Why I love Mindy Kaling

Kaling stars as Mindy Lahiri on 'The Mindy Project'

When Fox Television put The Mindy Project on the proverbial TV bubble late last year, I was beyond disappointed. TV comedies that I come to love always seem to get axed prematurely. (I still hold a grudge against NBC for cancelling Free Agents back in 2011. There’s a reason it’s become the least-watched of the major five U.S. networks.)

If you’re not familiar with The Mindy Project: First of all, re-evaluate your life; secondly, it’s a witty look at the trials and tribulations of a hopeless romantic in New York who’s successful in just about every aspect of her life other than love.

Sound like a Bachelor-esque cheese fest aimed at ditzy or desperate 20- to 30-something female viewers? It couldn’t be farther from that.

Actor Mindy Kaling—and her on-screen character Mindy Lahiri—is obsessed with love. In many ways, her character is the antifeminist, and yet the series is a prime example of modern day feminism. The series pokes fun at Lahiri’s lack of culture and male-crazy aspirations, as does her pseudo-macho Italian co-worker, Danny Castellano (played by Chris Messina).

Meanwhile, Kaling has inadvertently become the poster girl for “real women” on television. Some of the show’s most hilarious moments have been delivered by way of subtle fat non-jokes: Lahiri trying to hide her naked body in all its cellulite-ridden glory, and “optical illusions” during intimate moments with the guy she’s dating? All relatable. I, for one, would certainly freak out if my boyfriend mistakenly put my jeans on thinking they were his, a surefire way for him to realize just how big my hips actually are. Or take her clever quips on dieting: “What? I don’t want coffee cake. I’m still full from that chia seed I had last night.”

And while her appearance— from her makeup to her wardrobe to her figure—is nevertheless enviable, viewers can actually believe what she’s saying.

Akin to the controversy surrounding plus-size Mike & Molly star Melissa McCarthy, Kaling’s Elle cover in honour of the magazine’s February 2014 Women in TV issue also garnered “size-ism” criticism. Why did Allison Williams (Girls), Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) and Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) appear in full-body shots, rather than the black-and-white close-up granted to Kaling? Kaling’s Twitter response: “If anyone wants to see more of my body, go on 13 dates with me.”

Speaking of Deschanel, she happens to be another feminist paradigm—while still managing to be a paradox—that can also be caught on Fox’s Tuesday-night lineup. Deschanel is a loud and proud feminist, yet both the actor and her New Girl character, Jessica Day, dress in flirty full skirts and cutesy Peter Pan collars.

Despite the odd turn New Girl has taken script-wise since its sophomore season (Jess and her roommate Nick began dating, while the other supporting male characters went from quirky to crazy), this series has managed to solidify its place on the Fox roster for another year.

In an interview with Deschanel that appeared in the January 2013 issue of Glamour magazine, the actor contemplated: “We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful?”

As for me, I wear skirts and dresses day in, day out. Makeup every day. I like nail polish and high heels. But I advocate female independence and strength, and equality regardless of gender. Isn’t that something all women should be in favour of?

Within a few months of dating, I granted my now-boyfriend access to my Twitter timeline. After reading my bio, he mused, “I didn’t know you were a feminist.” I delicately indicated that he, too, was one; he just didn’t know that, either.

We’ve come a long way since the days of early feminism. Neofeminists have grown to realize that feminism and male hatred aren’t mutually inclusive, or related at all for that matter. Feminism and femininity—or the desire to dress like a girl, find love or follow the Kardashians—aren’t mutually exclusive, either. I think we could all use a little Mindy in our lives.

The Mindy Project airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

(Photo courtesy Fox Broadcasting Company)