The latest episode of The Mindy Project decided to take on the daunting topic of intersectionality with “Mindy Lahiri is a White Man.”
The premise is simple, and unfortunately all too common: Mindy loses out a second job interview despite all the white men in her life proceeding to the next round. She goes to bed wishing she were a white man herself and viola! The next morning she wakes up as Michael, a divorcee and father of three.
She soon learns many things in her life are easier as a white man including hailing a taxi, masturbating, and yes, landing that second job interview. However it’s not long before that white guilt settles in and she realizes she must help an Asian female colleague get that second interview too.
The most profound moment comes at the end when, after being unsuccessful in her attempts to help the colleague, Mindy realizes that even being in a position of privilege isn’t enough to counterbalance a society built on racism, and even worse, that having it so easy made her likely to forget how hard others have it.
That’s all well and good, but did they take it far enough?
The episode was far from shocking and was even banal at times. Sexism and racism in the work force shouldn’t be anything new to anyone, nor should it be surprising that a white man could hail a cab more easily.
Of course, that begs the question, where exactly is the line? If The Mindy Project didn’t take it far enough, then how far would we have to go?
Earlier this year, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia attempted to answer that question. The first episode of the season showed the entire white cast turned black. Even though the show earned its reputation for pushing the line, some thought the episode went too far.
Of course, shows like Black-ish attempt to show intersectionality in a more realistic light. Almost every episode deals with what it’s like to be a black American in the 21st century, with some moments focusing on Rainbow’s experience as a biracial woman.
But all these TV shows are simply mirroring every day life for some people.
The episode of The Mindy Project brings to mind a recent experiment done by two colleagues — one male and one female — who traded email signatures for a week. The male colleague soon learned that he had a significantly more difficult time dealing with clients and getting anything done at all. When the two of them went to their boss at the end of the week, the boss shrugged them off, just like the interview board did in The Mindy Project.
So if the simple lessons in The Mindy Project episode, just like those of the real-life experiment, are enough to start the conversation and stop us from shrugging our shoulders, then they did their job. And honestly, what more could we ask from a 25-min TV show?
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she’s not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.