Having been on the show created by her portrayer, Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project, for ten years, and having it go off the air five years ago, Indian-American doctor Mindy Lahiri will celebrate a twin milestone.
A daring move by the network at the time when the show premiered on Fox in September 2012, the network known for content based on whiteness and masculinity like The Simpsons, American Idol, and Glee, was made when the show dropped on Fox.
As a result of shows such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Dexter, what was known as “prestige TV” focused on exalting anti-heroes within a broader TV landscape. It wasn’t just the problematic white men they orbited, but also women who dared to question their actions.
With shows like Weeds, Damages, and Nurse Jackie all exploring women with complicated motivations, the anti-heroine was starting to get more attention at this time too. In addition to Gilmore Girls and Sex and the City, shows more closely aligned with The Mindy Project’s high feminism were also popular.
The Mindy Project differed greatly from all these shows in key ways: They focused on white women, who have traditionally been allowed to engage in more “bad behavior” than women of color. They also featured women whose brazen selfishness or immorality caught the attention of audience members at home — but was not widely discussed during the show itself.
We first met Mindy Lahiri when she was a “chubby 31-year-old,” not a model minority Indian doctor who crashed her ex’s wedding and lived life like it was a romantic movie. Besides her apartment and wardrobe being Carrie Bradshaw’s levels of enviable.
Mindy also has a Carrie Bradshaw level of selfishness and frivolity in her personality. In addition to spreading gossip, she enjoys reading, and fresh air believes recycling makes America appear poor, and that global warming is a myth.
It’s fair to say at least 50% of the show’s jokes revolve around either Mindy herself or those around her pointing out her more questionable qualities – as several characters point out throughout the show’s six seasons – because Mindy possesses the confidence, entitlement, and personality of a white man.
Several aspects of this type of character changed things for the show. It had previously been white male auteurs who created meta media about the creator/title character, like Seinfeld, Louie, and Curb Your Enthusiasm; when Mindy Kaling did it, her character faced obstacles that her predecessors did not.
Her imperfect self cannot be displayed: she faces constant pressures to fit into a quieter, more compliant version of herself because she is surrounded by expectations of what she should be like as someone who looks like her. Because of this, she has become more self-aware than Carrie Bradshaw, Nancy Botwin, and even Jerry Seinfeld.
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