'Mindy,' you better shape up

FOX

By Karen Hua, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 9, 2014

Firstly, do not call me a “Mindy Project” hater. The show, Kaling, Lahiri — I truly love them all. As a female of ethnic minority myself, I aspire to reach her level of career success in the future; I am inspired by her unapologetic ability to be herself and I can only dream of finding my own Danny Castellano (Chris Messina, “The Newsroom”) one day. “Mindy” is incredibly cathartic after bad date nights and in a more general sense, she helps me feel more self-confident as a young woman. In many ways, Mindy has become a sort of on-screen best friend. That being said, I feel entitled to do what good friends should do — point out her flaws.

First off, Mindy, good for you for turning two seasons of friendship into solid commitment with Danny. The pilot and sophomore seasons teased our hearts, keeping us squirming with sexual tension that was all too palpable. However, now that the “happily ever after” has been reached, the story’s natural conclusion should entail. The rest will only be a static plotline of banal contentment. Now that the chase is over, where else can this relationship go that we haven’t seen before? In the past, the couple already toyed with a “break-up, get back together” situation, so there is no room to relay that again. No one wants a sitcom where the entire season revolves around an on-and-off relationship.

Nevertheless, Mindy, I praise you immensely for showing the beauty, exhaustion and sacrifice behind an exclusive committed relationship — a truth that can be incredibly empowering for young women everywhere. Unfortunately, though you solidly tackle misogyny, you need to realize that television audiences are bored by monogamy. Mindy, you’re too quickly becoming “that girl” who finally has a boyfriend and won’t stop talking about him.

Even though “Dandy” is (ugh) so adorable together, the only plotline conflicts that exist are between them as a couple and it can't carry the weight of the entire show. What once drove the series — Mindy’s character development and the unpredictable nature of her spontaneity — now begins to wane. Her progression as a character now refers more to her growth as a girlfriend. Especially if she is trying to inspire young girls, she must exemplify how she can stand as an individual, even with a boyfriend. Whereas Mindy had her best friend Gwen (Anna Camp, “Pitch Perfect”) in the first two seasons, it seems like she doesn’t have a life beyond Danny now. Mindy, dear, what happened to sisters before misters?

This is where the show becomes difficult, because for all us “starry-eyed, but imperfect” girls who look up to Mindy, she is no longer an equally “flawed” character herself. She has the dream job that she makes bank off of. She has the impeccable wardrobe that greens our eyes with envy. And now, she has the guy of her fantasies, too. So, Mindy, you have the job, the money, and the guy — everything you said you ever wanted. What else are you striving for?

Mindy no longer possesses any grander goals beyond the pursuit of love that she has already attained. Now that she has a boyfriend, either she no longer cares about other matters (of social justice, of career growth, of friends or family), or the series is coming to a dead-end. No good show strives off of harmony or peace. They are driven by conflict, turmoil and dilemma. Sure, Mindy, you give us hope that we may one day end up like you with everything we’ve ever dreamed of — but for now, you’re becoming increasingly difficult to relate to.

The primary problem with Mindy now is in her morally flawed character — but that plays out in micro-conflicts between her and Danny that don’t flow along a consistent plotline. Instead, the show would benefit by widening its scope to explore multiple relationships within the community of doctors.

There are so many charismatic secondary characters, but Mindy simply has continued to give them inadequate screen-time to delve into their personas. If the series divested focus onto some subplots, we could look to Danny and Mindy’s (often petty) relationship issues with a refreshed patience. Mindy, you have to understand it can’t always be all about you!

Jeremy (Ed Weeks, “Documental”) and Peter (Adam Pally, “Happy Endings”) are individually hilarious in their own right, and we want to see more dimensions of their character besides their fight over Lauren. Morgan (Ike Barinholtz, “Muscleman”) and Tamara’s (Xosha Roquemore, “Precious”) relationship has also barely been explored. Each of these characters have only been given one episode to “showcase” their problems: for Jeremy and Peter, bonding over the beer pong tournament; for Morgan and Tamara, her allergy to his dogs. Their issues are played out in choppy sequences instead of in consistent subplots that run throughout the season.

Even six episodes into the season, there also are so few character additions. Thus far, only two new (slightly prominent) characters are introduced — Danny’s mother and Lauren, both of whom are barely referred to in most episodes. The show has historically ignored secondary characters so much that we barely notice Betsy’s departure. Sadly, she is so irrelevant to begin with that the writers think they can continue with no explanation. Similarly, Bev could also completely disappear from the show and we probably would not realize either.

Ultimately, “The Mindy Project” is running out of topics that haven’t already been covered by other rom-com sitcoms. Believe me, I do love you, Mindy, but season three simply feels like an unnecessary sequel to your movie that has already ended.

Outside of the series, Mindy Kaling as a writer, director and actor is so immensely talented that I (and probably many others) would appreciate seeing her work in other scopes. She has a charming on-screen presence, but that can be shown elsewhere in contexts besides on “Mindy.” Girl, it’s time to invest your energy in other projects.