RIP “The Mindy Project?” What Mindy Lahiri Gave Me As a Woman

Though it has not yet been announced officially, the cancellation of FOX’s The Mindy Project is a nearly foregone conclusion at this point. And while it stands a fairly good chance at getting a second life on Hulu, I’m still mourning the loss of one of my favorite shows. Less than having something to do on Tuesday nights, and less than the watercooler fodder it provides my colleagues and I, I’m going to miss the many life lessons that the Kaling-led writer’s room provided each week. Farewell Mindy Lahiri- you made me laugh, you occasionally made me teary…but you also made me better. Here’s how.

IMAGE Credit: LA Times

You Made it Okay to Be Successful
Women on television are typically either concerned about looks and relationship success, or dedicated to their careers. Few shows actively and consistently gave us both. Mindy has always been unquestionably competent as a doctor- even as her coworkers at Shulman and Associates lived lives that made for hilarious viewing (Morgan Tookers, I will truly miss you most of all), it was never at the expense of her being a success in the exam room. Her work was never a spectacle like on Grey’s Anatomy or Scrubs; she was simply understood to be competent.

You Made it Okay to Be Ambitious
With the previous being said, Mindy often showed, even in the face of professional excellence, it’s okay to want more. Even Danny didn’t truly believe that her aspirations of a fellowship in California were real- a situation that reflects the very real inner conflict that can arise when women have to seemingly decide between their careers and their romantic lives. However, her decision to balance a long-distance relationship with her career at the forefront was inspiring; as a woman only a few years younger than Mindy’s character, I face versions of this decision often. It was refreshing to see a woman on TV decide that moves like this, her fertility practice, and her success as a teacher, aren’t things that women seeking complete lives should shy away from.

You Sought to Tell Your Story
In her own life, Mindy Kaling has been well showcased for her desire to work incredibly hard as the writer, producer, and overall show runner of The Mindy Project. She is thoughtful about the guest stars she includes, the way in which she portrays her character and those around her, and often seeks to subvert the standards of the typical multi-cam sitcom. I have had some of my hardest laughing moments watching this show, but also gotten uncharacteristically emotional- sometimes in the same episode. There are precious few shows that have given me that sensation- and I’m discerning!

Further, she creates all these things unapologetically, even when asked to confront them by those who may criticize her style. At an SXSW panel on the topic, she vented some of her frustrations:

I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things […] And I’m like, oh wait, it’s not like I’m running a country, I’m not a political figure. I’m someone who’s writing a show and I want to use funny people. And it feels like it diminishes the incredibly funny women who do come on my show… I don’t know, it’s a little frustrating.

But despite that frustration, she never caved to speculation on what people believed her show should be, she just went out and made it. And I truly hope she keeps getting to do that.

IMAGE CREDIT: Time

You Made It Okay to Evolve
The Mindy Project has been a lot of different shows during its three year run. In fact, I’ll admit my interest in the show didn’t hold initially. My sister called me back toward the tail end of season one, telling me I wouldn’t regret it. She was right; it strengthened and evolved as we got to know the characters and the nature of their relationships solidified. From year to year, the cast evolved and changed, with bit characters moving into prominence and others fading away quietly. Some found this jolting, but I found it both refreshing and real. From year to year, our own friend groups evolve, as do our workplaces as old colleagues leave and new ones arrive. The Mindy Project captured that natural evolution with more accuracy than shows like Friends, Girls, Cheers, and the like. And the show itself may be undergoing an evolution- in the event that it moves to Hulu, that could alter the way it’s permitted to address some topics. But so long as its heart stays the same, I’ll follow Mindy, Danny, and the rest of the group wherever they go.

Please continue to keep the staff of Shulman and Associates in your thoughts as they hover between life and death- as women, we need Mindy Lahiri, so let’s hope she lives another day (or season).

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