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Posts Tagged ‘the mindy project’

Where The Mindy Project’s “Slipped” Went Wrong

In feminism, rape culture, sexism on October 21, 2014 at 9:42 am

Phoebe B.

The Mindy Project’s recent episode “Slipped” had potential—potential to tackle rape culture and issues of consent, even with humor thrown into the mix. It seemed perfectly timed with California’s recent “Yes Means Yes” legislation and the ongoing federal investigation into rape on college campuses. Sadly, the episode failed to treat a difficult topic with the warmth and empathy exemplified by films like Obvious Child, which was able to find humor in the sensitive issue of abortion without sacrificing compassion. Instead, “Slipped” just felt lazy: the episode engaged rape culture in a cursory way that ultimately disregarded and did a disservice to the very real violence of rape.

“Slipped” begins as Danny and Mindy are having sex. Danny—without asking—attempts to slip his penis into Mindy’s butt. The problem is not that Danny wants to try anal sex so much as the fact that he doesn’t ask. While he immediately pulls out and apologizes, he then lies repeatedly about his rationale: his aim was off, his eyes are bad, etc. Most damningly of all, Danny eventually reveals that he did it because he thought Mindy had had anal sex before, because she watches porn. His assumption, then, is that because Mindy has dated a lot and watches porn, that she is already and always sexually willing and able.

Consent matters both in relationships and outside of them. It’s always better to ask, and neither party should assume that various sex positions will be okay. What’s more, just because a person has done something once—had anal sex, watched porn, the list goes on—does not mean that their partner now has unfettered access or that they have a willingness or desire to do it again, a topic Sarah Todd tackled beautifully in her essay on teen sex, consent, and Switched at Birth.

Ultimately, Mindy decides—after a botched sex-ed session with her fellow doctor Peter—that she will give anal sex with Danny a shot. That’s all well and good, but her reasons are upsetting and also misguided. She believes Danny has ample sexual experience and so worries that she will bore him with her limited bedroom knowledge. Danny ultimately corrects this misconception, but the episode allows this sensibility to sit for far too long. So Mindy then procures the help of a sedative because she “has to do something she can’t be awake for, but legally can’t be a asleep for.”

This is a rape joke and it’s not funny at all. Instead of doing what she’s comfortable with in bed, Mindy’s decision is to cater to Danny’s desires and roofie herself in the process. When Mindy passes out, it’s played for laughs as she attempts to maintain some cool while her world literally spins. Here, the show makes a joke of the serious issue of non-consensual sex, eliding the very real danger and trauma that comes with being roofied.

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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 »