‘Patriot Act’ was a hilarious, brilliant example of South Asian representation

For six seasons, Hasan Minhaj delved into controversial political issues with candid bravery

Image by: Shelby Talbot
Celebrating the show after news of its cancellation.

When I saw Hasan Minhaj’s performance at the White House Correspondence Dinner in 2017, I didn’t know whether to laugh, applaud, or pray for his life while he ripped President Trump apart with comedic brilliance. I did know I was completely captivated by his brutal honesty and perfectly delivered punchlines, and I wanted more.

I was immediately taken by Minhaj’s ability to say what others only dreamed of voicing and get away with it through the forum of political comedy.

His jokes were intricately researched and nuanced, the intelligence behind each statement making each punch line hit harder for those who understood the political background. For those who didn’t, the joke still landed—likely because of his charismatic ability to engage with any audience.

He garnered the attention of the masses after this speech and in 2018, Minhaj’s own political comedy show, Patriot Act, premiered on Netflix. Patriot Act was catered to a millennial and Gen-Z audience, condensing complex political issues into bite-sized episodes.

The bravery Minhaj displayed at the White House was arguably heightened once he got his own show; he spoke about highly contentious issues including the Indian elections and Hindu nationalism, as well as on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged role in the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an episode that was quickly banned in Saudi Arabia.

In addition to these controversial issues, he also addressed societal questions and norms many millennials have no idea how to navigate, including episodes like “Why Doing Taxes is so Hard,” “Is College Still Worth it?”, and “Mental Health.”

Though Minhaj couldn’t go in-depth about many of the topics he touched on in his show, he managed to provide a clear overview of what his target audience needed to know, packaged neatly between relatable anecdotes and political roasts.

It’s also important to note that Minhaj has a clear left-wing bias, but like any political commentator, audiences had to decide for themselves how to interpret his positions in an intellectual manner.

Watching Patriot Act made me feel seen. As a Muslim girl whose ancestry lies in India, Minhaj’s portrayal of identity wasn’t only relatable, but validating. He consistently referenced his immigrant upbringing with wit and nostalgia, and watching him embrace his culture over the last few years has inspired me to do the same.

I can count the number of positive South Asian role models in Western media on one hand—and no, I don’t count Priyanka Chopra.

But last month, Netflix announced Patriot Act wouldn’t be renewed for another season.

What a run. @patriotact has come to an end. I got to work with the best writers, producers, researchers, and animators in the game. My 2 babies were born and grew up with the show. TY to @Netflix and everyone who watched. Now it’s time to return these screens to Best Buy pic.twitter.com/4s4TrsKWe6

— Hasan Minhaj (@hasanminhaj) August 18, 2020

Not only am I losing the ability to quickly learn about global politics on Netflix with a host that makes me laugh, I’m losing one of the only examples of South Asian representation I genuinely feel proud of.

Though this may be the end of Patriot Act, I doubt this is the end of Hasan Minhaj’s place in the arena of political humour.

Just by hosting his show on Netflix, he defied multiple stereotypes and paved the way for Brown kids in the Western world to actually have a place in mainstream media.

He’s undeniably opened doors—and I can’t wait to see who walks through them next.


Commentary, Netflix, Politics

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