A lot of us are excited for Mindy Kaling’s new show, The Mindy Project, both because Mindy Kaling is hilarious and because we’re looking forward to a new prime-time sitcom featuring a smart, successful, and funny woman of color.
The show follows Mindy Lahiri on a search for love amidst a hectic personal and professional life. She seeks, as the show’s website describes, “her romantic comedy ending.” In fact, much of the description on the website details Mindy’s search for “the perfect guy,” to the point where I could imagine a person being bothered by it. The fact that the motivations and personalities of female characters in film and television tend to revolve around the search for a man, after all, is one of the myriad things that feminists take issue with in popular media. However, I would call these complaints symptomatic of our previously discussed concerns with third wave feminism and its tendency to ignore race.
White women may have seen the story of successful young women like themselves making their way in the world, having fun with their friends, and trying to find love along the way plenty of times, but rarely are women of color allowed to be so “frivolous.” The stars of the romantic comedies that the main character Mindy loves so much are almost universally White women, but as this show makes clear, we have those stories to tell, too. In fact, Mindy seems primed for the role of America’s Sweetheart with her charm, smarts, and wit.
The trailer portrays her as likeable, funny, and sweet, an impression which the pilot (now available to watch on Hulu) firmly supports. The supporting cast is also solid, with Chris Messina and Ed Weeks providing excellent and sexy foils to our lively main character. However, it’s clear that Mindy is the star and the driving force for the show’s humor (and we’re totally fine with that!)
All things considered, The Mindy Project looks like a warm and smart addition to the Fox lineup. It also gives me hope that we may be experiencing another shift in television trends. There appears to be a resurgence in varied representation of women of color, similar to those golden days of the 1990s and early 2000s, when women of color were the stars of multiple popular shows, like Girlfriends and Living Single. Mindy Kaling may not be the next Meg Ryan, but she certainly seems up to the task. Isn’t it time women of color had a similar icon to represent them, including their sillier rom-com tendencies?