Do you remember Kelly Kapoor from The Office? I always looked forward to seeing her on screen and wished for her to be more present, despite the fact that I found her character so gratingly annoying. It reminded me of my love-hate relationship with George Costanza on Seinfeld. It was the acting made the character so realistic and annoyingly likeable.
Which is why I was excited to hear about The Mindy Project, a show starring none other than Mindy Kaling – who, in case you didn’t know, was also a writer for The Office. The premise seemed both promising and discouraging, describing the show as “follow[ing] a woman who, despite having a successful career, is unlucky in love and desperately needs to get her personal life back on track before her friends and colleagues are forced to stage an intervention… Mindy is determined to be more punctual, spend less money, lose weight and read more books – all in pursuit of becoming a well-rounded perfect woman…who can meet and date the perfect guy.”
My relationship with this show started off just as complicated as my relationship with Mindy Kaling’s character on The Office. On the one hand, I love the process of self-improvement that Mindy set herself on from the very first episode. After all, this is something I feel should be the basis of our life: to continually strive to improve both oneself and our communities. But on the other hand, the reason why Mindy embarked on this process, her life decisions, her obsession with romantic comedies and bringing them to life really annoy me at times.
However, other factors helped tip the balance solidly in favour of the show. First off, it is really funny and well-written. While there are some sexual jokes, the humour isn’t crass. I spend most of the twenty minutes smiling, if not giggling or outright laughing. Also, the writing is translated on screen by a great supporting cast.
Then there is the fact that Mindy is who she is and does not apologize for it. She is very comfortable in what she believes, and goes for what she wants in whatever way she can think of. At the same time, she is working hard on deconstructing the negative patterns in her life that keep her from her goal. Isn’t that what empowerment is about?
The fact that this is a sort of empowerment that everyday women can relate to – as opposed to say other empowered fictional women such as Fringe’s Olivia Dunham or The X-File’s Dana Scully – makes Mindy easily relatable, as she works on creating a work-life balance, deals with being single and trying to find that special someone, and, for those of us who are not Caucasian nor a size zero, with the particular challenges of being such in a society that prefers thin, blond women over anything.
The character has also been written in a way that balances being smart and a great doctor, with liking partying and celebrity gossip. I sometimes feel like it is one of the best portrayals of a real woman I have seen on television. She has become the friend whose lifestyle I do not understand, but whom I deeply appreciate.
Thankfully, The Mindy Project has been renewed for a second season, and I for one look forward to seeing what Dr. Mindy Lahiri will be up to next.