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Retta Doesn’t Understand Why the Aziz Ansari Thing was Even a Story. We’ll Explain.

Retta on NBC's 'Good Girls'

It’s hard when someone you care about has done something wrong. No one wants to believe or think too hard about someone they know and love doing something terrible. I understand that. But wanting something to not be true doesn’t make it untrue. In a recent moderated discussion, Retta talked about her friend and former co-star, Aziz Ansari, and didn’t seem to understand what the big deal was. Let me see if I can explain.

At the Vulture Festival Retta gave a talk titled “An Afternoon with Retta,” during which she spoke with Vulture’s Alex Jung about things like her new NBC show, Good Girls, as well as her new book, So Close to Being the Shit, Y’all Don’t Even Know. She also discussed her friend and former Parks and Recreation co-star, Aziz Ansari, and the allegations of sexual misconduct that were brought up against him at the beginning of this year. Her remarks definitely gave me some pause.

“I feel like a lot of people and a lot of other outlets were like, ‘Why did you even run this story?'”, she said, calling into question why even ran the story in the first place. “I’m giving my personal opinion, and I don’t want fucking people coming at me. You know what I mean? But I feel like I’ve been on that date so many times. I was like, ‘If you haven’t been on that date twice, are you even living a life?’”

There is definitely valid criticism to be made surrounding Babe’s handling of this particular story. They weren’t necessarily wearing their best journalism hat in that moment. However, it’s Retta saying ‘If you haven’t been on that date twice, are you even living a life?’ that troubles me.

It’s her saying that, and other women having that perspective, that makes talking about what Ansari did so relevant. Because it is common, but it shouldn’t be. Coercive sexual experiences certainly shouldn’t be expected and held up as the mark of a life well-lived. This is very different from a “bad sex” story. Sometimes, you have consensual sex that’s not great. Maybe something funny happened, or maybe it was just terrible, but you can laugh about it. You wanted to be there. You didn’t do anything you didn’t want to do. It was just…bad. Sure, that happens, and that’s not front-page news.

That’s not what “Grace’s” story was. “Grace” brought to light the ways in which far too many men expect certain things from a sexual encounter and find ways to manipulate those things from a partner without taking their partners wants and needs into account. That is not, nor will it ever be okay. The fact that women have become resigned to that over centuries of society centering male pleasure doesn’t change that.

So, Retta, wherever you are, that’s why Babe ultimately run the story. Well, I’m sure they ran it in the way they did for clicks, too. But the reason why people thought it important to talk about? The reason why my opinion of Ansari has changed? It’s because he did something he and all of society thought was okay, but was not. And we all need to examine that.

Had your boy not been a celebrity, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but he is, and I’m glad. Because too many non-celebrities get away with this behavior without being forced to examine it. If it takes a celebrity to be made an example of in order to force that wider conversation? So be it.

(via Vulture, image: NBC)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.