Oh Netflix, consistency is not your strong suit. From the failure that was “Iron Fist,” the mediocrity that is and always will be the sixth season of “Orange is the New Black,” and the nostalgic brilliance of “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus,” Netflix has an issue with reliably producing quality content. Despite this fact, I always get excited when Netflix decides to come out with new TV shows (chalk this up to naive optimism) as it’s another excuse to procrastinate. But my excitement is always infused with a sense of uncertainty; Netflix gives its creators and writers creative freedom, and they don’t always deliver their best material. But when I heard comedian Hasan Minhaj was getting his own web series I was genuinely excited. Hasan Minhaj is an alumnus of “The Daily Show,” 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 time (or in this case, web series air space).
“Patriot Act” airs every Sunday, with a few short haitiuses here and there. In total, there are four volumes with six to seven episodes each. Minhaj covers just about everything from, “Censorship in China” to the brand “Supreme” to “Student Loans” to “Fentanyl.” Essentially, his talk show is a “woke TED Talk”—his words not mine. He adds his own brand of comedy to these topics, but most importantly he talks through the reasons that matter without being too preachy.
His commentary is littered with pop culture references and millennial slang. His rants on the importance of keeping Jordans clean and the power of Hip Hop make it easy to understand the complicated problems he covers. Only someone who understands these significant cultural phenomenon can compare the income growth of Destiny’s Child using a graph of the overdose death rate of prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl. Minhaj’s awareness of the current political and social climate makes you feel as if you’re having a conversation with your friend Jay from your Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies class.
That being said, Minhaj has an extremely liberal viewpoint from which he presents this information. While I’d like to say that the web series is for everyone, it’s just not. Hasan Minhaj has left-leaning views and he talks about all subjects through that lens. He criticizes the Trump administration, and devoted 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.
“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 all over the world. His episode about student loans details how our loan servicers are screwing us over. Whatever subject he focuses on during the week allows him to explore problems with politics, culture and global issues.
Personally, I question the purpose of the show. If his aim is to simply bring awareness to these subjects and spark conversation, Minhaj is definitely doing that. I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know how cruel the gaming industry was. Game developers are hired enmass to be overworked in efforts to meet deadlines just to be fired once the game is released. Job security is basically non-existent for the people who bring us hours of beautiful life-like gameplay that seems to get better every year. Minhaj’s episode titled “The Dark Side of the Gaming Industry” unveils the necessity for modern day workers unions that cover 21st century workers. Our video games should be exploitation free. They would take longer to come out, but we’d feel much better knowing that the people who made them were treated justly.
“Patriot Act” also has a way of confirming injustices that we all knew about but never had the research funding or data to prove. For instance, the incredibly frightening way police officers in this county are trained. “Violence is your tool . . . you’re men and women of violence . . . if you properly prepare yourself, killing is just not that big a deal.” These are the words of Lieutenant Dave Grossmen teaching future police officers how to be police. Police officers are taught “to act instantly, not react, act.” For years, for decades, black people and our allies in the Black Lives Matter movement have screamed that America’s police are not taught to value the lives of the people they are meant to protect and serve but to prematurely become judge, jury and executioner without facing any consequences. They are free to make mistakes that ruin lives, devastate communities and completely disenfranchise generations of people.
Now, The Brandeis Hoot can’t afford to let me use the infinite amount of paper and ink it would take me to unpack and analyze Minhaj’s episode, “The Broken Policing System,” but it is the only episode that proves police officers are trained to protect themselves and their fellow officers before the slightest thought about protecting civilians enters their head.
I enjoy the show and can appreciate Minhaj’s creative freedom and recognize the amazing opportunity “Patriot Act” is for a POC. His most recent episode is one of the only episodes I can’t allow myself to use as background noise while I scroll through Instagram and ignore my 10-page final. Usually I characterize the show as “just good,” but some episodes are great. This isn’t because Minhaj is funnier, but because certain episodes pour kerosene on the dying embers of our anger.
For our generation, as Dave Chappelle says in “The Age of Spin,” “a spaceship explodes everyday” and we slowly stop caring. But it’s amazing to live at a time when we can watch a show that does not simply tell us why we should be mad but remind us that we have always been infuriated at the systems and institutions that only care for the most privileged and expect the rest to fend for themselves.
“Patriot Act,” like all shows, can have its lackluster episodes about frivolous things like over-hyped sneakers and the power of brand name shirts, but as long as there are enough episodes that actually matter, then this show is doing what it needs to be great.