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    Categories: Movies + TVPop Culture

The Mindy Project wasn’t perfect, but it was a damn good start

THE MINDY PROJECT -- Season Pilot -- Pictured: Mindy Kaling as Mindy Lahir -- (Photo by: Autumn de Wilde/NBC)

Nashwa Khan’s previous work for Coming of Faith can be found here.

Last week Fox announced that it won’t renew The Mindy Project for a fourth season. Although I myself have critiqued the writing of the show, I have to say I’m sad to see it go and hope it will be picked up and given a new lease on life with Hulu.

Yes, I had my concerns with the writing of the show. There are seriously problems with depictions of male rape, for example, and I’ve written at some length about the anti-black “humor” used as a prop in the show. But it was gratifying to see an independent South Asian woman thriving in a show centered on her life.

It was gratifying to see a show centered around a South Asian woman. Click To Tweet

The sitcom focuses on the personal and professional life of Mindy Lahiri, an OB/GYN working in New York City. With The Mindy Project, a near-revolutionary space was carved out for South Asian women who don’t fit the Bollywood standard of Fair & Lovely.

Of the handful of South Asian women who have been casted as sidekicks to manic pixie dream girls – like Cece to Jess Day in New Girl, or Reshma Shetty as a physician’s assistant in Royal Pains. South Asian women have rarely been able to break out of the sidekick role, and I give Mindy all the credit she deserves for not only creating that space but also having full control of a multifaceted character.

I still have qualms with how the show’s writers created a woman of color who seemed to only have relationships with white men, but I hold heavier criticism for Bollywood, where South Asians have long been represented by cookie cutter portraits of women: docile, slim and fair.

I have heavier criticisms about Bollywood than The Mindy Project. Click To Tweet

In retrospect, maybe The Mindy Project’s fixation with white love interests is a type of subtweet, if you will: illustrating the treasured and revered white man, while also speaking to how a character with an embodiment like Kaling’s would never thrive in South Asian film unless an Ugly Betty-esque script were being used. Even then I have a newer found naivety in believing Kaling’s character only dating 50 shades of white guys in the show is some form of reparations.

Maybe I was too heavy handed with my motto of “collect your folks before you roast,” regarding Kaling’s show. She worked within a system with familiar tools of the trade. And yes, the show stars her name, but she doesn’t author every line of every script.

But while her show was cancelled, we’ve all witnessed countless other shows that were dragged out painstakingly, season after season.

The Mindy Project’s ratings have been falling for some time now. It’s definitely possible that America’s palate couldn’t handle a show centered on the life of a darker South Asian woman. Maybe it’s that, compared to the first two seasons, the addition of a pregnant main character took the storyline to a place the audiences doesn’t care to see.

I can only imagine the many reasons that contributed to the end of The Mindy Project. But either way, Mindy was groundbreaking in her role, regardless of the steps she took to attain it.

And while we must not erase the show’s problematic portrayal of certain embodiments, we can’t discredit the strides Kaling has made.

We can't discredit the strides Kaling has made. Click To Tweet