Why we should be concerned about the backlash against Mindy Kaling

A couple weeks ago as I was on Hulu looking for new shows to watch I came across the Mindy Project. Recognizing Mindy Kaling’s face from the office, I decided to take a look. Despite the occasional inappropriate and problematic comment , it was refreshing to see a woman of color playing a role that stepped away from the so common stereotyped characters we see on television, whether the quiet and studious genius,or the hypersexualized, underprivileged teenager. Some might wonder why on a blog that’s about mixed race I would choose to talk about this show and the curent backlash it is facing. The fact is that, talking about mixed race America also means addressing deeply entrenched issues about racial perceptions, and what it means to be a person of color in a white-centric society. Racialicious published an article by guest contributor Nisha Chittal this past week that directly addresses the question of why we should be concerned about the backlash Mindy Kaling has received. As I said before there is no doubt that some of the script for the show is offensive, but as offensive T.V. is concerned The Mindy Project does not come close to the messages we see in the majority of television programming. Nisha Chittal makes a relevant comparison between the praise the show Girls has received and the criticism the Mindy Project is getting. ” When Lena Dunham launched Girls,” Chittal writes,”Dunham was praised for creating and portraying a character not typically seen on TV screens: a young, post-college, average-looking, single woman with romantic woes, whose flaws and insecurities are on display. Kaling portrays a similarly flawed character, but has not received the same praise.” Many reviews of Dunham’s ‘Girls,’ have praised her for being so relatable. And here is where a conversation about race relations as seen in pop culture has to ensue. What is the value of whiteness in the context of rendering characters quote on quote more or less American, more or less relatable. Chittal considers the implications of writing a character that steps away from the stereotyped messages we receive of women of color in American society, specifically in the media. “One of the subtle, but important things about Kaling’s writing is that her characters are simply people, who happen to be Indian American – never the token ethnic character; never a larger-than-life cartoon stereotype whose racial identity serves as fodder for cheap jokes.”



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