If you inhaled season two of Master of None like Dev inhales a nice big bowl of gnocchi, then you've already spent roughly five hours basting in the narrative juices of Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang's Woody Allen-esque slice of life comedy series. But if you haven't read Ansari's non-fiction book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, then you're missing out on some of the subtler flavors of the show. Indeed, reading Modern Romance, much like swishing wine or eating hot Cheetos with chopsticks, opens up new dimensions of taste to the series, and may also give you a good reason to go back for a second helping.
Modern Romance is a book that Ansari co-wrote with sociologist Eric Klinenberg in 2015, in which the authors break down how technology has affected dating, relationships, and all things related to how we select our romantic partners. Combining in-depth statistical research and savvy observational comedy, the book is teeming with insights that cover topics ranging from "The Initial Ask" to "Online Dating" to "International Investigations of Love"; all of them have served as the raw real-life ingredients eventually whisked together by Ansari, Yang, and the rest of the show's crew in order to make the fictional series.
One of the starkest ties between the book and the series occurs in the season two episode "First Date," which opens with women swiping through men on the app "Love at First Sight" (scored by the incredibly sick Kraftwerk tune "Computer Love"). The episode ingeniously takes us on a series of intertwined dates between Dev (the show's star played by Ansari) and a handful of women he meets through the app. Love at First Sight (LFS) is, without a doubt, a fictional clone of Tinder, which Ansari discusses at great lengths in Modern Romance.
Ansari notes in the book that "Swipe apps like Tinder definitely seem to be where online dating is headed." (Two years on, this prediction is certainly vindicated). In "First Date" we see Dev going full out--matching, dating, and attempting to bed essentially as many women as possible on LFS. It's a character point for Dev, but also a reflection of what Ansari found to be true in real life. As he notes in the book, "One gentleman we interviewed told us that he literally could not get off [Tinder], so overwhelmed was he by the enormous number of single women who were suddenly accessible."
Once Dev lines up some dates, they uniformly occur over meals and drinks. Once again, this is a reflection of the reality Ansari found in his exhaustive research. A small section of the book is dedicated to "Our Boring-Ass Dates," and it notes that "most of the time... You have coffee, drinks, a meal, [or] go see a movie" on a first date. Ansari describes how this is a recipe for failure, noting that it's hard to make a connection on a boring-ass date. He suggests trying something like a monster truck rally (Saturday, Saturday, Saturday!) or even an alpaca farm—two things that Dev would probably enjoy quite a bit.
At one point, the episode cycles through all of the respective women that Dev meets on LFS as they recount their universal encounters with what Ansari terms "The Modern Bozos." In Master of None, the women discuss "that really gross... disgusting stuff" they get from men on LFS, including lines like "This is my penis," some "fetishy Latina stuff," and a hand-written letter reading "Whaddup wit' dem big ol' titties." In Modern Romance, Ansari discusses this same distinct type of hyper-sexualized text message that men send to women on Tinder, and he includes examples of first messages like "afternoon sex?;)" and "I like your tits." (In fact, we spoke with Jessica Williams and Master of None's own Noël Wells at Sundance about this very thing.)
Scores of other references to the research done for Modern Romance appear throughout the rest of the episode and throughout the second season. For example, at one point, one of Dev's dates straight-up outlines how different races do on dating apps. In "Le Nozze," we see that Arnold, like Dev, is to some extent addicted to the fictional Tinder surrogate. Arnold tells Dev that he's hooking up all the time and "meeting amazing people," although his arc in the episode still revolves around getting over his ex.
Ansari covers many other topics in the book, like cheating, sexting, and the concept of the "Monogamish" partnership, which are all yet to be explored in the show. But that research may be chopped up too, and tossed into the Master of None stew for hopefully a third season(ing).
Also, here's "Scatman" because if you've watched "First Date," you're in the mood for it.
What do you think about Modern Romance and the effect it's had on Master of None? Give us your thoughts below!
Images: YouTube / Netflix