Why Was The Jar In 'Master Of None' Racist?
Aziz Ansari's character, Dev Shan, on the Netflix series, Master Of None, is having a really eventful dating life as he rotates women using the fictional "Love At First Sight" app on season two's "First Date" episode.
He meets, dates and makes out (or tries to) with every kind of woman you can imagine, and he finally scores with the lovely Christine.
Yes, Dev is a smooth operator— until something really disturbing happens mid-hookup.
When he and Christine are about to take their naked make-out session to the next level, she wisely instructs him to grab a condom out of a jar she keeps on the dresser beside her bed.
Dev is a smooth operator and obviously down with safe sex, so he's eager to snatch a pack... until he looks over and sees what kind of jar Christine uses to store her rubbers.
The jar is a "mammy" figurine, which has a controversial history.
In the classic movie, Mammy was a docile slave woman, played by Hattie McDaniel, who gleefully cooked, cleaned and took care of her slaveowner's children even when she couldn't care for her own.
Mammy was depicted as a woman who was content with slavery. She had no black friends and no love interests. In the film, serving her white family was her entire world.
The mammy image has been used since the film to position slavery as a good life for black people.
The Gone With The Wind image has also been used to exaggerate and mock the traditional physical features of black women. There are even mammy dolls shown with black skin, large pink lips and exaggerated noses.
You've probably seen traces of the mammy figure if you've ever seen the original branding for Aunt Jemima breakfast products.
In 1923, the Senate approved a statue monument to go up in Washington DC "in memory of the faithful slave mammies of the South."
According to The Atlantic, a Southern Congressman had this to say about the statue:
The traveler, as he passes by, will recall that epoch of southern civilization when fidelity and loyalty prevailed. No class of any race of people held in bondage could be found anywhere who lived more free from care or distress.
Because people protested — both black and white — the statue never went up.
The mammy symbol, whether a jar, photo or a doll, is basically a slap in the face to every black slave woman and girl because it attempts to repackage all of their pain as joy.
Knowing at least some of this background, Master of None's Dev was so disturbed that he...
He still pulled the condom out of the mammy jar and hooked up with Christine.
BUT, after he put his clothes back on, he did muster up enough energy to ask her why TF she had the jar (which he never references as "mammy," BTW).
Christine says the jar was a gift. Dev, who is of Indian descent (like Aziz Ansari, IRL), tells her that it's "racist" and can't be used "to depict African-American people."
Christine's response is that no one has ever said anything about it. Her body language says she feels that's proof enough that the jar isn't a racist symbol.
But then, Dev does the big ask:
"Have any black people seen it?"
Christine delivers a hilarious and very telling reaction:
"I haven't had any African-American guests."
She also points out a character flaw in Dev when she asks why he slept with her if he thought she was a racist.
Technically, he never called her a racist; he just thought the jar was.
Still, he admitted how it all looked and the moment turned into him being kicked out.
Dev and Christine have an exchange that's both awkward and hilarious.
Dev never does explain the racist history behind Christine's condom holder. He simply told Christine to "show it to a black person sometime."
Still, watching those two look at each other like pure aliens after they just had a romp session definitely showed how far apart two people can be concerning what informs their cultural sensitivity.
Maybe Christine will call him again if she ever does start asking around, and discovers the full deets on her condom-holding mammy jar.