I don’t like The Mindy Project. I don’t like it, and I feel bad about that. I’m not usually in the habit of feeling bad about things I like or don’t like. For instance, here’s a partial list of almost universally loved things which I don’t care for: The Sopranos, Led Zeppelin, Jonathan Franzen novels, Citizen Kane, most fish, also the band Phish ( I don’t now if they’re still popular, but I know I still don’t like them). I say these things, and I own two Backstreet Boys albums. I am not ashamed.
But The Mindy Project I really wanted to like. Partly because I feel like more shows should be created by, run by and feature women and people of color. Partly because I loved Liz Lemon in a very real way, and feel like Mindy Lahiri is her comedic heir. Partly because I really do like the way Mindy Kaling herself walks the line between being overly self-critical and self-confident enough to know that it’s not cool for other people to criticize her in the same way. It’s vaguely contradictory, but also completely representative of how a lot of women in their 30s feel themselves.
And last night’s episode is a perfect example of why I should like the show. (Spoilers). Mindy and Danny spend most of the episode navigating the fall out of his surprise attempt to initiate anal sex. Yep, butt sex. On a prime time, network sitcom. And even though I had a few issues with the way Mindy prepared for the act (a sedative? Are you serious? Have you never read Savage Love? Dan Savage would be so disappointed), I like that Danny and Mindy’s conversation about a taboo sex act were frank and direct. I like that there was a minimal amount of slut shaming. And I like that the jokes were about their relationship, and not cheap jokes about anal sex itself because it’s really hard to do a good butt sex joke and we should leave that to Stone and Parker.
I watched the episode, and really appreciated it. And I didn’t laugh once.
And I think it’s because of this:
I get it. Mindy is supposed to be both a competent professional, and a slightly vapid woman- child. But I don’t think we’ve seen enough of the competent professional Mindy to make it funny that she’s also vapid. We know that she’s a great doctor, but we don’t ever see her being a great doctor. Liz Lemon worked on her night cheese, but she also kicked ass on her real show all day. And she took on her bosses even while high-fiving a million angles. Would anyone have found Liz peeing in a vase funny if she weren’t also capable of telling Frank to shut down his “sun tea”?
Maybe it’s my personal bias. I’m into Liz Lemon’s nerdy awkwardness, and averse to Mindy’s TMZ shallowness. I really want to like her. But I just can’t care about someone who likes the Kardashians that much.