There are a million reasons I like Mindy Kaling. She’s a young-ish woman, a little older than me, and she’s a writer who killed it on The Office (she started writing for that show when she was 24!), both as a writer and the hilarious Kelly Kapoor. She isn’t standard hot, she isn’t skinny and she isn’t white and yet, she’s succeeded! In Hollywood! SHE HAS HER OWN TV SHOW, which for one whole season was great! And funny! And smart!
But now…what is going on with sitcoms? 30 Rock is gone. Happy Endings is gone. Parks and Recreation is GOING ON HIATUS?! New Girl is suddenly about a relationship (bleh). The one thing we HuluPlus subscribers had left to laugh with was The Mindy Project. But it seems like that ship is sailing too.
What happened to Mindy? She used to be a smart, engaged, funny and sort of ridiculous character. One of my favorite things about her, as a character on her show, was that she could be an intelligent doctor who cared about things, while also being a romantic, while also being a pop culture addict. Real humans can be all of these things. In real life, a person can know about biology while also liking Nicki Minaj while also caring about Syria. It seems like in Season Two though, that slightly complicated, nuanced Mindy is gone. As is all nuance in the other characters and the situations they find themselves in. Mindy’s boyfriend went from being a kind of interesting character (a cool pastor who was down with dating a non-Christian) to your typical I’m-a-man-in-my-early-30s-I-need-to-find-myself character. There is Mindy herself, who now seems to be a completely self-involved girly-girl in an extreme sense. In last night’s episode for example, she took her adult male co-worker to lunch at some American Girl-esque restaurant because she wanted to get to know him better. It felt lazy and nonsensical.
Then there are the troubling plot lines. Date raping James Franco? Weird and also not funny. It didn’t reveal anything about humans–it just replayed the stupid idea that men can’t be sexually assaulted and when a woman takes advantage of them it is somehow hilarious and hot. Then there was the Morgan sexual harassment episode, which made light of another non-light issue. I am not a person who thinks these subjects should never be touched in jokes, but I think if you are going to write comedy about rape and sexual harassment it shouldn’t be at the expense of victims and it should also be funny.
In a way it feels like The Mindy Project has just turned into a vehicle with which to reinforce stereotypes from 1993. Her men are super macho, her girls are silly and her African-American nurse is an even weirder caricature, just a messy mix of stereotypes of African-American women. At this point, after each show, I just feel uncomfortable and I’m left wondering: I am missing something. Like, is this social commentary so biting it’s going over my head? Or is this show just stupid now?