Mindy Kaling could very easily be my best friend. (If she lived in my town and we ran in the same circles. Details.) She could very easily be many people’s best friend, I think, and that’s what makes her work. Her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), is relatable even without being familiar. She grew up a pop culture-obsessed, slightly brainiac child who had her fair share of social problems. Her anecdotes about her time spent with other writers and behind-the-scenes folk alone make this book worth reading (including her brushes with SNL in her early days).
She then made her way to The Office, which has been a golden ticket for almost everyone associated with it. She was an actress, writer, and sometimes-director on The Office before leaving to start her own show this year. Kaling, better known to some as the Ryan-obsessed Kelly Kippor on The Office, now has a new show of her own that is growing into its own, aptly titled The Mindy Project. Actually, let’s just call her Mindy. (Kaling is just too impersonal.)
She has a host of familiar faces on the show, some as regulars and some as guests (her Office co-star Ellie Kemper, aka Erin the Receptionist, showed up to confront her about their shared boyfriend in one episode; True Blood’s Anna Camp plays her best friend; The League’s Mark Duplass is a potential love interest).
She is filling a part of the niche Sex and the City opened up and left behind, the one where you can imagine yourself being one of the girls in the group, enjoying the rational thinking and irrational thinking, and all the space in between. (Although I must say that while enjoying Sex and the City reruns used to be a favorite pastime, I know am starting to realize how insane those four ladies really were. But that’s another blog post.) But the voice comes from a similar place, a place of knowing you are worth it. A place of knowing that it is possible to have a career, love, and fun clothes:
And while the styles are different: Carrie was lofty and not such a nose-to-the-grindstone type, while Mindy is honest and an ob/gyn, they are heading toward the same place. But a post-recession woman in the 21st century is more like Mindy, someone who doesn’t rely on anyone else to take care of her (literally or figuratively).
So have we moved away from the SATC aesthetic and philosophy and made our way to the more mature, more honest Mindy-type world? The one where people have families (where were any of their families, honestly, besides when they went to Miranda’s mom’s funeral?), and jobs, and, oh, I don’t know, things that get in the way of hanging out in the apartment all day and going to bars every night? (And they didn’t even have pets, aside from Miranda’s poor cat. Droid people. Anyway.)
Mindy’s show is growing with every episode, which is why it has taken me so long to voice an opinion about it, even to myself. The first few episodes were a little cliche, a little too rote to be enjoyable. And then somewhere along the way, as she started to introduce different characters, the show has come to life. (I am assuming she made the first few episodes on a shoestring budget as pilots and post-pilots to get the studio interested because her voice seems to be appearing quite quickly.) She even has an ongoing storyline where she is addressing the real-life hot button issue of homebirthing. (As M.D.s, she and her partners take it personally that the “midwives” as they call them have attempted to steal some of their patients. Danger, danger, Will Robinson.) So I love their little jabs back and forth about who is running a drug cartel and who isn’t an actual doctor. She also addresses casual sex and the pressures felt by Indian teenagers to impress their demanding parents.
As for her love life, which as a busy doctor she often laments, her partner, Dr. Castellano, is the obvious choice for her future husband for all the wrong and right reasons. Hopefully she will choose to keep them apart as long as possible, maybe even forever, so the show isn’t marred by abominable cliche:
But he’s already found a gorgeous eyepatch wearing girl that he met in the ER, so I think we are safe, at least in the short term. (Yes, pirate jokes were made. It’s OK, they were funny.)
But what amazes me about Mindy Kaling the most is not the fact that she is the only Indian woman starring in her own TV show (that she also created) in America. What amazes me is that she is consistent about appearing as real and girl-next-door as possible. Being unrepentant about the extra 15 pounds she carries around in relation to the rest of Hollywood only adds to her appeal. So if this girl-next-door thing is a ploy, or just an image, she is really damn good at executing it.
So I’m going to keep buying it.
Thanks, Mindy, for telling those midwives who’s boss.