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As I continued watching, I realized why the opening scene felt so important.Dev Shah, played by Aziz Ansari, is a sexual being. The audience laughed at the latter book in anticipation as Harvey took 15 seconds to gather himself. Not even a full 12 months ago, I wondered why an ostensibly “sorry about #Oscars So White” Academy Awards ceremony thought it would be funny to include a couple of jokes about Asians being good at math and sweatshop labor, plus an off-script gag from presenter Sacha Baron Cohen confusing the tiny dongs of ’s Minions for Asian men. It’s tired — so tired, in fact, that its origins can be traced all the way to the mid-1800s. ’ ‘No.’ ‘Thank you.’” The comedian then offered a sequel, “Same thing. Instead, the butt of his joke was Asian men (all 2 billion of them), and the point of the joke was: the idea that they could possibly be attractive is . Problem is, he didn’t actually manage to hit any of the eminently mockable aspects of the book, from its predatory creepiness to its own racist profiling (of white women). I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.’” Harvey was delighted at his skewering of the book, doubling over at his own punchlines.
Yet the scene stuck out to me the first time I watched it.To counteract the massive wave of imported cheap Chinese labor (“coolies”), Asian men were subject to a series of targeted laws that systematically stripped them of rights that signified manhood, such as property ownership, job opportunities and the ability to marry freely.The legislation worked hand-in-hand with the campaign on the cultural front, warning men and women of the Yellow Peril and peppering newspapers with caricatures that clearly showed these coolies as less than regular men. From a dimly lit room, you hear the protagonist before you see him.He lets out a string of expletives because the condom broke and the girl isn’t on birth control. The whole situation is awkward, believable, and hilarious in a yikes-glad-that-ain’t-me kind of way.