English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #TheMindyProject

The Most Imperfect Romantic Comedy

Something that really resonated with me within our discussion of Jane the Virgin was the idea of the romantic comedy and how it defines the show, creates and alienates an audience, and sets the entire tone of the show. This applies strongly to The Mindy Project where the entire show is centered around Mindy’s search for love and (in her eyes) the perfect life. In the season two finale, “Mindy and Danny”, she finally gets her true love in, as the title suggests, the form of Danny. In true comedic fashion their journey towards each other was hilarious, complete with montages of Mindy crawling up stairs and Danny getting hit by a taxi. And in true romantic fashion, Mindy gets her happily ever after, on top of the Empire State building à la every classic New York romantic movie, even if she is too exhausted from climbing the stairs to stand. She has the perfect partner, great friends, and a wonderful job. Mindy has it all.

Mindy and Danny having their romantic moment on top of the Empire State Building.

This is the cornerstone of the rom-com genre: through trials and tribulations on a journey of self-discovery, it generally (but, as we learned in Jane the Virgin, not always) ends with the women “having it all”. This idealistic idea includes the women being a perfect mother, wife, worker, friend, daughter, and a host of other roles. And while it’s the goal for some, it rarely works without a hitch in real life. This is where The Mindy Project comes in: it’s the imperfect rom-com. Mindy’s an unlikely hero, and even during her perfect ending Danny quips about her becoming a stay-at-home mother, even through her job and her professional ambitions are vital to her sense of self. The show does something unlikely in demonstrating that the heavily anticipated relationship is not perfect, or anywhere relatively close to it. For most stereotypical rom-com heroines, once they find their partner, they abandon their job to focus on working in the home. And it is a completely respectable choice; however, it is not the choice for Mindy.

That what I love about the show: for better or for worse, it demonstrates an unapologetic amount of honesty and candor. As a subset of the rom-com genre, it’s more representative, shows more relationship failures, and genuinely doesn’t shy away from the issues surrounding the modern romance. Mindy is not your classic heroine, in more ways than one, and she doesn’t try to become something that she isn’t. This show flipped the entire genre and its subsequent expectations on their head and completely revamped them. Real life is not like the romance movies and getting more shows with more accurate representations and expectations is vital. The Mindy Project does just that.

The Confrontational and Disheartening Nature of Birthdays

Throughout my short tenure at college I’ve discovered one main lesson: being an adult is hard. This is also the lesson that Mindy discovers in the episode “Mindy’s Birthday”. This episode centers around her birthday, but being in her thirties, she is disillusioned with the party her friends decide to throw for her: a glitzy, public bash complete with presents that teach cooking for one and an elliptical. As people grow other, birthdays are no longer what they were when they were kids. Birthdays, events designed to be celebrations of life allow people to become disappointed in the events of their lives. It’s generally a time for people to come to term with the shortcomings of their own lives, as birthdays are milestones that can pass without certain moments of success. For Mindy, this is most evidenced by her lack of a relationship. Thus, the argument here is that birthdays force adults to evaluate their life choices, many times in a harsher way than reality.

The episode demonstrates the introspective, sometimes disheartening nature of birthdays by a series of bad choices made by Mindy. After confronting her lack of romantic relationship, she abandons her friends and coworkers to drink alone at a bar. This leads her to make a group of superficial friends before wandering NYC with her belligerent office assistant. Mindy became transfixed on what her ideal life should be in her mid-thirties, and when she realized she hadn’t achieved it, she ran away. She forgot to be appreciative for the wonderful things she already had in her life – her friends.

This ties back to the larger theme evident throughout the entire show – life is not a fairytale romance. Life is messy, difficult, not always enjoyable, and it certainly will not go perfectly. Mindy is an eternal optimist – she has high expectations and she really, truly believes she can achieve everything she wants. At the times when things don’t go perfectly, she breaks down. The show is technically considered a romantic comedy, and as such, Mindy strives for the same ideals perpetrated throughout the genre: to be happily married, have a successful career, and be perfectly content. She has achieved much of this, but she is still missing a crucial (in her opinion) piece – the relationship. This relates to the crushing expectations placed on women by society – they must be perfect and achieve milestones by specific times in life. As each birthday passes, Mindy feels herself drifting away from cultural perfection. However, as she discovers at the end of the episode, she has enough in her life to be happy. Even though she isn’t at the picture-perfect place in her life, life will always be chaotic, and people have to learn to leave their expectations and plans behind and just live life to the fullest with what they have.

Mindy’s least favorite birthday present of the night – Microwave Cooking for One

The Mindy Project’s Complicated Conversation about Gender

On the surface, The Mindy Project seems progressive (for television at least). The main character is a bold, unapologetic, minority women working as a doctor in NYC. Mindy is constantly underestimated and undervalued, but time and time again it is shown that she is critical to the success of her practice. In the eighth episode, “Two to One”, her other partners use their male majority to box her out of decisions until the final moment when she swoops in and saves the day from their misguidance. Mindy allows herself to have a high level of agency, even if her choices are not always respected by the other characters. There is no question that the show centers around Mindy, and it is certainly refreshing to see a female main character with so much power.

The show also leans into the idea of a romantic comedy being empowering for women. Mindy is active in her search for love, but she understands what she wants, and is unwilling to settle or compromise. Though she may desire a partner, she certainly doesn’t need one to have a fulfilling life. For the first part of the show, she is single, and is insanely successful within her job and personal life.

As the show is based mainly at a workplace, there is an interesting conversation to be had about stereotypically gendered jobs. Mindy is the sole female partner at her practice, working with three other male doctors. The nurse in the practice is male, which is refreshing for a job that is considered “pink collar” and is traditionally performed by a woman. However, some jobs are assigned to their conventional genders: the two secretaries are female, there is a stay at home mother, and a lawyer and a finance worker are both male. I’ve found that there is a relatively even split between the male and female characters, in both screen and speaking time.

However, the show lacks connections to gender in other areas. There is a distinct deficiency in the representation of LGBTQIA+, disabled, or mentally ill characters. All the named characters are straight, cis and abled, which leaves no room for gender intersect or interact with these areas. Furthermore, only the upper class is represented, with lavish NYC apartments, degrees from Harvard and Colombia, and no qualms about spending money. Gwen, Mindy’s best friend, is an excellent stay at home mom, who has a degree from Princeton and is married to a rich man. An interesting conversation is eliminated as Gwen never had to grapple with the debate that rattles parents: choosing between staying at home or having an extra income.

I truly commend the show for placing a minority women doctor at the helm. But, the show still makes tradeoffs: the lack of intersectionality within the show (apart from Mindy’s race) and humor that occasionally stems from blatantly sexist or offensive jokes. The show doesn’t handle gender representation perfectly, but it can still contribute to breaking stereotypes and increasing diversity within television.

Mindy explaining that a woman working and having a family are not mutually exclusive.

The Abridged Katie Chronicles

Hi – I’m Katie Roberts, a first year Biomedical Engineering student. I’m currently planning on graduating in 2022, but check back in 4 years to see if that actually happens.

My experience thus far with English classes has been typical – I read a lot, I annotated a lot, I analyzed a lot, and I mastered the formulaic 5-paragraph essay. I truly love reading and my Goodreads history will prove it. English 1102 – Television and Feminism will be my first GT English experience and my first class focused around a central theme where everything is interconnected. I really enjoy written communication, partly because its what I’ve practiced the most, but also because it allows me to reflect and then revisit my arguments. However, even though it is my favorite form of communication, I believe I can still become better at it – especially with more creative pieces. I really hope to strengthen my oral communication, as I dread speaking in front of crowds. I’ve made a lot of progress from when just commenting in class turned my face red and caused my entire body to shake, but I need to improve my ability to convey my arguments clearly through words.

I’ve watched TV my entire life – from the Disney Channel as a child to my current frequent Netflix binges. My TV habits encompass a wide variety of shows – from Madam Secretary to Parks and Recreation to Below Deck. Unpopular opinion: I love spoilers. I cannot watch an episode without stalking the wiki page or reading reviews online. This prevents me from watching shows live because I must know what happens before I watch it. I haven’t watched shows on a physical TV for over 4 years; I watch everything through my laptop. Furthermore, I definitely consider myself a feminist and try my best to stay well versed in everything surrounding that topic. My introduction to feminism stems from a gender studies unit two years ago: it opened my viewpoint to intersectionality and the important aspects of feminism that I had never considered before because I had never experienced them.

I have chosen to review The Mindy Project. It’s been in my personal queue for a long time and I’m excited to finally watch it. This show focuses on a New York based OB-GYN and her struggles within her practice and personal life. I’ll admit my primary motivation for choosing this show is because I’m thoroughly obsessed with The Office, and I’m hoping this show’s writing will fill my sassy humor quota. Also, based on my love of Greys and Scrubs, I evidently have a fascination with medical shows. To sum up: Mindy Kaling + medicine + comedy = strong contention for a new favorite show!

A picture of me at my first time visiting Georgia Tech’s campus

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén