Monday, March 2, 2015

Intersectionality and the Mindy Project

Patricia Arquette's controversial acceptance speech at the Oscars elicited a lot of debate around questions of intersectionality and the need for a more inclusive feminism that accounts for diverse experiences. Continuing in the same vein, I wanted to share an article on the Mindy Project that I recently came across. It argues that the show, despite focussing on its unconventional South Asian protagonist, works by marginalizing other races and claiming a 'proximity to whiteness'.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this awesome article, Debjani! Reading it reminded me of something Angela Davis said when she spoke at USC last week: "Diversity is a corporate strategy. It's difference that makes no difference at all." Kaling's attempts to distance herself from other 'people of color' and align herself with whiteness is arguably what has allowed for her huge success; in doing so, however, she largely negates the subversiveness of her physical representation on screen. It's disappointing that the article suggests this is a longstanding pattern in her show and is not being challenged. I remember when Orange Is The New Black first premiered, critics complained that the focus was on a white woman's experience in jail (Piper), and that the lives and experiences of characters of color were shortchanged because they were being narrated through Piper. However, I remember reading that showrunner Jenji Kohan described the character of Piper as a "gateway drug" that would hook mainstream (re: white) audiences and investors and allow Kohan to slowly develop complex stories for the more marginalized characters in her narrative. Considering the pressures showrunners / creaters etc have to deal with in the industry, I admire Kohan's strategic attempt to use whiteness to infiltrate a mainstream audience in order to bring nuanced portrayals of "minorities" to the screen. The extent to which Kohan is successful is another argument, but at least she is aware of the power dynamics of representation. I'm wondering what your take is on this?