Photo: REX USA/Picture Perfect.
Sometimes it seems like Lena Dunham is taking all the hate in the world of TV, but the truth is, Mindy Kaling takes a fair bit of criticism in her own right. Yesterday, during a panel at SXSW, it seems like Kaling finally got fed up with complaints about her show's lack of diversity — and honestly, we can't blame her.
There's certainly a lot of validity in discussions about diversity in casting and characters on television in general, and we're not suggesting that those issues don't have a place on The Mindy Project. But, aren't there better places to be directing our attention? That's exactly what Kaling wondered aloud when responding to a fan's questions about diversity-related critiques of her show: “I have four series regulars that are women on my show, and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things."
The Mindy Project isn't perfect (very few shows are). The race-related backlash to the show has mainly concerned the fact that Kaling's character dates exclusively white men — and she's responded similarly before. In an Entertainment Weekly cover story last summer, she asked, “Do people really wonder on other shows if female leads are dating multicultural people?" and quipped, "like I owe it to every race and minority and beleaguered person. I have to become the United Nations of shows?”
Wondering why her love interests aren't more diverse has opened her up to some thoroughly ridiculous questions in the past. It's not an unfounded question to have, but this isn't the first time the public has clashed on issues of just how much responsibility a star has to show to be a certain type of role model. Rihanna and Beyoncé get it on the regular — but, like Kaling, ultimately they are just trying to tell their own stories in their own ways. Is it fair to fault them if that doesn't live up to some perfect ideal of art? For our part, we'd say that if you don't like what you see, it's fine to raise those complaints. But, it's important to make sure they're directed at the right places (often times, studios are more likely responsible than artists) and to also take it as a motivation to promote smaller, lesser known artists who are doing great work that offers more inclusive representation.
It's not that she's trying to divert attention from the complaints about diversity on her show — and she made that clear during the SXSW panel. "I’ll answer them, I will. But I know what’s going on here...It is a little insulting because, I’m like, God, what can I — oh, I’m sitting in it. I have 75% of the lines on the show.”
Ultimately, Kaling laid it out in a pretty straightforward way: “I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I’m just gonna say it: I’m a f*cking Indian woman who has her own fucking network television show, okay?” (Flavorwire)