Mindy Kaling Defends Her Show Against “Sassy Black Girl” Stereotype

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Mindy Kaling participated in a Reddit AMA on Wednesday, allowing her fans to ask her anything they wished. While some wanted to know about her worst date and her funniest moment on The Office, one fan asked a tough question about The Mindy Project and diversity — or its lack thereof. A user named neganeza asked Kaling to address her use of a "sassy black woman" character on the show, which they found to be stereotypical, adding, "Although seemingly you decided to round out the character later after criticism." Kaling did not shy away from the question, calling it "good," but also admitting she disagreed with the assessment that the African American character of Tamra is an unflattering caricature. "I'm sad you reduce her to a 'sassy black woman,'" Kaling wrote. "Xosha [Roquemore] is hilarious and gorgeous and nails lines like 'A cranberry turtleneck is what you give your aunt graduating from court reporter school.'" Kaling then asked her own question, "Is it because Tamra wants to be famous and loves to perform at work and puts a value on superficial things? I loved [to] play that as Kelly on The Office, and I love that Tamra is young, loves celebrity, and is confident and into herself. I hate that it's reduced to someone else's version of a racial stereotype." In that same exchange the Reddit user also asked, "For a show produced by a woman of color, why does your show have very little diversity?," mentioning Aziz Ansari's new Netflix series Master of None as a show that does diversity right. "Why are very few men of color in your show?" Kaling again disagreed, writing, "I think I disagree with your premise. We have six series regulars. One, the lead, is me, an Indian woman. Another is an African American woman. That's a third of our cast – although of course I hate to think of us in those terms." Kaling then said that the actor who plays her brother, Utkarsh Ambudkar — who, like Kaling, is of Indian descent — and Randall Park, who is Korean, both have recurring roles on the show, but did openly admit there was room to grow. "I do think it's important though, we can always do better," she said, adding, "I always think it's funny that I'm the only [one] asked about this when sitcoms I love with female leads rarely date men of color. I guess white women are expected to date white men. I'm expected to 'stick to my own.'" This isn't the first time Kaling has been criticized for her show’s lack of diversity. At a South by Southwest panel in 2014, Kaling defended her cast and her character's choice to date mostly white men, saying, "Do people really wonder on other shows if female leads are dating multicultural people? Like I owe it to every race and minority and beleaguered person. I have to become the United Nations of shows?”

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