Mindy Kaling recently sat down with Vogue India to discuss COVID, quarantine, and her daughter, as well as to reflect on her career.
Namely, Mindy revisited her eponymous show The Mindy Project. Although the show obviously starred an Indian-American woman (aka Mindy herself), the show wasn’t focused solely on her ethnicity.
But according to Mindy, a lot of the white execs at Fox weren’t so keen on the idea that her ethnicity would take a backseat in the show. She told Vogue India,
“For a lot of white executives at the TV networks, they kind of wanted it to be [ethnicity-driven]. They felt more comfortable with it being about an Indian woman who felt out of place in America, educating white people.”
“It’s not that I haven’t felt out of place in America as a dark-skinned Indian woman, but it was not the most interesting thing.”
And it wasn’t as if the show never addressed Mindy’s identity. The Mindy Project referenced it here and there — like when another practice tried to poach her solely to add “some spice” to their practice.
And then, of course, there was the infamous “Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man” episode, which reimagined how Mindy would have gotten ahead in her career had she been — you guessed it — a white man.
But largely the show was about Mindy, her relationships, her friendships, her career, her motherhood journey, and her iconic wardrobe.
Unfortunately, Mindy feels that she may have let down some of her fans by making those choices. She said,
“I love those kinds of stories [that are ethnicity-driven], and I think there should be more of them, and I might even do a show like that, but I do think people are surprised and put off that I didn’t embrace those kinds of stories early on in my career.”
She also acknowledged how meaningful that representation can be to people.
But stories about WOC living their lives are just as meaningful. Characters of color deserve to be well-rounded and they deserve to be more than their ethnicity. Because, as Mindy said, that’s not always the most interesting thing about someone.
On top of that, it’s not Mindy nor any WOC’s job to “educate white people,” as the Hollywood execs had wanted her to do.
The Mindy Project was, and remains, an excellent show that had the perfect ratio of silly vs. serious stories. It addressed important topics but also allowed Mindy to be her ridiculous, self-absorbed self. With the exception of the absolutely atrocious series finale, I personally wouldn’t change a thing.