Movies + TV, Pop Culture

The Mindy Project is crushing my heart, and it needs to stop

Our notions of fairytale love are destroyed in favor of a harsh reality.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Mindy Project has never been perfect. Critics point out her entirely white love life or moral ambiguity; however, these are footnotes to the otherwise funny, smart take on the workplace sitcom. The fact that an unconventional-looking (read: not white or extremely thin) woman is the show runner and lead of a major comedy has always made it an important program.

Just when Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s life seemed to come together (she finds out she’s pregnant, has opened her own clinic, and become engaged to Danny), Fox cancelled the show. Casual viewers agreed this was a fine note to end the show on— after all, Mindy had spent the first two and a half seasons chasing that perfect rom-com ending, and the finale seemed to tie it up in a perfectly Ephron-esque fashion.

Hulu picked up The Mindy Project for a fourth season (currently airing), which explores Danny and Mindy’s newfound relationship with a shared child and impending marriage thrown into the mix. We witness Danny and Mindy share disagreements such as c-section versus natural childbirth or hiring a nanny to get rid of Danny’s mother, which are light-hearted, come with an implicit moral lesson, and are tied up neatly at the end of the episode.

Mindy and Danny’s larger issues didn’t simply evaporate after the closing credits. Click To Tweet

Yet, Kaling and her team of writers carefully ensured that Mindy and Danny’s larger issues didn’t simply evaporate after the closing credits. These relationship woes culminated in “The Lahiris and The Castellanos,” then became the central issue of the season’s penultimate episode entitled “The Parent Trap.”

Mindy and Danny have always been opposites: Danny as the traditional, masculine doctor in the office immersed in his Italian culture, and Mindy as the whitewashed Indian doctor who talks too loud, eats too much, and has a lot of sex. This clashing of the two (excellently-written and acted) characters has been a trait of the show from the very beginning, eventually turning from a love-hate relationship to just love.

As Danny and Mindy became everyone’s relationship goals, season four hits hard. Click To Tweet

As Danny and Mindy became everyone’s (hashtag?) relationship goals, season four’s turns hit audiences hard. Without giving away too much: the main conflict here is that Danny is uncomfortable with Mindy pursuing her career and raising their children, but Mindy refuses to quit working. Both Mindy and Danny have fair reasons, but the obvious “right” side here is Mindy’s.

It comes to a point where Danny becomes manipulative and controlling, and Mindy, anxious that her fairytale ending will slip away, tries to compromise with both hers and Danny’s wishes. It is important to note that Danny is not a villain, and Mindy is not meek and passive. The two still love each other, but their arguments about the situation continually end unresolved, demolishing the perfect Danny-and-Mindy image the show had so carefully constructed. “The Parent Trap” ends on a bittersweet note, with the Danny-Mindy conflict still up in the air.

Kaling’s three-season arc of Mindy Lahiri seeking love and fulfillment was largely driven by a fresh, optimistic perspective on relationships and life, providing an antidote to bleaker programs about the same thing. This very idealism comes to a screeching halt with season four, pulling back the curtain behind Happily Ever After.

I often say that The Mindy Project  fills the 30 Rock-shaped hole in my heart— both are smartly-written sitcoms about 30-something women trying to “have it all.” Both Kaling and 30 Rock showrunner Tina Fey use their sharp wit and neverending supply of pop culture references to break barriers in an otherwise tired premise. 30 Rock was hailed for its fresh approach to the workplace sitcom, but never went as far as Kaling did. Liz Lemon found her true love, then skipped over the difficult relationship bits to being a successful writer, wife, and mother. This is where The Mindy Project breaks even newer ground; we get to see the ugly parts of a relationship between two people who love each other.

Sure, other shows have done this—The Office’s Jim and Pam, The O.C.’s beloved Sandy and Kirsten— but these have come off as desperate Hail Marys for ratings or resurgence in plot. 

(God, I really hope Mindy and Danny get through this.) Click To Tweet

Sometimes, the people you love will disappoint you. Sometimes, things will get ugly. It’s a truth that comes with any meaningful relationship, but if Mindy and Danny can get through it, so can you and your person.

(God, I really hope Mindy and Danny get through this.)

Shayan Farooq

Shayan Farooq

Shayan was creating mini documentaries profiling Pacific Asian artists for the USC Pacific Asia Museum of Pasadena. You can follow her on Twitter, but not in real life.

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