by Sophia Madana
Those of you who grew up a first-generation kid like me can sympathize with the fact that we were always kind of … different.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; variety is the spice of life, they say. Each culture has its way of cultivating its distinction in America that eventually becomes a stereotype.
The problem, though, with stereotypes is that I find myself often determined to defy them.
Being Indian, my parents insisted I go into medicine because “it’s a reliable field,” even though I never had an interest in science while I was in school.
Actually, scratch that. I remember being really into Geology and studying the “luster” of rocks in 5th grade, but I think I can chalk that up to being amused by shiny things.
I was adamant about making my own way doing something I loved, so I studied journalism, and I tend to celebrate other Indians who are killing it in the real world using passion instead of cash as a motivator. On the flip side, I’m also pretty hard on other Indians for being so unoriginal.
So when I see people like Mindy Kaling starring in her own show, the brown, rebellious teenager in me does a little victory dance. Not that she’s any stranger to the entertainment world. She is a successful comedian and was the brain and wit of The Office as one of its head writers.
I was faintly annoyed when I realized the premise of her show was based on her being a gynecologist. I assumed it would be a series perpetuating more stereotypes and thought, “Come on, Mindy. You’re better than that.”
But, as I continued watching past the pilot, I saw the bigger picture. The whole medical approach was to draw the masses in, thinking maybe it would be another funny doctor show like Scrubs.
Because Indians have been incredibly underrepresented in the media until very recently, it’s so easy to take the “Thank you, come again” cheap shot to entertain people. I’m always weary of this when encountering Indian-related humor. But what I love about this show is that Mindy’s Indian heritage is hardly ever referenced, and when it is, it’s very subtle. I appreciate her touching on the nuances rather than the obvious.
A prime example of this: In the Thanksgiving episode, Mindy is in the middle of apologizing to Ed Helm’s character for their date ending awkwardly when his new girlfriend who also happens to be Indian sits down next to him.
She whispers to herself, “you’ve gotta be kidding me…”
All I can say is, YESSSS. I certainly can’t speak for all Indian girls, but when dating someone of another race, I fear to be replaced by another Indian. It’s one thing to leave our asses for a white girl; that actually makes some sense. Our culture is pretty strong and unwavering. It can get intimidating when it’s time to decide if you want to commit. But to go from me to another Indian girl suggests you A) have some sort of fetish, gross. Or B) I was shy of one miscellaneous characteristic trait which you thought you would find in someone who looks just like me, a multi-leveled insult.
As the interaction in the scene continues, the girlfriend says, “If you don’t mind me asking … Are you Indian?”
Mindy looks down at her glass, raises her eyebrows and replies, “Oh yeah … Big time.”
The girlfriend nods and responds, “Love to see other brown girls,” and does a little brotherhood, chest pound move.
This made me flashback to a time in college when I joined a sorority. In my pledge class, there was one other Indian girl. She immediately approached me and asked if I was Indian. I, of course answered “yes” and she said, “Nice. Us brown girls gotta stick together, right?”
Not to GIF this out, but, I was all like:
These strange notions that run through my head are difficult to articulate, especially since most of my friends are white and can’t see where I’m coming from. But I knew there had to be others who felt this way, and now, my feelings are validated on a national TV series.
Stereotypes happen; that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m just glad they don’t happen much on The Mindy Project. My mental victory dance is warranted.
Brown girls, FTW.