When Master of None creators Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari won their first Emmy Award for Comedy Writing on Sunday, Yang took the stage and reminded everyone that "diversity" isn’t just a buzzword, but a real goal worth fighting for within the TV industry.
"There are 17 million Asian Americans in this country," Yang said, clutching his Emmy next to a nodding Ansari, who was also nominated for Best Actor in a Comedy. "… and there are 17 million Italian Americans. They have The Godfather, Goodfellas, The Sopranos, we got Long Duk Dong. We have a long way to go."
Long Duk Dong — Sixteen Candles’ horny teen boy who seemingly took most of his cues from Mickey Rooney’s racist portrayal of an Asian man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s — is one of American cinema's most recognizable Asian characters. To put it bluntly, from a representation standpoint, that sucks.
Master of None even called out that characterization explicitly in an episode called "Indians on TV," which saw Ansari’s character trying to navigate racism as he auditioned for roles, and highlighted just how bleak the landscape is for Asian Americans trying to find themselves onscreen.
The episode Yang and Ansari won for, though, was "Parents." It's based on their respective fathers’ real-life journeys to the US from Taiwan and India, and the gulf between their experiences and their impatient millennial sons.
It’s the kind of episode that could never have been written as personally and empathetically by people who don’t know that experience firsthand, and it's a pretty stellar example of how broader inclusion makes for more multifaceted — and often better — TV.
"To all the Asian parents out there," Yang concluded, grinning, "a couple of you, get your kids cameras instead of violins, and we’ll all be good."
Season one of Master of None is currently available to stream on Netflix.