As the season finale of The Mindy Project airs tonight, it's also been announced that show has been renewed for a second season, which is great: While sometimes uneven and unsure of its purpose — Is it a workplace comedy? A medical sitcom? A show about a single woman? An ensemble show? — the jokes are quick, sharp and funny; and Mindy Kaling's alter ego, pop-culture obsessed gynecologist Dr. Mindy Lahiri, has a way of being simultaneously wise and naive, deep and shallow, confident and awkward. That said, when it comes to Mindy Lahiri's love life, there's zero variety. The doctor has a Type.
Mindy Kaling has said that she has a thing for blond men; "I have taste in men like an adolescent girl," she told Us Magazine.
"I embarrassingly love blond men — hot pinups like Chris Evans and Chris Pine," she explained. "I feel like people expect me to have an edgy choice, like Justin Theroux, and I'm just like, 'Nope! I want Captain America!'"
But apparently, Mindy Kaling's type is also Mindy Lahiri's type. Every single one of Dr. Lahiri's love interests on The Mindy Project has been a tall, sandy-haired white man.
Mindy insists that she is different from her character:
"I'm a lot more square than her. I've never drank the way she does," the Office alum told Us. "I'm really a nerd. I go to bed pretty early. Even when I went to Dartmouth — which is a pretty big drinking school — I never took part in anything like that. I was too scared of my parents' reaction."
Still, in the 23 episodes that have aired so far, despite announcing "black guys love me" at a club, Mindy Lahiri has only dated and slept with white men. She has exes played by Ed Helms and Bill Hader. Dr. Lahiri never says that she's only attracted to white guys, but if you check out the love interests (in the image above), it's fairly obvious that the casting notes are very specific. (Granted, some of these actors are friends with Mindy Kaling, and wanting to work with friends is understandable.)
Consider this: Back in 2010, in an interview for Playboy, when asked if he ever dates black women, John Mayer uttered now-famous words about his penis:
"My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I've got a Benetton heart and a fuckin' David Duke cock."
As Latoya Peterson wrote back then:
We all formulate preferences around what we like and what we don't like. That's part of human nature. But it is disingenuous to pretend that these preferences are not informed by society, and are not informed by racist ideas. Think about it - if our fickle hearts have the capacity to love people who are abusive to us, what makes people think that love is somehow immune to or above racism? [But Mayer's preference is] internalized racism. We all have some. Groups of color internalize prejudices and enact them through colorstruck ideas about light-skin being more attractive than dark skin, or keen features being more attractive than broader ones.
It's impossible to have a "Benetton heart" and a "white supremacist dick." To open your heart with love for all people, to see everyone as equals, to create a world in which we are not post-racial, but post-racism requires a love and commitment to understanding an eradicating the biases we are fed in order to create a genuine connection with others. But having a white supremacist dick holds on to the idea that we are not equal, that some people are more desirable than others, and those people are white.
Obviously there's a difference between Mayer and Mindy Lahiri — a character saying and doing inappropriate things in the name of comedy. Lahiri throws out lines like "Black men love me!" and, "Tattling is when a little girl does it. When a hot woman does it, it's called whistleblowing," and they are meant to be funny, not the gospel truth. Jokes. The show has great jokes:
"Maybe I won’t get married, you know? Maybe I’ll do one of those “Eat, Pray, Love” things. Ugh, no. I don’t wanna pray. Forget it. I’ll die alone."
"I hate when people say 'girl crush.' No one’s gonna think you’re a lesbian if you just say 'crush.'"
"If we’re indulging imaginary situations, I would like to introduce you to my husband, straight Anderson Cooper."
But when it comes to race, things get a little wonky. Is it problematic that the sole black woman on the show is a sassy/hood nurse who sings all of her lines while dancing? Absofuckinglutely.
A poster on the tumblr Angry Asian Girls United wrote a post defending Kaling when a reader called the show whitewashed:
she’s a darkskinned woman of color with her own show. she’s the first south asian-american woman who has done this. her entire existence and success are against white supremacy. the fact that she is where she is as far as success on TV is not something white people like or something that white people in charge of TV are actively working towards ensuring (some of them are actively making sure it doesn’t happen actually). she could do better with the show, but i also don’t think it’s fair to expect her to shoulder that burden by herself, considering the exceptional position she’s in right now.
Make no mistake: I am so glad that Mindy Kaling has a show on network TV in primetime. Her obsession with — and send-ups of — romantic comedies are hilarious. I love that Dr. Lahiri is body-positive in a non-cloying way, and that she "thanked" young feminists as she dismantled a frat house stripper pole.
And who knows? Maybe the fact that all of the love interests look like "traditional" (aka white) Hollywood leading man types is linked to Mindy Lahiri's obsession with romcoms (and Mindy Kaling's, for that matter.) Romantic scenarios end in disaster. When a man cooks dinner for a Dr. Lahiri, a fire breaks out. When Mindy takes a supposedly sexy shower with Casey, he's freezing and shampoo bottles tumble on to their feet. When Mindy Lahiri makes out with guys, they get lipstick all over their faces — a realistic result that never happens in romcoms. A recent episode had Mindy Lahiri's current boyfriend in a fistfight with her ex, a la Bridget Jones.
I actually think it's really interesting that Mindy Lahiri dates white men — I saw it as Kaling making a conscious decision to refute the stereotype that South Asians only date other South Asians. (In my own life, I can't even count how many times people have tried to set me up with Indian guys because they just assume that's my thing, or outright ask me if I'd ever date a non-Indian guy. ) To me, it's refreshing to see an Indian American woman on TV dating white men because it challenges the audience's assumptions of Indian American women. More interracial couples on TV is a win in my book! That said, could she date more diverse dudes beyond just tall white blonde men? Probably, but I'm just a tad relieved that she isn't taking the easy route of pairing her character with other Indian guys. I would bet if a white guy wrote this show, Mindy Lahiri would probably be exclusively dating other Indian Americans.
Good point. It would be a lot more problematic if the show was "othering" Lahiri in some kind of effort to have her stick with her own kind. Gross.
In the end, it seems pretty obvious that the show is moving towards a relationship between Mindy Lahiri and her coworker, fellow doctor Danny Castellano (Chris Messina) — who is not a six foot blond but a medium-height dark-haired guy with a temper. Then again, perhaps that's just unrealized sexual tension, like in so many sitcoms. And since another season is in the works, maybe Dr. Lahiri will mix it up and try dating Mexican, Korean, black, Navajo, or Moroccan men. Then again, what's the use in having your own damn TV show if you can't hire a bunch of dudes you're attracted to and make out with them?
Special thanks to Meher Ahmad for contributing to the reporting of this post.