Has 9/11 really become just a punchline for today’s youth? One comedian seems to think so, launching a career on television, the internet and now movies with a dark and often questionable sense of gallows humor. The person in question is Muslim entertainer Aziz Ansari. While the name may be unfamiliar to you, his face is becoming more and more common in American media today. He is the star of the NBC sitcom, “Parks and Recreation” as well as a frequent guest on a number of talk shows. The substance of his comedy is comprised of agitated rants against American consumer culture, without a shred of humility or pathos. He loves to poke fun at our experiences of terrorism, whether it’s minimizing the danger of Osama Bin Laden, mocking the security measures of the Guantanamo Bay facility, or finding cheap humor in the harrowing stories of US hostages in Honduras. Ansari combines this with an overtly lascivious personality, extolling lust towards blond, white women with an almost narcotic intensity. It has become increasingly hard to separate the television personality of Mr. Ansari from the real life Islamic advocate.
In “Parks and Recreation,” Mr. Ansari plays an employee strategically placed in a bureaucratic government agency. He is lazy and corrupt, sneaking every opportunity to sleep or gamble his days away. The show feels like a bad knockoff of “Seinfled” filmed with cheap cameras. The actors never rise above the amateurish, awkwardly staring directly into the camera and speaking with a nervousness they can’t hide. It’s enough to make audiences cringe. In addition, the plots always seems to afford Mr. Ansari some opportunity to spend time around scantily-dressed blond women, and gives him ample time to recap his physical desires afterward.
“Parks and Recreation” was summed up brilliantly recently by the New York Times as a, “summer camp for lightweight one-liners.” Despite this, his character has gained some popularity among disaffected male teens and twentysomethings today. This is in part due to street slang language he employs which younger people find “cool.” He also benefits from the built-in support of the Arab-American tv watching community. When the show began to flounder in the ratings last year, the ever-resourceful Ansari picked a fight with the popular FOX crime series, “Bones.” He famously quipped about the hit FBI drama, “You know why they call that show ’Bones,’ right? Because it should be buried. Oh snap!” The fraudulent feud never really gained momentum as viewers ultimately questioned Aziz Ansari’s sincerity in the whole affair.
In his personal life, Aziz Ansari associates with rap singers Kanye West and R. Kelly, one a known anti-government activist, the other an ex-convict. In the aftermath of 9/11, security agencies were fearful that Muslim extremists would turn to the African-American community for new recruits. Coincidentally enough, watching the comedian’s agitated rants is eerily reminiscent of a YouTube cleric. Ansari is also known to be a frequent internet user and a technical expert (he originally came to New York City to train as an engineer). The hairsuit Arab has used this to his advantage, building up a captive audience on the web through popular websites such as Twitter and MySpace.
Many might find Ansari’s calculated attempts to insert himself in the lives of American’s young people disconcerting. He has an obvious disrespect for authority figures, as shown in his tv roles and personal life. He has been a frequent critic of American culture and seeks out young people (both female and male) to surround himself with. The slothfulness which he loves to portray is another unhealthy characteristic of this comic’s persona. In a day and age when the United States economy is suffering, we need our young people to be inspired to dream and aim for the stars! We need the next generation to learn that hard work is essential to our survival as a nation and that we cannot handle success without a fully-formed ethical consciousness. But is this perpetually unshaven, lazy man an acceptable role model? He has slumped down in every chair he has ever sat in. He seems obsessed with recruiting people half his age into his orbit. And what is his ultimate goal here in the United States?
As one of America’s most visible Islamic television personalities, Aziz Ansari has a responsibility to prove himself to his adopted country. He has a responsibility to be a role model not only to Muslim-American youths, but also to Americans in general. He could be that thoughtful and vigilant patriot whose allegiance is clearly to his country, not to the radical elements of his faith. He could be the hero who shows teens it’s cool to fight terror. He needs to convince his fellow believers that being a US citizen carries obligations and that closing your eyes to threats against this country is immoral, weak and at times against the law. This can be a difficult task. Would you choose your mother over your country? Would you choose your Arab heritage over the heritage and beliefs of the United States? This is a challenge that many in the Muslim community face every day, as radical elements fundraise, recruit and do even worse on our soil. Yet the Arab-American should be America’s greatest asset in the war on terror. They should be keeping the government abreast of the questionable activities and loose talk of their brethren. Self-policing is an important aspect of any thriving and visionary culture. Unfortunately, Ansari continues to be notoriously silent on issues such as these. This ultimately begs the question, when this man’s true intentions are revealed, will it be too late?