Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Mindy Kaling has repeatedly faced mounds of criticism for The Mindy Project, namely being that the show is just too white. The latest of which came in the form of questions posed on a Reddit AMA. A user asked Kaling the following:
1) For a show produced by a woman of color, why does your show have very little diversity? (See 'Master of None' for a show that does it right.) Why are very few men of color in your show?
2) Why did you decide to add a stereotypical 'sassy black woman' character to your show? (Although seemingly you decided to round out the character later after criticism.)
Kaling responded accordingly:
Hi! Great question. I think I disagree with your premise. We have six series regulars. One, the lead, is me, and [sic] 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. Utkarsh [Ambudkar] and Randall Park both recur on our show. I do think it's important though, we can always do better. I always think it's funny that I'm the only 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.'"
2) I think you're talking about Tamra. I'm sad you reduce her to a 'sassy black woman.' Xosha [Roquemore] is hilarious and gorgeous and nails lines like 'A cranberry turtleneck is what you give your aunt graduating from court reporter school.' 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 [sic], and is confident and into herself. I hate that it's reduced to someone else's version of a racial stereotype.
Kaling received further criticism from Vulture editor, Ira Madison III. In a now deleted tweet, Madison said that dating white people isn't the be all, end all of racial representation and in another, he challenged Kaling:
.@mindykaling Any brown female writers on your show, Mindy? Any brown female directors? I didn’t think so. You can miss me tonight sis.— Ira Madison III (@ira) November 13, 2015
Though he has a point — it doesn't seem like Kaling has made much of an effort to employ brown women behind the scenes of the show, and that interracial relationships aren't just between white people and a person of color. It's important to note that regardless of Madison's criticism, interracial relationships between white people and people of color are becoming the norm. Plus, it's a complicated subject for many children of first generation immigrants and it's nice to see this represented on television; the attempt to balance their ethnic heritages while being with someone who has no understanding of this.
Aziz Ansari's Netflix show Master of None, was co-created by two men of color, and that has also been subject to criticism for interracial relationships, not surprisingly also from Vulture. They criticized in particular the "nameless East Asian girl woman" he took out on a date and this was entirely erroneous; her name was Caroline.
Madison then pitted Kaling against longtime Bollywood star, Priyanka Chopra. Kaling noted that there shouldn't have to be a fight between the two just because they're both Indian; why can't they coexist?
Sad that there can only be one of us succeeding. I love Priyanka's work. https://t.co/VaJiEJ0eNY— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) November 13, 2015
What people also seem to forget is that Mindy is a not-skinny dark skinned South Asian woman with her own television show. This would not even be considered a possibility in India, where the media's obsession with fairness determines the success of your career. Kaling's presence in the media as a desirable woman is far more profound than people give her credit for.