OPINION: Psychoanalytic Analysis of Nasir Khan in the Night Of

OPINION: Psychoanalytic Analysis of Nasir Khan in the Night Of

*spoiler alert*

Crime has a continuous issue with projecting an unjust system in court. Furthermore, bias plays a huge role in downplaying certainty, as no thought is purely factual. The human mind digests information and reacts accordingly, sometimes unconsciously. The Night Of exemplifies a Pakistani man, Nasir Khan, who transforms his identity beyond stereotypical standards through a series of defense mechanisms sparked from his unthinkable situation as well as underlines the concept of uncertainty.

Nasir is the typical Pakistani student who is expected to get good grades and live a strict lifestyle, leaving no room to get into trouble with the law. His dad owns a taxi with two other people, which is the only way income is created for the family. Therefore, it is crucial for Nasir to do well in school in order to commit to a job that will eventually help support his family. What is expected of him outweighs a chance to discover who he really wants to become. But anxiety from the unknown, forces him to commit to his parent’s expectations. Nasir tutors for basketball players and one day is invited to a party by one of the players. Culturally, Pakistani’s resist partying which only assists Nasir to disobey the standard and satisfy himself with doing something that is looked down upon as an act of rebellion and a form of curiosity. A defense mechanism is pronounced as Nasir seeks to identify himself as someone who enjoys partying because it’s deemed as trendy. Although, he is still uneasily struggling with cementing an identity that purely defines him. As his friend cancels on picking Nasir up for the party, Nasir reacts by stealing his dad’s taxi out of desperation to mitigate his intense need to attend the party. Through a psychoanalytic analysis point, Nasir is fixated on refusing to submit into a boring night at home and instead obsesses on going out to party. However, he realizes his mistake with taking a taxi as he had to continuously reject people waving him down for a ride. Eventually, a young beautiful girl, Andrea Cornish, gets into the car which is the sole reason Nasir declines to tell her that he can’t take her anywhere because of his attraction to her. He drives her to a nearby river where she offers him Xanax. Since he has already broken rules he obligingly takes it and they go back to her place and take more drugs combined with alcohol which leads to him sleeping with her.

Through these unexpected actions, Nasir is diving into the unknown with no set routine for the night. He has an opportunity to identify himself as audacious and takes risks throughout the night which dangerously attacks his comfort zone. Nasir has transitioned from a mediocre personality to what he identifies as perilous. Additionally, through an analysis from Public Opinion, “there are at least two distinct selves, the public and regal self, the private and human” (Walter 1922). The decisions we make hold uncertainty because we are seeking to balance out our public and private selves. Therefore, Nasir’s hesitation proves to signify uncertainty in participating in things like knife roulette with Andrea. His private self curiously wants to play the game whilst his human instinct knows the possibility of a dangerous outcome. But, Nasir is making these decisions to purely express a daring personality which juxtaposes from his usually serious and boring personality.

The scene changes to Nasir waking up groggily from downstairs as he goes upstairs to say goodbye to Andrea. He then turns the light on and there lies Andrea with several stab wounds on her back with a splatter of vivid red blood devouring the bed and the walls. Appalled, Nasir runs downstairs in a panic outside to the taxi but realizes he left the key inside which prompts him to break back into the apartment and through his daze grabs the bloody knife that was used earlier in the night to play knife roulette. He understood that all fingers would point back to him as his fingerprints were on the knife. Eventually, Nasir is identified from a neighbor who saw him break into the apartment and he begins getting interrogated by the police. Through the accusations from the police officers, Nasir fails to defend his actions and instead stays in an eerie silence. Within the defense mechanism of denial, Nasir’s silence only provokes suspicion. Yet, Nasir’s vivid fear is the reason that he is motivated to act in silence as his anxiety transitions into pure shock. A series of events take place afterward as Nasir eventually ends up in prison.

At first, Nasir hardly accustoms to the prison life with his doe-like eyes and scrawny figure. This physical representation signifies his sheltered lifestyle as a Pakistani kid whose only main focus in life is school. Being forcibly shown the harshness and brutality of the prison atmosphere slices through Nasir’s bubble of a comfortable lifestyle. He’s revealed to what the world is capable of in terms of violence and hate. This atmosphere only motivates Nasir to also become violent and hateful through the process of identification from a psychoanalytic analysis point. An inmate who his held at a high esteem in the prison offers Nasir protection in return for doing favors like smuggling in drugs. Nasir declines as he is unwary and cannot make a decision on his own which signifies his own insecurity. He eventually befriends another inmate who is doing time for murdering a white man who raped and killed the inmate’s fiancé. As Nasir confesses that he is wholly innocent, the inmate becomes angry as he believes Nasir to have killed and raped Andrea and throws acid at Nasir. It is at this moment that Nasir feels a rage which causes him to go back to the inmate who offered him protection, Freddy Night.

Freddy Night (Michael Williams) and Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed)

From the beginning of the series, this is the one undeniable decision Nasir makes with assurance. Uncertainty has been eradicated with a confident move sparked from fury. As human nature, we make definitive decisions with the assistance and pressure of strong emotions due to instinct. In this case, Nasir makes it clear that he wants to harm another inmate. Freddy orders the inmate to be beaten up in the bathroom as he directs Nasir to put in a few punches. Nasir delicately nudges the inmate with a weak kick as Freddy fuels Nasir’s mind with reasons to be angry, concluding in him to severely beat up the inmate. In this moment Nasir identifies himself as someone who is capable of harm, exterminating his pathetic and frail personality from his life before prison. The defense mechanism of identification again plays a part in Nasir’s anxious efforts to defend himself in prison, engendering him to become aggressive instead of passive.Uncertainty is also emphasized in the criminal justice system. There is heavy bias on convicting black Americans of a crime a lot easier than any other ethnicity. The fact that the show compares an ethnicity which has an extremely low rate of crime to that of a high rate, correspondingly confirms how corrupt the justice system is. Although the foreboding amount of evidence placed against Nasir is enough to put him away for murder, people second-guess his innocence because of the fact that he is a Pakistani. If he were a black individual, he would have been put away immediately, as prejudicial standards are underscored. The deeply rooted stereotypical standards of ethnicity play a massive role in how we treat one another. Furthermore, the callous nature of prison is emphasized with the degradation of innocence through the situation with Nasir Khan. However, it is beneficially shown how the psychoanalytic analysis of defense mechanisms is used in order to develop an ego strong enough to alleviate an anxious mind from Nasir being in prison.

Uncertainty is also emphasized in the criminal justice system. There is heavy bias on convicting black Americans of a crime a lot easier than any other ethnicity. The fact that the show compares an ethnicity which has an extremely low rate of crime to that of a high rate, correspondingly confirms how corrupt the justice system is. Although the foreboding amount of evidence placed against Nasir is enough to put him away for murder, people second-guess his innocence because of the fact that he is a Pakistani. If he were a black individual, he would have been put away immediately, as prejudicial standards are underscored. The deeply rooted stereotypical standards of ethnicity play a massive role in how we treat one another. Furthermore, the callous nature of prison is emphasized with the degradation of innocence through the situation with Nasir Khan. However, it is beneficially shown how the psychoanalytic analysis of defense mechanisms is used in order to develop an ego strong enough to alleviate an anxious mind from Nasir being in prison.

Through Sigmund Freud’s take on psychoanalytic analysis, defense mechanisms are “techniques the ego employs to control instincts and ward off anxieties” (Berger 2005). Nasir had anxiety from the beginning of the show towards the end which slowly thinned out as he mustered up a resilience and fierceness acquired from his time in prison. The decisions he made in prison were to ward off anxiety. He allowed his instincts to develop a hostile and venomous personality. Yet, as Nasir has conjured up physical and emotional strength, he is still gaslighted by the ample amount of evidence presented, as the foreboding power of uncertainty and anxiety snakes into his mind as he stated that he didn’t know if he raped and killed a girl. This statement alone should have knocked Nasir over into being charged with murder and assault, yet half of the jury goes with their gut that he was innocent. Therefore, “we shall assume that what each man does is based not on direct and certain knowledge” (Walter 1922). The fifty-fifty break-up of the jury verdict parallels with the concept and critical complexities of uncertainty, despite factual evidence. Therefore, we rely on instinct and human knowledge from the mass media to make our decisions, regardless of factual evidence.One may assume that Nasir has a loss of identity due to his time in prison when in reality he has discovered a darkness in his personality which overpowers the vague personality he initially had masked on. Uncertainty has forced him to acquire the identity that everyone treats him as, a criminal. Even though Nasir is innocent, when he is released from jail and goes back to his hometown, the community looks down on him as if he did commit the crime. Nasir begins buying drugs as it has now become an addiction and is familiar to him. His previous life before prison has evaporated as he uses a defense mechanism of fixation to receive temporary satisfaction from consuming drugs as well as delving into identifying himself as a troubled and sinister person. Although he did not commit the crime, people still treated him as if he did rape and murder Andrea, as the accusations were enough. The accusations projected uncertainty amongst the entirety of the community to be against Nasir. The human mind has wrapped its head around viewing Nasir under a judgmental eye because of the daunting shadow of ambiguity.

One may assume that Nasir has a loss of identity due to his time in prison when in reality he has discovered a darkness in his personality which overpowers the vague personality he initially had masked on. Uncertainty has forced him to acquire the identity that everyone treats him as, a criminal. Even though Nasir is innocent, when he is released from jail and goes back to his hometown, the community looks down on him as if he did commit the crime. Nasir begins buying drugs as it has now become an addiction and is familiar to him. His previous life before prison has evaporated as he uses a defense mechanism of fixation to receive temporary satisfaction from consuming drugs as well as delving into identifying himself as a troubled and sinister person. Although he did not commit the crime, people still treated him as if he did rape and murder, Andrea, as the accusations were enough. The accusations projected uncertainty amongst the entirety of the community to be against Nasir. The human mind has wrapped its head around viewing Nasir under a judgmental eye because of the daunting shadow of ambiguity.Uncertainty from those we love and trust feeds into tearing up our own self-confidence. At one point through Nasir’s trial, his mom storms out of the courtroom when a shocking piece of evidence is discovered emphasizing how his own mother does not believe his innocence. The dejection of motherly love slashes against Nasir as he begins to second-guess his own self. When he is released from jail, his mother overcompensates her harsh actions by overdramatizing her pampering on Nasir as he then rejects their relationship. His own mother’s uncertainty and misjudgment contradicted his respect for her.

Uncertainty from those we love and trust feeds into tearing up our own self-confidence. At one point through Nasir’s trial, his mom storms out of the courtroom when a shocking piece of evidence is discovered emphasizing how his own mother does not believe his innocence. The dejection of motherly love slashes against Nasir as he begins to second-guess his own self. When he is released from jail, his mother overcompensates her harsh actions by overdramatizing her pampering on Nasir as he then rejects their relationship. His own mother’s uncertainty and misjudgment contradicted his respect for her.

A coldness is captured through the flaws of uncertainty as we make decisions emotionally due to human nature. When we make choices in life, we are unaware if these actions are right or wrong as facts are disregarded. Furthermore, through a series of defense mechanisms, we unconsciously make decisions in order to mitigate anxiety. To an extent, everyone holds a measure of insecurity which, whether we notice or not, plays a huge part in our decision-making. However, decisions based on instinct are often the rawest, unfiltered and truthful.

 

Berger, Arthur Asa. Media analysis techniques. Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1991. Print.

Lippmann, Walter. Public opinion. London: Allen & Unwin, 1922.

About Amina Khan

Aspiring writer/journalist from Dallas, Texas. Hopes to project unbiased news and discuss topics which don’t reach popular news outlets. Enjoys writing topics on international news, TV shows, and trending news. Hobbies include oil painting portraits, Arabic calligraphy, and blogging about traveling around the world.

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