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Whitewashed tombs in Master of None
Fair warning: Master of None (season two) spoilers follow. Personally, I don’t think spoilers spoil much. But I know some people do. You’ve been warned.
Second warning: if you just want to enjoy a funny TV show without thinking about it too much, I wouldn’t recommend reading further. It’s OK. I think it’s fine just to laugh. I’ve been accused of thinking too much about the shows that I’m watching.
I love watching Master of None because it is such a perfect display of postmodernism applied to real life. Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, lives a pretty normal single life in New York. In season one, the show’s crowning achievement was a rather masterful deconstruction of marriage. From its ashes, we can actually learn something.
Excuse me for burying the lede, but this season brought similar perspective regarding relationship. At the conclusion of season one, Dev moved to Italy to learn more about making pasta after he decided that he couldn’t marry his then girlfriend. The season explores what it’s like to be a single New Yorker. Despite the amusing interactions that Dev has with a variety of dates, Dev is ultimately in love with a woman he left in Italy, Francesca, who is engaged. When she visits town, they continue their romantic interactions and the season climaxes when they need to decide their future. Does she leave her fiancé and move in with Dev?
Meanwhile, another major plotline of the show is the television series Dev has an opportunity to start with Chef Jeff. It’s called BFFs and it’s a food show where the unlikely couple travels around to try different foods at various locales. The fun stops when there are rumors milling about regarding Jeff and his sexual harassment of women on the set. In one case, he encourages a women to sleep with him and leave her loser boyfriend. Dev is appalled when he hears this story and is faced with the difficult decision regarding the future of the show.
Maybe I’m an idiot, but when I was watching I didn’t notice Dev’s blatant hypocrisy. I think that was kind of the point of the season. It finally dawned on me a few days after we binge-watched the show. Dev’s a hypocrite. He’s critical of Jeff’s wicked activity and blind to his own wickedness. Jeff may not be as likeable as Dev; and Francesca and Dev’s relationship rather cute. But at its core, it involves a similar moral dilemma. Jeff’s problems extend far beyond adultery and covenant-breaking, that’s true (sexual assault and lack of consent are a whole separate problem, ones that make Jeff's behavior egregious in its own right). But both of the men engage in appalling behavior. And the audience seems to be sympathetic to Dev’s, just like Dev is.
This interesting vignette teaches us a lot, I think, about real life.
First, is Jesus’ old adage from the Sermon on the Mount, "First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye." Dev’s log blinds him. He can’t see that he’s doing the same thing as Jeff. In fact, he’s even questioned about whether “he’s that kind of guy, too.” He denies it. Poor Dev.
Second, the judgment and harshness we condemn someone else with will be how we condemn ourselves. Again, we see this earlier in the aforementioned passage: You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you.
Thirdly, and I don’t have a Bible verse for this one, but we tend to be more concerned about tone than content. Dev and Jeff suffer the same sin. But we end up, I think, sympathizing with Dev because his situation looks different when in reality it’s not. This is a postmodern problem. Packaging matters, apparently, but so does what’s in the package. In fact, I think they are inseparable. The container and the content are very much connected to each other. We can’t separate content and context.
I think that same little complicated nugget applies to our faith, in particular. The content is what God is doing in us and who he is making us. The fruit of that content—what we do—is in our context. We can’t separate being and doing. They are interconnected. What we do, reflects on who we are. And vice-versa.
Well, actually, I do have a Bible verse about that. It comes from Matthew 23 when Jesus is railing against the Pharisees who are so image-conscious that they can’t see what’s actually inside them. You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. In the same way you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion.
Is Dev a whitewashed tomb? His nefarious activity is disguised by how cute he is. I don’t think that’s all bad. But I’m praying for him and hoping that how he looks on the outside moves closer to his insides too. Maybe in season three.