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Posts Tagged ‘mindy kaling’

Weight Weight, Don’t Tell Me: Body Image in “The Mindy Project”

In Television on September 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Sarah T.

The first comment about weight in Mindy  Kaling’s new show comes at the six-minute mark. “My body mass index isn’t great,” Mindy Lahiri tells her well-coiffed BFF Gwen, “but I’m not like Precious or anything.”

Kaling’s comedic timing is impeccable, but the joke rests on unsteady territory. Sure, Mindy’s being self-deprecating — but the punchline is really about how big Precious is. It assumes that, like Mindy, the show’s target audience of college-educated, middle-class women in their twenties and thirties will laugh at Precious to make themselves feel better by comparison. Of course, there are plenty of viewers who are closer to Gabourey Sidibe’s weight than to Kaling’s — but the show doesn’t seem worried about alienating them.

“No, guys, a culture that tells women they always have more weight to lose is a culture that wants women to disappear,” is not what they are saying. Maybe next episode.

The Mindy Project, as Sarah S. wrote in a recent GLG post, is a funny show with a heroine who,  in the tradition of Bridget Jones, is both together (doctor!) and a lovable mess (drunk bicycle-pool incidents). And like Bridget Jones, Mindy L. is clearly a bit obsessed with her weight. “Do you know how hard it is for a chubby 31-year-old woman to go on a legit date with a guy who majored in economics at Duke?” she demands as a patient tries to drag her away from a promising restaurant rendezvous.

HOW HARD IS IT?” this late-twenties, probably roughly-Kaling-sized viewer thought in a panic. And then I thought, “Wait. ‘Chubby?’ Is this show calling me fat?”

The answer, I think, is: sort of. The pilot mentions Lahiri’s non-stick-figure-size an average of once every 7 minutes. I don’t think Kaling, or the show, is intentionally trying to make fun of bigger people or rile up the insecurities of its audience. But while Kaling is a talented comedian, her approach to the subject of weight sometimes makes me wince. In her book Is Everyone Hanging Out with Out Me, she writes about being a happy and confident size 8. Yet she seems stuck in the body binary she’s protesting:

“Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, “Normal American Woman Size” that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like ‘Pick a lane.’

While the language isn’t super-clear, I think Kaling means that the stylists, not her, see larger women as “total fatty hedonists.” But there still seems to be stereotyping of plus-size women at work in this passage, as if bigger physical size necessarily corresponds with an outsized personality.

What’s most revealing, though, is that Kaling describes herself as “Normal American Woman Size.” This is key to Kaling’s image as the ultimate gal-pal, the kind of witty, sparkly friend who’s always up for sleepovers and juicy gossip. “She’s become the contemporary Everywoman,” Jada Yuan’s New York Magazine profile of Kaling reports, “both a Mary and a Rhoda.” The central conceit of Kaling’s public persona — as well as of The Mindy Project — is that Mindy is relatable. And unfortunately, in our culture, one of the things women can relate to most is being self-conscious about weight. Read the rest of this entry »

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Fall TV Upfronts: The Cliff’s Notes

In Television, Uncategorized on May 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

Upfront season has come and gone, like a mysterious stranger who really wants to talk to you about dystopias and dating in the big city. Below, Phoebe and Sarah chat about a few notable shows heading to a television/Hulu near you this fall. What’s your take?

The Mindy Project, Fox

Sarah T: I am torn here. Mindy Kaling is really funny — I liked Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) — and I dig the idea of her as a single, fun-loving OB/GYN in the big city. But the trailer makes the show look as if it’s going to embrace a pretty mainstream rom-com idea about What Women Want, you know what I mean? Like there’s going to be a lot of jokes about buying shoes and the impossibility of having it all. And that is fine, I guess, but I have higher hopes for Kaling. (Although her comedic persona is kind of about doing a twist on those tropes, so maybe this is actually what I should have expected.) Anyway, I’ll definitely give at least the pilot a shot, if only to see how many sparkly dresses she can wear in one episode.

Phoebe: I am intrigued by Kaling’s show and actually thought the trailer was quite funny. I do see the potential pitfalls of embracing the mainstream romantic comedy situation, but at least the preview felt like it was super self-conscious about its genre and will play with it, which could be quite fun and intriguing. And dating when you work a lot, in a city and in general, is hilarious and weird and hard and I think this show might be a fun take on it. Plus, Kaling is running her own show! Read the rest of this entry »