"The Mindy Project" Breaks Ground for Indians

TelevisionEntertainmentMindy KalingThe Mindy Project (tv program)

“The Mindy Project” is a brand new show on FOX, and is a big deal for actress Mindy Kaling. Not only is Kaling the show’s writer, she’s also the star.

It’s also a big deal because it’s the first American primetime TV show starring an Indian-American woman.

When asked if she feels like she’s breaking ground, Kaling said, “I think it’s so cool, and it would be great if little Indian American girls think it’s neat or they could do something like that.”

Also taking note is the Indian community. Sujatha Moni is a professor of Women’s Studies at Sacramento State University said Kaling is breaking ground. “In TV shows most of the (Indian) characters are stereotyped; geeky, scrawny, who’s always a sidekick.”

Moni is pretty spot-on. TV shows like “the Big Bang Theory”, “House”, and “The Newsroom” all have Indian characters that fit the stereotype. Even the canceled TV show “Outsourced,” which was about an Indian call center, starred a white actor.

While “Mindy” is different than those shows, Moni said it’s too early to get excited, “Just putting an Indian American woman on the show is not sufficient. What she does with her character is far more important.”

The character, also named “Mindy”, is a sassy and successful OB-GYN, but doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to dating. When asked about how she came up with the character Kaling said, “I really wanted to do a fun, sexy show in New York City and I wanted to see a lot of different guys on the show, so I made (the character) single. It’s relatable; I think a lot of my friends who are my age and single would like watching it.”

As for being perceived as a role model, Kaling said, “If the fact I’m Indian and a woman, those are things I didn’t have any decision making. If the show’s really good, then I could embrace that a little bit more.”

That’s where “The Mindy Project” has potential. “TV’s the most powerful medium,” said Moni, “It has the power to change perceptions.”

“The Mindy Project” airs on Tuesdays at 9:30pm on FOX.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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TelevisionEntertainmentMindy KalingThe Mindy Project (tv program)