The Mindy Project

So Season 4 of The Mindy Project just went up on Canadian NetFlix and I watched it all within a few days. I’ve persisted that far because I really liked the first season or two, but it got just relentlessly annoying and terrible and I was hoping Season 4 would be the point when it turned around, but alas no.

Here are my random thoughts on the series, which will include some spoilers.

I feel like Mindy has always been written inconsistently and it bugs me. I loved her brash self-confidence in the first couple of seasons, but it fluctuated back and forth between not-at-all grounded in reality (with her telling everyone how skinny and waiflike she is) and pretty realistic (actually I can only remember one example of that: when she said that black guys are into her because she has a lot of ass). I wish the writers had chosen one angle and stuck with it. Either one would have been fine by me, but yeah…pick whether she’s campy and delusional or self-aware and confident, please.

Early on, the show depicted Mindy being blunt and outspoken on dates, and men having no problem with it or even seeming kind of intrigued:

  • The guy who bought her a frozen yogurt and she didn’t like the flavour so he offered to buy her a different one. She took him up on it…and didn’t like the new flavour, either. Or the one after that. And finally he was like “maybe you just don’t like frozen yogurt” and bought her a soft pretzel instead, which she did like. She didn’t cringe or apologize for being wishy-washy or offer to pay for one of the replacement snacks herself. She seemed pretty comfortable being catered to like that, actually.
  • When she’s dating the sports lawyer guy and he invites her to a Hallowe’en party and tells her to “dress to impress,” she goes “who am I supposed to impress?” – he tells her the party is a big deal and he’s actually taken models as his dates in the past and she snarks back “Well luckily for you, I was featured on the cover of my college admissions brochure holding a test tube, so I guess you have a thing for models.”
  • She tries dating a guy just for his hotness but his personality is awful and finally she straight-up tells him something like “my body is very attracted to your body but when you speak I get angry.”

(There are other examples, too, but I’m too lazy to list any more – especially because it’s been so long since I’ve watched seasons 1-3 that I’d have to comb through them to get the quotes right.)

It’s been my experience that most guys do love a certain amount of feistiness in a woman. Some even dig outright arrogance. And it was refreshing to see this depicted on-screen for a change. I feel like cocky female characters in movies and tv shows are usually the romantic rival of the main character and we’re supposed to find them totally unlikable and unworthy of the leading man’s affection.

Mindy also speaks her mind with people in general – calling them out on their rudeness and telling them to stop touching her and stuff. This, too, is refreshing to me and makes me wanna be Mindy when I grow up.

But then suddenly – after a season and a half of Mindy seeming confident in her appearance* – there’s an episode in the middle of Season 2 where she claims she’s always managed to have sex without letting her partners actually see her naked, and she enlists her coworker and soon-to-be romantic partner Danny to help her lose weight. Ugh. If I wanted to see someone feeling bad for being overweight I could go literally anywhere on the internet or tv or movies or in real life. I can’t have this one tiny haven where a non-supermodel-looking woman is happy with her appearance?

I’m not saying I want Mindy to be infallible all the time. The show can totes keep the moments where she’s vulnerable and angsty over how her relationship is going or what her next career move should be, or whatever. Just for fucking once let a woman’s appearance/weight not be the big point of contention kthx.

One interestingly fallible thing about Mindy is her bad choices in men. When she’s describing her boyfriend the sports attorney to her ex, she clearly has to try hard to paint him in a good light (and the ex picks up on this and says “so he’s a jerk, huh?”). Later on she dates a pastor whom she initially thought was kind of a jackass. She initially thinks Danny is kind of a jackass, too, for that matter. We could put this down to her secretly having low self esteem because fat, and being willing to take any man who will have her. I reject this idea, though, and choose to believe that her obsession with romantic comedy movies has skewed her idea of what makes a good partner. She mistakes actual friction for sexually charged banter, perhaps, or puts too much stock in how hot a guy is or the quirky way they met. I would like to have seen this be an actual, conscious character arc for her but it doesn’t really look like the writers are doing it on purpose.

Anyway, in the early seasons Mindy is confident, brash, great at her job, and also shallow and materialistic in (usually) hilarious ways. In the later seasons, we don’t see her job skills on display as much and her confidence is flagging so there’s nothing to balance out the shitty parts of her personality. She just comes off as shrill and insecure now and it makes me sad because I really liked her in the beginning.

Oh, but can I just say how irritatingly Mary-Sue-ish it was that two of Mindy’s coworkers (Morgan and Betsy) idolized her? And that the whole office is soooo deeply invested in whether or not she gets together with Danny? Ugh.

And, an odd thing: three or four love interests of Mindy’s look so much alike to me that I can barely tell them apart. The one she has the blind date with in the first or second epsiode ever; the one she meets in the bookstore; the one with the female best friend he seems entirely too close with; and the lawyer who works in the same building as her. Makes me wonder if Mindy Kaling herself has a specific “type” she digs and she influenced the casting. Or maybe every curly-brown-haired white guy just looks the same to me.

The big thing about Season 4 that makes it awful is that I hate Danny for her. Haaaaaaate.

There was a nice bit of sexual tension between them before they got together. Enough that I was somewhat rooting for them. But then as soon as they kissed he became a complete, intolerable asshole pretty much 24/7.

First, Mindy said she didn’t want to consummate the relationship just yet and he spitefully declared that they must not really be dating, then. And then an old sex tape of Mindy with a then-boyfriend surfaced and Danny got all slut shamey and cold with her for a while (she didn’t want the video of her and her ex to be on the internet, and it must have been traumatizing and she could probably have used some support, and also Danny himself has been a fucking stripper and had photos of his naked body displayed in an art gallery and apparently availed himself of a full-service sex worker, but sure dude, go ahead and cast that first stone).

Then he wanted to keep their relationship a secret. Then a pharmaceutical rep and sometime sex buddy hit on him and not only did he not say he was with Mindy, he wouldn’t say he was seeing anyone. He claimed to be single, led this woman to believe she and Danny were each other’s dates to a party, and spent the evening talking to her inappropriately close while Mindy was present. Then he chickened out of dating her entirely because he didn’t want to ruin the friendship.

Then they broke up and were just friends but as soon as Mindy started seeing someone else, Danny became interested in her romantically again. She rebuffed his advances at that point and called him out on his bullshit (W00T GO MINDY GO!).

Eventually he sought to prove his love to her once and for all, and told her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building for a big romcom moment. He said he’d wait there all night for her if he had to. He ended up waiting there for like fifteen minutes or something and then giving up (which says everything about him you need to know, really…). At which point the whole office showed up and told him to stop being stupid and go meet her, and he did, and made it just in time, so they were dating again.

And I think there was a whole thing where he didn’t want to marry her or meet her parents but I could barely stand watching the show anymore so I dunno.

Then she accidentally got knocked up, and she moved in with Danny. He lambasted her for wanting to be drugged up for the birth (fuck you, Danny, you try passing a baby through one of your holes). Then he wanted her to give up her job to be a stay-at-home mom – and continued pushing for this all through Season 4 despite Mindy saying that she didn’t want to. He stated that he wanted the baby to have family around all the time. When Mindy said maybe Danny should quit his job and stay home, then, he basically laughed at her. And yet Mindy had a full-time job and her own fertility clinic on the side so wouldn’t she actually make more money than him? I mean wouldn’t it make more sense to sacrifice Danny’s one income than her two? And anyway why did Danny automatically assume that it had to be her doing the stay-at-home thing? He wanted the baby to have family taking care of him, and he is also the baby’s family. I think during his rants about this he even mentioned his dad’s absence in his formative years, not just his mom’s. So fucking fix it and be a stay-at-home dad, then!!!

And then Danny tried to trick Mindy into getting pregnant again so she’d have to quit her job(s). WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!?!?

And throughout all this, Mindy just kind of…sniveled and let him boss her around. She even had a stupid It’s a Wonderful Life-style dream sequence at one point in which she was married to her theoretical perfect man; the dream taught her that she doesn’t really want the things she wants and that the ideal man for her is someone who tells her that her ideas are stupid and won’t let her go through with them. i.e. Danny. And I learned from the dream sequence that apparently consensual nonmonogamy is still “cheating” and that if you’re with the man you’re meant to be with you’ll lose all urge to sleep with anyone else. Hahaha okay then.

So Season 4 was a total slog to get through because basically everything I liked about Mindy was gone. Even her wardrobe didn’t seem as flashy/tacky/awesome. And Danny had gone from being old fashioned to just a complete manipulative misogynist sociopath. Neither of them is a sympathetic character anymore and I sincerely hope they break up and Mindy recovers her old personality.

As a side point, the show pretty predictably bent the rules of society as we know them (and, y’know, I don’t expect every tv show or movie to be 100% realistic but it’d be nice if they tried a little harder…). Mindy owns an apartment, and didn’t give it up when she moved in with Danny. It’s extremely unlikely that she could have bought it outright, so she would have been paying a monthly mortgage and I guess property taxes on this place for a year or two while she wasn’t even living there. Meanwhile, she tried out quitting her job and Danny was all “we can’t afford to go out to eat much anymore now that we’re on just my income!” – well no shit you can’t afford that because you’re paying two mortgages. Or three, maybe even, because at one point Danny also owned the apartment next door to his and I can’t remember what happened with that. Also, what job lets you quit and come back and quit and come back and then your partner quits and comes back and nobody says anything about it at all?

And when Mindy showed her apartment to a prospective buyer it still looked absolutely fully furnished and Danny’s decor doesn’t have anything incongruous in it as I recall, so it seems like Mindy gave up all her furniture and rugs and knicknacks when she moved in with him. And that makes me sad. Although I don’t consider that part unrealistic per se; it fits in perfectly with what a doormat she’s being for him. The fact that she still had the apartment isn’t realistic but the fact that she gave up everything in it to be with her fucking douchebag of a babydaddy seems pretty much on point. As is the fact that you never see any of Mindy’s friends anymore – Danny probably subtly discouraged her from hanging out with them. As an emotionally abusive dickhole will do.

Tangent: I’m also not a fan of them bringing in unlikable characters who then turn out to be Secretly a Good Guy. Peter actually did end up being likable, but I feel like the writers just totally changed his personality to accomplish this. And Jody…is just a sexist ass. There are scenes where he acts somewhat human and the music swells in the background and Mindy’s all “I guess you’re a good guy after all!” but it feels completely forced. Having business acumen or being willing to do a favour for someone in exchange for them doing an almost identical favour for you is not “being a good guy.” Give me a fucking break with that.

Oh hey, I bet I know why they threw that curveball into Season 2 where Mindy suddenly gets self-conscious about her weight and Danny tries to help her work out and then accidentally sees her naked and tells her how beautiful she is. It’s because a woman isn’t supposed to feel attractive until a man says she is. Maybe it was okay for Mindy to have confidence in herself when she was dating other guys, but the writers were obviously setting Danny up to be the big love of her life or whatever and I’m thinking someone on the writing staff needed to amp that up by reducing her to nothing and having him give her a good image of herself.

So anyway…given that Mindy Kaling is the creator and executive producer of the show, how did she let her character get so beaten down? Did she somehow not notice how everything awesome about Mindy Lahiri was gradually going down the tubes, or what?

Meh. The fourth season has now basically ruined the whole series for me – I mean it’s hard to like the first and second seasons anymore because all I can see is where things are heading. That’s upsetting.


*Except for this one scene in Season 1 where she wears her boyfriend’s shirt in that cutesy romcom way and he reciprocates by putting on her pants – which are too big in the waist for him – and she gets all humiliated by it. It’s a pretty funny scene (mostly because they don’t play the gag like he’s shaming her for having a bigger waist, or like he didn’t know up to that point but now he’s horrified; it looks to me like he’s attracted to her just the way she is but simply acknowledging that they have different body shapes) but I feel it’s not in keeping with what we’ve seen of Mindy’s personality up to that point.

1 Comment

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One response to “The Mindy Project

  1. Leah

    I love Mindy Kaling but I haven’t really seen the show. I just wanted to note that she wrote more episodes in the early seasons and now writes almost none of the episodes. Though obviously she’s still a huge part of the process.

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