I’ve never been totally proud of my taste in movies.
Like Mindy Lahiri, the romantic, detached-from-reality doctor of The Mindy Project, I gobble down every and any romantic comedy I happen to find, always sighing over that second-to-last scene where the two separated lovers stare at each other longingly, waiting for that last scene where the web that keeps them apart finally unweaves.
It’s embarrassing, though. I mean, I’m a modern woman. I have two degrees, I have a professional job, I’m writing a novel on the side, I’ve read Simone de Beauvoir, JD and I clean our apartment together… I’m a card-carrying feminist. I swear. So the rom-coms I come back to over and over again are inevitably limited to a minuscule group in which the sexism is merely an implicit “girls will love this movie because it has a love story in it” confined to the marketing materials, and not the textually explicit “this girl is PATHETIC because all 27 of her friends are married and she isn’t.”
And that’s why I love Mindy Kaling. Because, from everything I’ve seen of her, she gets it. She clearly gets what it’s like to be a smart woman who also happens to be sort of romantic, and gets that the culture is basically a desert for people like that. After all, she wrote Mindy Lahiri, the woman who skipped college parties so she could sit at home reciting every line of You’ve Got Mail along with her videocassette—but who’s also a fantastic doctor, willing to ditch a date she’s desperate to impress in order to help an undocumented immigrant give birth. Not everyone who loves romantic comedies is an idiot. (We just, maybe, have one little idiotic streak.)
The Mindy Project had an amazing first two seasons that spun out into one beautiful, protracted romantic comedy between Hot Mess Mindy Lahiri and Noted Grouch Danny Castellano. But once our characters had really found each other, unease—which had previously served merely to give you a frisson of slight uncertainty during their long flirtation—reached its tentacles deep into the third season. Danny “accidentally” anally assaulted Mindy during sex. He refused to think of her as family until her body was colonized by his baby. He refused to marry her, which I guess is legit, and then didn’t understand why she felt she’d compromised everything for him, which is not legit.
The first half of the fourth season took the already-tottering romantic comedy from seasons 1-2, and tore it to pieces.
Did you think a man who thought women’s primary role was to be a mother wouldn’t torture his fiancée for daring to have a career? Did you think a man who didn’t think a woman was family unless she had given him a baby, wouldn’t pressure or possibly even try to trick her into giving him another? Well, the show seemed to be saying, you’re fucking WRONG. A man who sees women as less-than, as vessels for his fantasy about how his life and family will be, will always progress from love to oppression.
That’s the terrible power of sexism: it destroys a man’s ability to relate to a woman as a human being, even if, for a brief and glorious moment, he truly loved her for the complicated human being she was.
And that’s why this whole Jody storyline is WEIRDING ME THE FUCK OUT.
I think it’s pretty clear—if nothing else, from recent casting news, which tells us that Chris Messina is not coming back as a regular next season—that Jody is going to be the winner in this little love triangle. So many obvious contrasts have been set up in Jody’s favor. Danny is engaged but sleeps with Mindy in an elevator, whereas Jody bought her an apartment! Danny tried to get Mindy to stop working, whereas Jody started a new practice with her!
But in all ways that count, Jody is basically Danny 2.0. Every other line that Colette spoke this episode was about how Jody usually likes younger, thinner women than Mindy [Janes: Could this juxtaposition have been intentional? To highlight the ways that he is, in fact, like Danny? I agree with everything you’re saying, but was proven so wrong about the Danny storyline that I am permanently gaslit]. Even the fact that he stayed so long with obnoxious red-headed whinger Courtney is, to me, evidence of sexism: i.e. dating a pretty, fragile woman and catering to her every spoiled whim because your notion of perfect womanhood includes both these ideas, beauty and fragility.
So to Mindy Lahiri: if you think Jody won’t eventually turn around and act like you’re less-than for not being in your twenties, for not weighing somewhere in the low triple digits, for having strong direction and preferences instead of made-up sensitivities and discomforts: you’re fucking wrong.
And to Mindy Kaling: I’ve trusted you. Ever since that glorious moment, mid-season four, when Fictional Mindy broke free of Danny, went over to her unoccupied apartment, and measured how well its dimensions would suit the needs of a single mother, I’ve trusted you to write your show with a clear-eyed understanding of both the beauty and the harsh consequences that come to a woman who hears the siren song of American romantic mythology. I still have faith that you plan to honor that trust for all of us feminists out there.
But the way Jody is being held up as some kind of positive contrast to Danny, the way that there’s no man in Mindy Lahiri’s life who embodies actual respect for women, and therefore for Mindy qua woman: I gotta say, those are troubling.
So let’s just say, I have Concerns.
And I’ll be watching closely in season 5.