Mindy and Me
hey everyone. This is an article that I wrote for a new zine about women in popular and alternative culture by Elly (when it’s out I’ll for sure post the link because it’s gonna be awesome) a while ago, so apologies if some of the details are a little out of date but I just really wanted to share this with y’all.
- Lauren xo
These days, I get really excited every Wednesday. In general, Wednesdays aren’t really that special, unless you count the fact that they’re halfway to Saturday, but since late last year, I always feel kinda stoked on a Tuesday night because I know that the next day there’ll be a shiny new episode of The Mindy Project ready for me to watch.
The Mindy Project, if you don’t know, is a really cool TV show written by and starring Mindy Kaling (she used to play Kelly Kapoor in The US Office, and before leaving at the end of Season 8 she had also become one of the show’s executive producers and wrote some of its funniest ever episodes). It is about Mindy Lahiri, who is a gynaecologist in New York City, and her seemingly never-ending quest to ~find love in the Big Apple~. If this sounds like the sort of dumbass film you’d expect to find showing at your local multiplex (“Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams as you’ve seen them so many times before” booms the imaginary trailer), then that is kind of the point: one of the show’s best ongoing jokes is Mindy’s belief in artificial romantic comedies which is pretty much always thwarted: her attempts to “Pretty Woman” a male prostitute go horribly (understandably), and when she does find a guy who’ll cry at her favourite movies with her, he has to go back to the Army the next day.
The Mindy Project, then, is a show which understands that life isn’t perfect. In particular, it understands that people aren’t perfect, and that, because they’re people, women aren’t perfect. We don’t behave perfectly, and we don’t all look ‘perfect’ (whatever ‘looking perfect’ even MEANS), but that doesn’t mean that we’re not good and kind and compassionate, and the show highlights that those are the things that really count. This is a message which The Mindy Project manages to communicate to millions of viewers, but that’s just one of the reasons why I admire Mindy Kaling so much.
A couple of years back, when she was still on The Office, she wrote a book called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) which is about her life and her past and her career and the funny, stupid stuff she thinks about and makes lists of. Recalling reading this book for the first time is weirdly emotional for me because it was the first time I had ever discovered a woman who I genuinely felt was a hero to me. I had admired lots of women in the past (and continue to do so), but I’d never felt a resonance like the one I felt when I was reading about Mindy Kaling in her own cool, hilarious words. On a personal level, I think I feel so strongly about Mindy because she has achieved goals that I share, and I am in love with her ability to be herself, which is something that I am still learning. On a more general, social level, however, I think she is doing some really important and interesting stuff which I enjoy a lot, too.
Kind of gobsmackingly, she is the first Indian-American (let alone the first Indian-American woman!) to star in her own show on American network TV. This in itself is obviously trailblazing, especially in the white, male dominated arena of comedy. Her mass appeal clearly comes from her likability and genuine sharp wit: Mindy Kaling shows that ‘being funny’ isn’t reserved for one particular kind of person - it takes all sorts.
Also, one of the things that is often commented on in The Mindy Project is Mindy’s wardrobe choices. She always looks straight up fabulous (I wish my gynaecologist wore that many sequins) and despite the fact that she’s far from size zero, a lot of people agree. This points to an emerging body-positivity amongst viewers that you don’t really get with other shows wherein the women come closer to beauty ideals. Mindy wears clothes that are cute, and that she obviously likes and feels comfortable in, and people think she looks slammin’. This, obviously, is an awesome message in times where women’s appearances can be so harshly judged against an unattainable beauty standard - the visibility of women like Mindy Kaling smashes these standards from within and shows people that they can be happy in their bodies by basically just wearing what they want.
For these reasons and like a million more, Mindy Kaling is my personal hero. She is a woman who, whilst also embodying femininity on her own terms, symbolises feminism, equality and success; she is funny and observant and tremendously talented, and, lest we forget, she wrote the episode of The Office where Michael Scott grills his foot on a George Foreman. Mindy, for that and for everything, I’m forever in your debt.
- words by Lauren ~mwah~