The Mindy Project embarrasses me as an Indian American woman
Years after listening to a friend praise this show, I finally watched The Mindy Project—and honestly, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time. Created by Mindy Kaling, this show focuses on the journey of main character Mindy Lahiri as she tackles her late thirties living it up in New York City. Kaling has made a show so cringey that I could only watch five out of the total six seasons. And, if I have learned anything about Kaling’s repetitive and mediocre writing style in the many episodes I have watched so far, I don’t believe I am missing anything crucial by not watching the last season.
When I started The Mindy Project, I went in with very high hopes. Having seen Master of None, I was expecting Kaling to play a more realistic and relatable character like Aziz Ansari’s role as Dev Shah. Furthermore, I was excited to see a female lead with a similar cultural background like myself. Her parents are immigrants just like mine. Certainly, this meant that Lahiri was going to be portrayed as respectful and somewhat knowledgeable of her Indian heritage. But after two seasons, it became clear that any character development for Lahiri and the supporting characters was short-lived and superficial.
When asked in an interview with The Today Show about the importance of her role on The Mindy Project, Kaling responded, “I realized that there was no one really that looked like me, so I was representing a larger group of women. And, I have to be careful about it because it’s a huge responsibility.” While Kaling honestly acknowledged the lack of female Indian representation in American television, she very poorly executes this so-called “careful” role model representation when playing Lahiri. As an Indian American woman myself, I was embarrassed—to say the least—at how appalling Kaling’s character is.
Here are a few examples of why I can’t stand Mindy Lahiri: she is mildly racist about cultures she’s not familiar with, rude to people she works with, very inconsistent with her responsibilities as an obstetrician-gynecologist, jumps from boyfriend to boyfriend so frequently that there is no reason to get attached to the current one (you know it’s going to be over soon), and comes off as very apprehensive towards Indian culture. Of these many flaws, the last one upsets me the most.
If there was even one other American show that had an Indian female lead, I would be less critical of The Mindy Project. We live in a very diverse country, but this isn’t necessarily reflected in our entertainment industry. I am tired of seeing either ditzy or ridiculously smart depictions of Indian women on television. There has to be a more realistic middle range of how Indian women act that can be represented instead. Many Indian Americans grow up balancing two different cultures, which can lead to beautiful, complex stories that deserve to be shown as such.
By no means am I discrediting Kaling as an artist or a person of color. She has earned each role she has worked in, whether that is serving as an actress or a writer. I just wish Kaling had considered her female Indian American viewers more closely when writing the character of Mindy Lahiri.
With that said, if you are looking for some cheap laughs and don’t want to think too hard about any serious issues, check out The Mindy Project on Hulu. Maybe you won’t be as disappointed as I was.