First of all, let’s just start this post by reminding everyone that The Mindy Project is my favorite new comedy of the season, and that I love Mindy Kaling more than I love a lot of things. I know that she is vaguely unpopular on the Internet, for reasons that are valid and reasons that are subjective, but when I ask people why they don’t like her, the general response is:
- She’s annoying
- She whines too much
- She’s really narcissistic
- She talks about herself a lot
I’m pretty sure those are all characteristics that soundly belong to Kelly Kapoor and not necessarily to Mindy. I mean, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but listen, you don’t know her, how would you know if she talks about herself a lot?
It reminds me of another vaguely unpopular person on the Internet, Zooey Deschanel, who I also happen to love more than a lot of things. People hate Zooey because she brakes for birds and rocks a lot of polka dots–wait, no, that’s something her character Jess Day said on her show New Girl, not something Zooey has thrown out in conversation with anyone we’ve ever known. But we know that Zooey has the ultimate Kitsch Empire, and for some reason, lots of people find that really offensive. But here, and I’ll tell you what, it takes more than being a woman-child to become extremely successful and famous, and if you think Zooey isn’t very smart and savvy, you’re wrong.
But let’s get back to Mindy, because I like her a lot, too, and for different reasons. Similarly to Zooey, Mindy has built an empire on persona, and that persona is being self-centered and self-deprecating. She took a bit part on The Office and turned it into one of the best supporting characters (divisive though she may be among fans, everyone knows a lot about her). The whole point of Kelly Kapoor is to constantly toe the line between realistic and outrageously unbelievable, but people very conveniently seem to forget that Kelly and Mindy are not, in fact, the same person. Mindy actually addressed it in her book IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME? AND OTHER CONCERNS, which you should read if you haven’t, in saying,
No one wonders what I’m like in real life, because they assume I am Kelly Kapoor. Obviously, this confusion is not something I would mind if I were playing Lara Croft or a Supreme Court justice or Serena Williams or something, but when you’re playing a bit of a selfish, boy-crazy narcissist, it’s a concern. And even though I’m a writer and producer (and sometimes director, technically making me a quadruple threat, what of it?), people tend to forget this in the face of the fact that the character Kelly and I both love shopping.
And after she worked her way up to being an executive producer for The Office, she created and sold her own self-titled workplace comedy, which is one of the most successful of the season. Even Zooey (The Quirky Girl, or is she?) or Tina (The Downtrodden-but-Beautiful Nerd, or is she?) or Amy (The Silly Lady Who Has a Lot of Heart, or is she?) hasn’t done that (is the only other one Roseanne?), but I’m not saying Mindy is funnier than Amy Poehler, so you can put away your knives. I’m just saying that her brand of character comedy is different: it’s aggressively forward, very self-deprecating, and there’s no question that she is the center of it all.
And what’s wrong with that? Why are we downing on a very successful lady who wants her character to be about herself? She’s not doing anyone else a disservice by making her characters the focus. She never said she was making an ensemble comedy. Is Mindy Lahiri a perfect character? Well, no, and that’s why we have this tool called character development. Kaling is a woman of color making a show based on the persona she’s developed for years, and suddenly people are all up in arms about it? No, thanks.
There’s no question that The Mindy Project is intended to be about Mindy Kaling, to a degree. Like with Kelly, the two Mindys share a lot of characteristics, I’m sure. But there comes a point where the similarities end because this is not an autobiographical show. Unless Mindy Kaling is moonlighting as an OB/GYN, in which case she might be a robot, in which case that’s the show I want to be watching. But seriously–yes, the two are not divorced completely, but neither are they the exact same.
All I’m saying is that maybe Mindy Kaling and Mindy Lahiri are very different people. Maybe they’re not. I mean, I think they probably are, because that’s what being a successful TV show creator means, so everyone needs to relax about how irritating they think she is and enjoy the best new comedy of the year.
And if they’re not so different? Relax. Enjoy the best new comedy of the year.