Why Mindy Kaling is important
This is Mindy Kaling in LA pretending to be NY shooting her pilot. And great timing too after Vanity Fair’s ridiculous cover yesterday featuring women in television but only under the covers. Click here to revisit that post. It’s enough to make Lee Aronsohn hire another stripper to star in the season finale of Two And A Half Men. Hopefully she’ll spend the entire time in Ashton Kutcher’s bed as he spits insults in her face, one after another, while the audience laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.
I’ve heard mixed reviews about the script for Mindy’s show. But we all know that a lot can happen between what’s written and what gets shot. God I hope it’s good. Really, really good. I hope another female writer can star in her own vehicle. And a female writer who looks like Mindy - not blonde, not fair and cream skinned, not Hollywood bodied. Then we’ll see how Vanity Fair will try to lighten her the way they did Sofia Vergara. Or maybe they’ll ignore her altogether.
On New Girl, Zooey Deschanel’s best friend is played by Hannah Simone, half Indian, half German, full gorgeous. Which is great. The representation is great. But... naturally her character, Cece, is a model. It doesn’t mean Simone isn’t interesting. But her way in the door, the job description, is still based on attractiveness. There’s a dehumanisation that comes from a focus on beauty. It makes it too easy for them. It’s “let’s put her on tv because she’s hot” as opposed to “let’s put her on tv because she’s relatable”. Certainly not the way Mindy Kaling is relatable.
Does Mindy Kaling want to be the poster girl for cultural diversity on television? I don’t know. I would think that’s really unfair, on top of all her responsibilities, and the pressure of delivering on these opportunities, to think about how her success might be a solid step forward in providing another reflection into which they can imagine themselves. But that would be, undeniably, a benefit to her achievement. I go back to my point about why Willow Smith should be Annie the orphan. Because young black girls need to be able to see themselves in those kinds of stories. And in Mindy then, we might all be able to see ourselves in her stories - women from different backgrounds managing careers, relationships, friends, stripped of the Hollywood homogenisation that has so far been the primary representation of that universal experience.
How would that look? What would that show be about? In this article, I initially wanted to say that I hoped that we’d see less “shopping and shoes”, the frivolous themes that ended up, after being embraced by the MiniVan Majority, characterising Sex & The City. Some say that preoccupation ended up obscuring what was truly intended to be the heart of that show, and certainly so by the time it became two silly movies. But I think I might be OK if Mindy’s show isn’t perfect. Parks & Recreation wasn’t perfect at the beginning. Parks & Rec was given time to grow though. And it did. So I don’t think the issue here is whether or not Mindy has to be great out of the gate. What we need to watch for is whether or not they’ll extend her the patience to get there.