There has been a news story circling around about Mindy Kaling, regarding the diversity on her show. When asked about the lack of diversity on her show at a panel she responded with, “I’m a fucking Indian woman who has her own fucking network television show, OK?” I can understand her frustration: everyone expects that she, as a woman of color should make her show the most melting pot-diverse-equality filled production of all time. While I can see the perspective that comes with this sentiment, I am skeptical regarding its merit. These critics have cited Shonda Rhimes as someone that Mindy Kaling should aspire to be like – utilizing blind casting and having comparably diverse casts. I do support Shonda Rhimes choices, and believe that her usage of blind casting is extremely beneficial to the TV industry. However, there is a major distinction that exists between shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Mindy Project; and in this distinction lies the strength of the latter.
Grey’s Anatomy is essentially a soap opera – I take no issue with that, but it is true. I actually, as a guilty pleasure, watch it often. I must, however, note that while numerous things happen throughout the show’s timeline it presents a remarkable stagnation whereby one can miss seasons at a time and not feel the slightest bit lost. Crisis after crisis befall the characters and yet nothing really changes in the long run; such is the character of a soap opera. You are meant to get roped into their world where you are more likely to be in a plane crash, get shot, drown, get electrocuted, etc. than to experience any long-lived sociopolitical struggles. Grey’s Anatomy is an escape where ethnicity of the characters matters little to the greater story line or show, allowing blind casting to be a possibility. This isn’t a bad thing, shows like this are important to the growth of diversity in the media.
The Mindy Project, to me, represents a different kind of television when compared to Grey’s. Mindy Lahiri, the protagonist, is a brilliant OB/GYN who is a partner at a primarily white male dominated practice in New York city. While this show could pretend that women and people of color are well represented in the high paying job market and blindly cast the actors, it does not – and with good reason. The show, while often ridiculous and dramatic, tackles an important topic: the experiences of a woman of color in a position of authority in a predominately white and male workplace. To me representing this in the media is equally important as putting up a diverse front. I am in a field in which women and people of color show low representation as you go up the food chain. It is nice to have a show that I can identify with, without being caught in some sort of fantasy world.