for non-whites because of racism.

In fairness Master of None is hardly the first TV show to have a distorted view of what it looks like to live a middle-class life, especially in a big, expensive city, but in 2015 our entertainment is still hesitant to acknowledge that the American Dream eludes most American.

Even for people earning a good living, life in your thirties is still cramped apartments (especially if you don’t have roommates), repaying student loans, and anxiety about money.



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