If there’s only one thing you watch this weekend with your birth family (chosen family, too), it should be the award-winning Master of None Thanksgiving episode, co-written by Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe.
It’s a capsule episode, so even if you’re someone who hasn’t really seen the Netflix series you could pop into the second season and watch it. The episode portrays how two of the show’s central characters, Denise and Dev, spend Thanksgiving each year together. Denise, who is a lesbian, slowly comes out over the years, and the creators use Denise’s annual family gathering of Thanksgiving as the milestone to show her complex coming-out process.
As a teenager, Denise explains to Dev when she comes out to him that it’s harder for people of color to accept their gay children. “Being gay isn’t something black people love to talk about,” she reveals. “Everything’s a contest for us, and your kids are like trophies. Me being gay’s like tarnishing your trophies.”
Later, when Denise comes out to her mother, played by the indomitable Angela Bassett, Denise’s fears are realized. Her mother acts shocked, cries, questions how Denise knows she doesn’t like sex with men if she’s never tried it and orders her to never share the news with her grandmother.
At Thanksgiving that year, Denise tells Dev, “At least she didn’t disown me. … So I guess it was a success.”
“People will see a story that is told over time, which I think [is how] most coming out stories should be told, because over time it changes,” Waithe told TV Guide. “Sometimes it doesn’t, but I think for the most part, that’s really what happens with parent-adult children relationships. You have to kind of find a middle ground, whether you like it or not. I think we got a chance to tell that.”
TV’s best coming-out episode to date belongs to Master of None, and the fact that the coming-out experience belongs to a queer person of color is especially important. These narratives are told far less often and are far more complex.
We’re not the only ones noticing. Waithe and Ansari walked away with an Emmy for best comedy writing for the episode, making Waithe the first African-American woman to win in the category.
“The mom isn’t the villain. And my character isn’t the hero,” Waithe says. “I feel very honored and proud that I get to tell this story from my point of view. I hope that we’re changing the way mothers, daughters [and] families view what it means to be gay and black in America now.”