‘Patriot Act’ spins the news

March 22, 2019

As a habitual binge watcher of TV shows, I always get excited when Netflix decides to come out with new ones; it’s another excuse to procrastinate. Despite my excitement, there is always a sense of uncertainty because Netflix gives its writers and creators creative freedom, and they don’t always deliver their best material. When I heard comedian Hasan Minhaj was getting his own web series, however, I was genuinely excited. Hasan Minhaj is an alumnus of “The Daily Show” who has won a Peabody Award and is the first Indian American TV show host. I believe Hasan Minhaj is rather funny, politically aware and not another white guy taking up TV air space.

His web series “Patriot Act” on Netflix has a total of 13 episodes airing every Sunday. In

these episodes he covers a variety of topics from Saudi Arabia, Amazon, student loans, hip-hop and drug pricing. Essentially he gives a “Woke TED Talk” every Sunday. He adds his own brand of comedy to these topics, but most importantly he talks through the reasons they matter without being too preachy. This isn’t his first time on Netflix either. His comedy special (because anyone can get a comedy special on Netflix), “Homecoming King” was a hit when it came out, and in hindsight it was mostly likely a prelude to his show.

Of course, there is the extremely liberal viewpoint that he presents this information from. While I’d like to say that the webseries is for everyone, it’s just not. Hasan Minhaj has left-leaning views and of course he talks about all subjects through that lens. He criticizes the Trump administration and devotes an entire episode to depicting how members of Trump’s cabinet are systematically chipping away civil rights from minorities and members of the LGBTQ community. In this day and age, that means liberal bias.

But as someone who leans pretty far left, I don’t mind. That said, he is speaking to a specific demographic, liberal individuals ages 18-35, most likely college students or college graduates. Pretty much Brandeis students. Our community leans left, for the most part. The things we care about as college students and people who consider themselves “woke” are the things he talks about. His commentary is littered with pop culture references, modern millennial rhetoric and slang.

“Patriot Act” is an entertaining way to get information about events happening around the world and In the United States. His episode about hip hop covers its global reach and how it is used as a form of dissent in countries all over the world, namely Thailand. He also devoted an episode to student loans and how our loan servicers are essentially screwing us over. Whatever subject he focuses on during the week allows him to explore the many problems with politics, culture and the world.

The biggest question for me is whether or not he is effective. If his aim is to bring awareness to these subjects and spark conversation, is he actually doing that and doing it well? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the show and would recommend it. Patriot Act is thought provoking but sometimes it can feel as though the thought the show conjures may be steering the viewer in a certain direction, forcing them to have certain opinions.

Hasan Minhaj is definitely bringing awareness to problems happening all over the world but it can feel as though he wants his viewers to feel a certain way about the events and topics if you don’t already feel the way he does. That said, his demographic does most likely feel the same way he does.

If his goal is only to bring awareness to a specific subject or event, then he gets an A+, but if his goal is also to perpetuate a specific political agenda then it’s pretty disappointing. If that is the case, his show is just another form of media struggling to have control or influence over our collective consciousness.

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