‘Master of None’ — ‘Thanksgiving’
“Thanksgiving,” an episode from Netflix’s critically acclaimed second season of “Master of None,” was written by starring actress Lena Waithe and was based on the story of coming out to her own mom, played in the show by seasoned actress Angela Bassett.
Directed by Melina Matsoukas, whose past work includes Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album and HBO’s “Insecure,” this episode was regarded by many critics and viewers as one of the most realistic depictions of coming out on television. The episode follows the evolving sexuality of a black woman, a perspective often forgotten even in LGBTQ representation.
Waithe focuses on how queerness is handled differently in the black community. Her character discusses the common need to appear perfect that prevents older black generations from wanting to discuss sexuality, let alone to be openly gay.
“Thanksgiving” follows one family with three generations of women at their holiday dinners throughout the years. The family dynamic remains the same while Waithe’s character, Denise’s relationship with her sexuality progresses. Young Denise, confused and closeted, grows up into a young adult, coming out to her mom and eventually bringing her girlfriend home.
The episode shows that coming out is not the end of the journey in gaining acceptance from one’s family. Critics recognized the poignancy of this episode. Aziz Ansari, the creator and star of “Master of None,” and Waithe won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series this year. In her acceptance speech, Waithe reassured those who have been in her place or worse: “the things that make us different, those are our superpowers.”
‘Saturday Night Live’ — ‘Season 42, Episode 20’
With every new decision by President Donald Trump or his staff, “Saturday Night Live” has gathered more fuel for its comedic skits. From Alec Baldwin’s Trump to Kate McKinnon’s a realistic, hilarious performance as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the cast has used exaggerated impersonations to poke fun at politicians from both sides of the aisle.
The most unforgettable impersonation, however, is not of either of the 2016 presidential candidates.
Melissa McCarthy’s role as Sean Spicer has brought mass media attention to the often less-than-glamorous position of White House press secretary. Adorned in prosthetic ears and a receding hairline, McCarthy embodied the chaotic nature of the first months of press conferences under the Trump administration. McCarthy focused in on some of Spicer’s quirks, like his tendency to chew extraordinary amounts of gum, and used props, like leaf blowers and fire extinguishers, to display an anger at reporters that seemed to be bubbling underneath Spicer’s surface in real-life at every conference.
Although her sketch may not have led to Spicer’s resignation, it certainly did not help with his public image. Spicer later told Jimmy Kimmel that the skit “cost [him] a lot of money in therapy,” before conceding that it was “pretty funny.”
‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ — ‘A Woman’s Place’
Although the Hulu original show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name, its themes still ring true in 2017. The story is set in a future in which fertility rates have dropped rapidly, and the solution features a system of “Handmaids.” The Handmaids, women who are still fertile, are forced into conditions similar to slavery, in which their only purpose is to birth the children of wealthy, powerful males.
The release of the series in April sparked numerous conversations about the once far-fetched nature of the plot, but now, critics have drawn parallels between the dystopian society depicted in the show and U.S. society under the presidency of Donald Trump. The unsettling misogyny presented throughout the show mirrors real-world events, as more and more tales of sexual harassment against politicians and celebrities surface.
‘13 Reasons Why’ — ‘Tape 1, Side A’
As the second-most viewed Netflix season in its first 30 days on the streaming service, “13 Reasons Why” found surprising popularity given its dark subject matter. The show, based on a novel of the same name by Jay Asher, centers on a high school student named Clay Jensen, whose friend, Hannah Baker, has committed suicide. Hannah left behind 13 cassette tapes, each detailing a reason why she killed herself.
Many applauded the shows sensitive but gripping depiction of young adult emotions, grief and mental illness. Others criticized the show for glorifying the suicide brought on by Hannah’s depression and dragging out the tapes longer than was realistic. Nevertheless, the themes of “13 Reasons Why” feel salient now more than ever as suicide resulting from bullying remains a serious issue, particularly given the ubiquity of the internet.