Hasan Minhaj: The Impact of Patriot Act on the South Asian Community

Many of you might have heard of Hasan Minhaj, an American comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. You might know him for his Netflix comedy show, Patriot Act, or you might know him as a really funny guy. Hasan Minhaj, however, is so much more than just his various titles and occupations. He has had a huge impact on the South Asian community, serving as some much needed mainstream representation. His stories and jokes are ones every South Asian can relate to, and he integrates humor with influential topics in a flawless way. Time Magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2019, and he undoubtedly deserved this prestigious title. Recently, Netflix has decided to pull the plug on his show Patriot Act. As a young South Asian woman growing up with immigrant parents in the United States, I am incredibly disheartened to see such a relatable, hilarious show leave the platform. 

Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix show, Patriot Act, first premiered in October 2018 and continued to air for thirty-nine episodes and six seasons before it was cancelled in August of 2020. It was the first weekly U.S. talk show hosted by an Indian American on Netflix and it also earned both a Peabody and an Emmy Award (npr.org). The series Patriot Act has covered many current and political issues across the world while immaculately tying in features of South Asian culture. Hasan comes from a muslim family who orginated in Uttar Pradesh, India, however, he was raised in America. This is precisely why Hasan’s funny stories and anecdotes from his childhood are ones many  South Asians growing up in America can relate to. 

Credit: Photo by Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9212655b) Comedian Hasan Minhaj attends the 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit, presented by the New York Comedy Festival and The Bob Woodruff Foundation, at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, in New York 11th Annual Stand Up for Heroes, New York, USA – 06 Nov 2017

While many people regard him as just another comedian, to us South Asian Americans, Hasan was one of the only representations we ever got in comedy and the whole mainstream entertainment industry as well. Many American shows and comedians are predominantly white, even in a country with such a diversity of ethnicities. While many of us first generation Americans are a part of the American culture, we also are part of the culture of our immigrant parents. It was essentially like being a part of both worlds, and because of this, it was hard to find media that accurately represented our experiences and identities. American media was too American and South Asian media was too South Asian. Hasan however blended both worlds and created a show where us South Asian Americans could truly belong, a show centered around non-white perspectives. It’s an incredible feeling finally listening to jokes about the merge of two cultures, something that we could finally connect to. 

I still remember the first time I saw Patriot Act. I was browsing through Netflix a few years ago, and decided to give this newly released show a chance. I was shocked to see someone who looked brown – someone from my culture. In one episode, Hasan was making jokes about how teachers would always pronounce his name wrong in school. I remember thinking, hey. That’s happened to me so many times! The more the show went on, the more I laughed, remembering times when I was in similar situations.He didn’t just stop at comedy. In that episode, Hasan went on to discuss the casual racism he faced, especially after 9/11, adding a more serious aspect to the show. That’s when I knew that this was about to become my new favorite show. The way Hasan could relate to me about growing up in a predominantly white country while laughing about things like the cultural standards and pressures in education, made me incredibly grateful for this small ounce of representation in the American entertainment industry.

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Not only was Hasan’s show funny and represented us, but it also educated young people on a variety of important current events and political issues. While politics can be very boring for some young people, Hasan manages to integrate humor in them and make situations more lighthearted while drawing viewers in and captivating their interests.  The show addressed a wide range of political topics including the opioid crisis, COVID-19, immigration, the broken police system, and many more. But to myself and many other viewers, it didn’t feel like we were watching politicians speak or teachers lecture. It felt as if we were watching something truly enjoyable.

It saddens me to see that Netflix cancelled such an incredible show created by an incredible man. As a South Asian woman growing up in America, Patriot Act was, and will always be, one of my favorite shows. I will always remember it because of Hasan, the way he captivates his audience and creates material that’s both funny and educational at the same time, something that is incredibly hard to do. Although the show is over, there’s all six seasons to watch on repeat on Netflix forever. Patriot Act might have reached its end, but Hasan’s and the show’s legacy will last forever.


SOURCES:

https://variety.com/2020/tv/news/hasan-minhaj-patriot-act-canceled-netflix-1234738562/

https://www.theverge.com/2020/8/20/21377250/patriot-act-hasan-minhaj-show-canceled-netflix

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-08-18/hasan-minhaj-patriot-act-canceled-netflix

https://www.npr.org/2020/08/19/903982641/it-really-just-felt-relatable-the-cultural-impact-of-hasan-minhajs-patriot-act


Anika Venkannagari

Anika is a sixteen year old junior at Novi High School with a strong interest in business. Some of her hobbies include traveling, playing the piano, and reading. She is an active member of her school, and is apart of clubs such as Student Council and DECA. She’s passionate about racial equality and feminism especially, and hopes to work towards ending racism in America.

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