“The Mindy Project”–Comedy and Contradiction

Watch it while you can: Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, which premiered last week to mixed reviews, may or may not have a long life. Most of Kaling’s hardcore fans watched it online before it was on TV, so it probably has more devoted viewers than the disappointing ratings it received suggest. But FOX clearly scheduled the show directly in between two new episodes of its hit series The New Girl, hoping for more viewers than it managed to snag.

Call me a skeptic, but what are the chances of a sit-com that represents the many and often contradictory layers of contemporary American womanhood becoming a big success? For many, a character who is at once invested in doing good, succeeding in her career, finding a partner and having sex creates too much cognitive dissonance to resolve.

Mindy Lahiri, the central character, is an ob-gyn in private practice who wants to make money and yet can’t say no to a patient in need. She also likes sleeping with men to whom she is attracted regardless of whether they are capable of having a relationship, while she loves romantic comedies and is determined to find her “one.”

The Huffington Post‘s Maureen Ryan misunderstands the premise, calling it “muddled” and “not cogent,” and she deems the central character “off-putting.” It is indeed hard to reconcile the notion that a woman might be willing to help patients without insurance, focus on earning money, look for a romantic partner and be able to enjoy sex with attractive men, yet in the course of 22 minutes Mindy manages to do all of those things. In fact, it is her being pulled in so many directions that makes for the show’s best comedy.

That may be because these are exactly the kinds of contradictions most women live with every day. Look around you: How many women do you know who engage in nonprofit or volunteer work while devoting themselves to careers in which they hold positions of power and are well paid, and meanwhile love sex and hope to find someone with whom to share a committed relationship? My guess is, quite a few.

So get them to watch The Mindy Project. They will probably enjoy it, and they could give this historic sit-com–the first to be written by and starring an Indian American–legs.

Oh, and while you’re watching, check out Kaling’s legs: She’s not ashamed of her body, so it’s no surprise that she’s created a character who isn’t ashamed either–and it’s no surprise that in the first episode that character is insulted by a male coworker about her weight. Who among us hasn’t been?

The Mindy Project is on FOX Tuesdays at 8:30 pm.

Comments

  1. Sorry, this show just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it is because I am an OB/Gyn. I don’t find it funny and I find the character annoying.

  2. I loved her in the office but from the description of this show, it sounds like something i’d rather not watch. When are they gonna come up with a show that’s about an UN-successful, NOT wealthy woman who can’t find a good job and doesn’t like to just mess around and hop beds (not every woman is like this! me, included) and has to deal with the way this sexist world treats her. The whole lustful rich chick just reminds of sex & the city….hopefully it doesn’t suck as much as that but to each her own! It seems like only very rich, privileged women like to sleep around with attractive men-these shows would have u think. Some of us actually don’t enjoy this and find it very empty. I find that its more common that women don’t have a lot of money than those that do and I’d find it refreshing to watch that show. But maybe i’ll watch it just to support her and who knows, maybe i’ll like it?

    • I feel you. Do you watch 30 Rock? The woman lead in that (Tinay Fey) doesn’t sleep around, and she’s super smart and successful without being obsessed with money. The lead in New Girl (Zoe Deschanel) just got fired, and although the character has decided to try an unemotional sexual relationship, it’s really not in her character and I’m guessing she’ll realize it’s not for her. Of course they are all privileged – even the fired character – and that’s still a problem, but at least there’s finally more than one option.

      • I really like New Girl because all the characters are Feminists. Whereas with 30 Rock, I feel like Tina always lets Alec win every battle, and despite her accomplishments, she never respects herself.

        Whitney is a pretty funny show about a woman that sorta half ass works, not sure if it’s been picked up.

  3. I’m excited about the show, but not so excited to see (via a picture Mindy Kaling posted on twitter) that of the 9 writers for the show, only 2 are women (including Kaling). Bummer.

    • I saw that. It’s also problematic that as far as I can tell from the picture, none of the other writers are people of color. But I hope if she succeeds it will open more doors for more people.

  4. I thought it was funny until the very end where they made light of domestic violence. I don’t care what the situation is- abuse isn’t a joke.

  5. mindy is profoundly focused on being a thin, white girl who is adored, and that seems to be the driving measure of the character’s success.

    Her “jokes” about the woman covered up from nearly head to toe were mean spirited and revealed a callousness & self disgust that I found totally anti-woman.

    Her other jokes always give men the benefit of the doubt.

    I found it shallow and Mindy Kaling revealed her glaring weaknesses with this project.

  6. Having been without TV for 2 years now, I can honestly say that I cannot find a reason to own one. What positive and uplifting shows are on TV can also be found online today. The incessant fear-mongering so we will buy something is just too much, not to mention the violence and sexual abuse of women.

    The magic box is a distraction from real life, and we, especially the women of the world, have much better ways to spend our time.

    Give it a shot. Unplug. See how you feel!

  7. Mindy is a silly pudding. She could no more be a doctor than a cat could fly. Why is “New Girl” so endearing and Mindy so irritating? Poor writing and character development. “New Girl” thinks, learns and grows, while Mindy flops, goo goos and misses the point. She acts like an idiot and no one wants to identify with that.

  8. New Girl. Please–when will Hollywood stop calling women girls? For that matter when will women stop referring to each other as girls?
    There’s a reason black men resented by called boys–and it’s the same reason Hollywood calls women girls. It’s lack of respect.

  9. Honestly, I don’t know if this is necessarily an issue with portraying real women with complex lives and people don’t want to see that, but maybe it’s just not that funny? I found the humour mostly bland and some of it just kind of tasteless. I’m interested to keep watching and see where it goes, but I don’t think it’s a very strong show, just as a show. And I’m disappointed because I usually find Mindy Kaling hilarious and relatable, but not really in this show. I think maybe the acting isn’t great? Everyone seems really character-y, and not real people-y. I don’t know, I’m just not really a big fan.

  10. I think that the show will have huge success, and it will snag a second season commitment very soon. Kaling deserves her writing and lead role, and a bunch of my coworkers at DISH think that she has been ready since the middle seasons of The Office. I’m just glad that I have a Hopper, because I can use its feature, Auto Hop, to opt out entirely of the commercials. I can usually save enough time to squeeze in an additional episode of something, during my sweatpants and DVR days.

  11. I wanted to thank this article for articulating exactly what I have been loving about this show. Mindy’s contradictions are precisely what make her real and relatable. I find the writing sharp and funny and I enjoy how the show both uses and subverts rom-com tropes. I also don’t see where the “narcissist” critique is coming from – Mindy is a little self-focused, but nothing unbearable. She makes flippant, funny remarks, but ultimately does come through for her co-workers when it counts.

  12. I actually enjoy this show and find it quite relateable. for those who are sick of “sex and the city” type shows, this show is not like that and you should give it a chance and not just read a description and scoff upon it.

    i love her character. i’m glad we’re seeing a cute and bubbly and somewhat of an airhead doctor. i’ve gone to school with many brilliant people’s whose personalities are not always so “stuffy” or even “businesslike”.

    hope it gets renewed

  13. I’m confident the last two comments came from writers of the show given the contrast between those and all of the previous comments. All of which, even if they give credence to Mindy Kaling’s comic sensibility, admit that the show is shallow superficial crap.

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