Aziz Ansari’s newest comedy special, Aziz Ansari: Right Now, hit Netflix on July 9th. Ansari has remained out of the public eye since babenet.com published an account of sexual misconduct from a woman who went on a date with him in January 2018. Like many public figures’ fall from grace at the height of the #MeToo movement, Ansari was understandably labeled “cancelled” by a lot of fans. However, Ansari’s controversy itself seemed divisive, as it was pitted against other infamous predators’ extensive, systematic sexual misconduct.
It feels weird to split hairs in cases of sexual deviance. Two things can be bad at the same time.
That being said, I think one thing can be more heinous than another. As uncomfortable, and probably objectionable, as it is, the details of Ansari and other public figures’ misconduct are important in the conversation of how to move forward as a culture.
I see more take-down articles about take-down culture than any other topic. Yet I haven’t found a consensus on the next steps. Nor is there a universal protocol for handling disgraced celebrities attempting to comeback. In cases like Michael Jackson, as Ansari brings to light in Right Now, the question often becomes “What are you willing to overlook?” rather than “What are you ready to forgive?”
Ansari acknowledges his sexual misconduct around three minutes into the special. It’s by no means perfect, but I don’t think any acknowledgement of his or any cancelled celebrity could be. Nevertheless, it wasn’t terrible. At the very least he recognized the broader implications of his actions. As to whether or not his statement seemed genuine, he was performing stand-up comedy. Everything said in the special has been practiced on dozens of stages, in hundreds of voices, for thousands of people. Even the most authentic sentiments become contrived when a crowd is watching, moreover expecting to laugh.
However sincere you thought his recognition of his behavior was, a one-hour comedy special is not an accurate measurement of someone’s personal growth. It is, however, an accurate measurement of someone’s comedy, and in this category, Right Now is okay.
If the price of a disgraced celebrity comeback is mediocre content with a “yikes” stamped on it, it’s time to start platforming artists with new and different material – who aren’t sex creeps.
That being said, it’s nice to finally have an example of a somewhat cancelled-comic “feel terrible” and ostensibly mean it. But deserving forgiveness and deserving a platform are two very different things.