In 2012, when I found out that the Mindy Kaling landed a show, I was ecstatic. At the time, I was still in the Scandal and Nicole Beharie in Sleepy Hollow bliss. When I first started watching Kaling’s show, The Mindy Project, I was willing to ignore some of the jokes that didn’t land or the undeveloped characters because it’s still a struggle for people of color to be represented on television. Now almost four years later, my enthusiasm and dedication for The Mindy Project has disintegrated. I am left wishing that the show was canceled because it doesn’t even try to confront race.
Throughout the seasons of The Mindy Project, I wasn’t sure what I was watching. The show went from a comedy about Mindy navigating her life while being a successful doctor, to her working on her failed romantic relationships, to her having a pregnancy, and then to her dealing with being a single mom. Despite the show’s willingness to take risks in putting Mindy in different romantic situations with men who were not worth loving, the show struggled to break free from racial caricatures or stereotypes.
In the first season of the show, Mindy proclaimed that she was a woman of color. Every opportunity she got, she claimed she loved Beyoncé, Shonda Rhimes, and any other people or things that she could use to prove her version of “wokeness”. While proclaiming her love her aspects of black culture, she refused to include other people of color in powerful positions. She placed white women with blue eyes and blood hair on a pedestal. Like other shows, diversity in The Mindy Project is only used as a punchline.
In the show, Tamara, the black nurse character, always complains about working and has an attitude problem. So far in four seasons, the only love interests for Mindy and other characters are white men. When a new white love interest is introduced into the show, I am not surprised but I am disappointed. By refusing to include men of color as love interests, the show tells people of color that their love is not worthy of being depicted on television. Hearing this message from a show, which was created by a woman of color, forces the audience to reexamine what it means to represent people of color in the media.
Over time I realized that, as a viewer, making excuses for the show’s blatant avoidance of race only added more fuel to the anti-diversity fire. Although Kaling may use her identity as a woman of color to attract more viewers, she’s not interested in examining what it means to be woman of color who has the power to decide who and what gets represented on television.
The Mindy Project shows the life of a woman who happens to be Asian-American but is still trying to fit into a white world. She tries to run away from her identity but only comes back to it for a quick laugh. Like Sleepy Hollow, the show had potential, but as a black viewer, I can’t keep waiting for shows to become what they never intended to be.
PC: Courtesy of Netflix/Mindy Project ad