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You can also see it across Apatow’s oeuvre, in films like Knocked Up.
Apatow even produces a Netflix show that centers on an awkward, bespectacled white comedian named Paul Rust — and it’s simply called Love.
In a recent New York Times profile of Nanjiani, producer Judd Apatow explains that The Big Sick “had to be the perfect script to try to get funding.” Though it’s directed by comedy scene veteran Michael Showalter, Apatow suggests that because the romantic comedy focuses on the experiences of an immigrant Muslim comedian in love, it breaks certain rules of the genre and was therefore a harder sell.
Namely, like only a few Apatow-produced films before it (Bridesmaids, Trainwreck) — The Big Sick doesn’t center around a white guy.
There’s a notion that comedies like Allen’s — which Ansari praises for being “driven by point of view” rather than appearance — opened doors for unconventionally attractive men to step into the romantic lead (such as Rogen).
But the vast majority of romantic comedies are still about white people, and most are still made by white men.
On this point, Ansari’s full quote in the New York Times is illuminating:“When you think of the star of a movie or TV show, you don’t think of someone that looks like me or someone that looks like Woody Allen or someone that looks like Seth Rogen.”Though it’s true that Woody Allen looks a lot different from Clark Gable or Brad Pitt, 40 years after Annie Hall it’s actually become pretty commonplace to see “quirky” straight white men like him as romantic heroes.
Muslim men are rarely seen onscreen at all, unless they’re praying in some ominous montage and/or terrorizing someone in an action film.Certainly the reality of having men of color in the writers room, and the inclusion of the perspectives of women, makes a project like Master of None or The Big Sick different from Midnight in Paris (not to mention the fact that neither Ansari nor Nanjiani have ever been accused of abuse).