Writing For Us
by DICK CHENEY
The Mindy Project
creators Howard Klein & Mindy Kaling
If I were to distill my hatred of the media into one shining example, it would be coverage of the new Fox comedy The Mindy Project. Nothing emphasizes more the utter bankruptcy of white people than having to read the pathetic lines they have written about the Los Angeles comedienne's new show.
The very idea that you would think of a fictional character as a ROLE MODEL disturbs me to no end. But perhaps I should take it easy on the Los Angeles Times. After all, print is dead so they probably need to idealize someone who is good at writing for the internet.
Yes, writing for the internet. First there was writing for the Greek chorus, then there was writing for the King, then there was writing for your freedom, then there was writing for your mom, then there was writing for William Shawn, and now there is writing for the internet.
I teach a course in Writing for the Internet at the Learning Annex. The first question I ask is, is there anyone with a first name of Tierney in the class? If there is, I drive to Los Alamos and introduce them to nuclear fission research, because there is no good they can do under my instruction.
Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling, born Vera Chokalingam) is an obstetrician who works in a hospital where everyone looks exactly like B.J. Novak and no one is over 5'6". The actual set more resembles a doll house than a hospital. The Entertainment Weekly article about The Mindy Project uses the word "crush" sixty times, and takes for granted that her readers find Ed Helms and Bill Hader attractive, and would enjoy the idea of them being romantic options for Mindy.
A nuclear option isn't sufficient to defuse this kind of inanity. Of one particularly strange relationship on the show, EW writes, "It’s a bit like the relationship Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler’s characters had in The Ugly Truth, only crueler, thanks to those jabs about his ex-wife and her being even more attractive if she’d lose 15 pounds." You and I saw a very different The Ugly Truth. (I did not see The Ugly Truth, I am over the age of eleven.)
I guess the reason for the sexism boils down to the idea that once a woman suggests she may not take herself completely seriously in all facets of her life, even in jest, it's seen as OK to diminish every part of her. The Mindy Project gives hints that it will not be following this formulation, but it's difficult to know how it will keep armageddon back.
As soon as the media figures out we have a comedy about a single girl, prepare the c, r, u, s, and h keys on all typewriters, reductionism sets in. This is a shame, because Kaling's comedy is unlike any other on television.
The first internet writer was of course Alex Balk. He had (anonymously) a blog called The Minor Fall, The Major Lift. Everyone read it, and thought about who might have been writing it. It was very honest, and this appealed to people; although I suppose by hiding the identity of its writer, it wasn't completely truthful. It was still the finest blog of its time.
By being candid Ms. Kaling attracted her own kind of audience. Of course, the same thing happened to her that eventually happened to Alex Balk before he moved into his massive mansion in the tax haven of the Philippines: she met all the people she'd been writing negative things about, and started mounting a subtle defense of them by no longer being candid.
What better time to move to television, where the only response you get to your work is message board posts where people write, "I really hope that guy stops making fun of Mindy's weight!" and the sound of money flowing into your bank account.
The Mindy Project feels like a variety of jokes made on twitter dressed up as a theatrical production. The jokes themselves are funny; the attention to detail in the diegesis is I suppose also funny. Mindy at least is somewhat believable as a doctor, but the rest of the cast looks (1) exactly like a B.J. Novak lookalike audition call and (2) completely unbelievable as doctors, nurses or medical professionals. I am not attracted to B.J. Novak; it says as much on my driver's license.
Fortunately, what's great about America and the wisdom of the crowds is that they look beyond what the media thinks is good or worth watching, because the media has absolutely no idea what is worth watching. Working at a major newspaper website consists of "What are we going to write today?" Some of the writers answer, and the white editor says, "OK, that's the next big thing", tells someone else to write a listicle about Kristen Stewart's vagina, and then asks the intern to prepare a page-long summary of what people think is cool while he googles pictures of Christopher Nolan's wife and posts comments on Atrios.
The Mindy Project would be so much better without the artificial star power channeled into the pilot. Just seeing Ed Helms' face is enough to make me squeeze my Joe Biden voodoo doll. There's a reason The Office is ending; I don't want to have to look at every character actor in Hollywood in a slightly new role. In fact we would all be better off if Mindy were surrounded by actual medical professionals. Acting died with the newspaper. In the future all acting will be done by CGI Michael Fassbenders.
Mindy's Dartmouth-educated comedy is the only thing that does feel fresh in this environment. Her deadpan intonation and appropriately self-centered worldview make her fully realized even when her surroundings are not. Her mind grips the world in the way that we are all trying to - as if we were completely disengaged with how it operates, and are perennially on the brink of just being able to understand things. CRUSH
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about J.J. Abrams' Revolution.
"Flower" - Deerhoof (mp3)
"Bad Kids To The Front" - Deerhoof (mp3)
The new album from Deerhoof is entitled Breakup Song and it was released on September 4th.