The Mindy Project Investigated The ‘Bad Wife’ Stereotype & Here’s What Happened

Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Spoilers ahead.
If you're watching The Mindy Project (which has finally reached Australian shores, hooray!) the end is nigh. The comedy is going full speed ahead with sending Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) to Divorce City, population one. That means we’re seeing even more cracks in the doctor’s marriage to Ben “I've Had No Last Name Until This Week” Miller (Bryan Greenberg) in “A Romantical Decouplement.” Mindy and Ben are going to couple’s counselling. She’s skipping home-cooked meals to pull babies out of screaming women in labour. But, Mindy is still paying for everything, acting as “the American taxpayer” to Ben’s Melania Trump, as Tamra (Xosha Roquemore) deadpans. Somehow, all of this equates to Mindy eventually being labeled a “bad wife,” and that’s worth looking into.
The most interesting part of Mindy’s “bad wife” verdict stems from who actually gives it to her. Tamra, Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), and Colette (Fortune Feimster), all settle on the idea that Mindy is a great wife. Morgan even says he would “kill” to have Mindy for a partner since her average-sized body is full of “nooks and crannies” that could keep him warm. Plus, as I said earlier, Mindy is the one footing the bill for everything, meaning Ben is “so lucky,” according to Tamra.
Fellow doctor Jody (Garrett Dillahunt) isn’t so sure, telling Mindy she’s definitely a "bad wife." Her great crime: falling into the trap that is being a modern woman. “I think women these days have forgotten the importance of femininity in relationships,” Jody explains. Rich, educated, Southern, white man Jody is clearly posited as the person more in the right, since the nurses who support Mindy’s wifely skills are immediately shown to be so dumb, they enjoy watching Morgan pull things out of his ears and take photos with the findings. Has a Schulman & Associates nurse ever been proven to be more correct than their doctor overlords? I think not.
It’s already troubling the Mindy Project’s Arbiter Of Bad Wifery is a vaguely racist, conservative white man who has never even been married, but his follow-up conversation with Mindy is even more upsetting. Since Jody can’t simply believe Mindy is a bad wife because she’s not feminine — The Mindy Project is created by a self-described feminist, after all — the pair have an actual conversation about relationships. They do a few thought exercises involving classic marriage issues like wanting different cuisines for dinner, disagreeing on television shows, and lengthy mother-in-law visits to New York City.
In all instances, Mindy tries to choose a compromise that slightly benefits her, which isn’t all that shocking for a famed narcissist like Mindy Lahiri. She recommends eating at separate restaurants and watching her favourite show afterwards. Yes, that’s selfish, but how many “happily married” sitcom husbands have been hogging the television to watch the game for decades? They usually get a loving eye roll and the remote, not the legitimate label of “bad spouse.” Mindy also says she would want her mother-in-law to stay at the Hyatt, a 4-ish star hotel, for her prospective two-week visit. This makes sense. A two-week visit is long. No one wants their mother-in-law in their New York City apartment for half of a month. Hanging out with Ben’s mom a few times, taking her to see The Lion King on Broadway, and sending her back home is the most realistic plan for a woman with two full-time jobs. None of this is “bad.”
At least Jody’s end reason for saying Mindy should work on her marriage makes sense. Things aren’t going poorly because the doctor isn’t a “cake-baking curtsy machine,” as Jody’s original “femininity” comment implied. The relationship isn’t working because Mindy is prioritising her “comfort and independence” over Ben. Still, that doesn’t make her a “bad wife.” It makes her someone who needs to work on her relationship.
This diagnosis is what helps the close of “Romantical Decouplement” actually make sense. That ending, of course, is Ben asking Mindy for a divorce following a bizarrely elaborate ruse he created to give the couple a real relationship challenge. Mindy agrees to end their marriage in literally less time than it takes to say “one Mississippi” — I checked. Ben finally says what’s been clear since the season 5 finale: Mindy doesn’t actually want to be married to him. Yes, as their couple’s therapist (Nicole Sullivan) points out, a home-cooked meal from the “incredibly intelligent, genuine” Ben and his soulful eyes is “most women’s dream come true.” Mindy simply isn’t one of those women. Instead, she’s one of those women who wishes she could feel the way the entire world is telling her to feel, but, alas, that's impossible.
The entire “bad wife” fiasco is even more sad when you realize Mindy is trying to do the opposite of everything she did with ex-fiancé Danny Castellano (Chris Messina). When Ben says he’s interviewing for his dream job in Philadelphia, the doctor — who, remember, has two full-time medical businesses in New York — supports him and says they can live in separate cities while they figure things out. He calls this a “failure” because Mindy is okay living apart for the foreseeable future. Mindy explains that's incorrect since she didn’t want to get in the way of her husband’s dream job; that’s what Danny did to her, and it “ruined” the relationship. Yes, that’s one huge part of the reason Mindy was okay with the possibility of a long-distance relationship. The other reason is that she decided to marry a man she liked, but didn’t truly love, which is the opposite of her feelings for Danny. Mindy may have disliked Danny’s confusingly old-fashioned diatribes most of the time, but she did always love him.
So, Mindy Lahiri has never been a “bad wife,” and no one has the right to call her one, whether we’re talking about drunken Southern gynaecologists or therapists with crushes on Ben. Instead, Mindy is simply a rom-com obsessed woman who talked herself into the wrong marriage. At least Mindy now has eight more episodes to fix her mistake.
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