What's With Mindy's White-Guy Obsession on ‘The Mindy Project'?

What's With Mindy's White-Guy Obsession on 'The Mindy Project'?


Opinion: Hollywood's casting choices when it comes to race and romance do leave impressions on its viewers

Why is it that “The Mindy Project's” title character has exclusively dated white men?

It's really a rather simple observational question to ask. Yet, the answer can get us into some very deep discussions about how we look at race and the messages such casting decisions telegraph to the show's viewers.

You may find this line of questioning strange for a show led by and starring a talented woman of color. It opens us up to a twist on the idea of diversity representation in entertainment where the lead character is a minority, a step in the right direction that should be applauded but that may be marred by the choices made for her objects of affection.

On Fox's “The Mindy Project,” Dr. Mindy Lahiri — played by show creator, executive producer and star Mindy Kaling — a natural at her job who lives her life in search of the perfect romantic comedy relationship.

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Season 1 depicted Mindy making a fool of herself at her ex's wedding, going on really terrible dates, carrying on a tortured flirtation with a fellow doctor and later finding love and taking a break from her practice for a handsome Christian pastor. There was definitely an ensemble of distinct personalities in that group of suitors, though they were all Caucasian.

“The Mindy Project” isn't alone in these kind of casting decisions. ABC's “Scandal,” for example, revolves around an otherwise totally in control black female lead character, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who finds herself losing it over the country's very handsome – and white – president.

Though she hasn't exclusively dated white men like Mindy has, the only other guy that has really been able to take Olivia's thoughts off President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) has been a mysterious government agent played by Scott Foley, who's also white. Like “The Mindy Project,” “Scandal” is the creation and vision of a minority woman, Shonda Rhimes.

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So, really, am I out of line for calling out “The Mindy Project” for something that occurs all over the small screen? Maybe, but that doesn't mean the questions aren't worthy of being asked.

What's the message being sent when minority female characters on television exclusively date and regularly lose themselves with white men? And, does it really matter if viewers aren't even noticing or seem unaffected by the leading lady's dating choices?

I would venture to say that it does matter and that the message being sent to young minority women who watch “The Mindy Project” – whether they realize it or not — is that the measure of success is not just working your way to the top of your profession but that the ideal signifier for that success is a white partner.

And as for non-white men watching the show, it only reinforces the prevailing standard of attraction that ranks them lower on the desirability scale in our culture.

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It taps into some very deeply ingrained beliefs about race that have become so natural to us that we don't even notice them anymore. Except, I contend that we do on a very deep level and it affects how we feel about ourselves and how we feel others feel about us.

That's not to say that “The Mindy Project,” a young show only in its second season, doesn't have plans to have Mindy date men from diverse racial backgrounds in the future. But, it hasn't done so yet and it's probably high time that it does.

  • David

    Does having a minority lead mean that the entire show has to be about
    race or can it just be about exploring the human condition, whatever the skin
    color may be?

    • superman

      Race is everywhere, all the time, night and day, nonstop. To pretend otherwise is self-deception, at best.

      One can talk about the human condition, in the abstract, but that abstraction collapses under even a cursory examination of the life we live now.

      Systematically and consciously deployed gross disparities in education opportunities, availability of health care, access to business and personal capital, the treatment of persons by law enforcement/legal-justice authorities, employment options, and so forth, taint every aspect and element of tens of millions of people's lives, quite often for the worse rather than the better.

      These are “secrets” that are in plain view for all to see, but part of the game is that we are supposed to pretend that they either aren't there or don't count, somehow.

      Sort of like the 7,000 lb. elephant in the middle of the dining room.

      • David

        Funny how shows with White leads don't get constantly asked why they're
        not romancing minority characters. Double standard for minority leads,
        and it isn't a good thing.

        • seito

          How about the running joke on being the minority contestant on those bachelor/bachelorette shows?

    • Baakus

      Newsflash: For minorities, race IS part of the “human condition.”

      • Guest

        not for me

        • Will

          Oh well since one of us doesn't agree I guess the rest of the racial minorities can all go home.

          Yes, because where Dinesh D'Souza, Clarence Thomas, and Ted Cruz leads their respective racial communities follow.

  • superman

    A black woman asked a white man, “What is it with you and the black men?”
    “We have to keep them down,” he replied casually.
    “We have to keep them down,” he continued. “Every time we let them in, they take over. We let them in boxing, they took over. We let them in basketball, they took over. We let them in baseball, they took over. If we don't keep them down, they'll take over everything.”

    That is the whole deal, in a nutshell. And we all know it.

    The white man runs the world, but his control of things is always tenuous and based on treachery, deception, dirty tricks, outright lies, and poorly restrained, controlled murderous violence.

    In other words, the white man knows that he better keep his foot on the black man's neck – to the extent he can – if he wants to keep it that way.

    And of course, helping the black man deceive himself into thinking that he cannot succeed on his own terms is an absolutely essential component of the race game as it is currently played.

    Accordingly, in their state of semi-conscious hypnosis, the minorities [really, we're talking the blacks here, because they are the ones who do the most to actively fight injustice [especially in America] and stand up for civil rights and such] do almost everything they can [in large part subconsciously] to ensure that it stays that way.

    Kaling and Rhimes are about getting paid – and staying paid [as well they should be], in one of the roughest, most ruthless games there is. The fact that they are in the game at all, [certainly at this level] indicates just how serious, thorough, and focused they are. They had to have studied and studied and studied some more what is going on, and that most definitely includes America's diseased obsession with race, skin color, theft, fraud. deception, oppression and caste privilege.

    If either Rhimes or Kaling ever have a serious, straight, bad ass black dude as a long-term leading man, they both know that they may as well pick up an M4 rifle and stick the muzzle in their mouth, flip the safety off and pull the trigger. That is how quickly they will be hustled off the air and into cancelled TV show oblivion.

    Note: There is a CBS memo, never repudiated, that under no circumstances is anyone in the company with the power to do so ever to even consider a series, of any type, with a minority male protagonist, [of any type].

    You can bet that Kaling studied Rhimes closely and intensely before stepping into this game. Everybody is watching everybody else – most especially those that are really playing the game – not the desperate wannabes – and staying paid.

    • Yummy_Prosciutto

      Off the meds again?

    • Jay from Philly

      White people don't have to keep you down. You're doing a pretty good job of destroying yourselves.

  • Herbs13

    “White-guy obsession”? Really? With the other race issues in popular comedy (Two Broke Girls, Dads, etc.) this is what you are focusing on? I'm a minority woman and I love this show, mainly because it deals with race by not dealing with it, especially in a fake, shoe-horned type of way. What I am focused on is a smart, Indian woman living her awesome, self-centered life with a bunch of crazies. I really don't care if her love interests involve a PC rainbow of guys. Let's focus on race issues that actually matter, like why it's ok for an Asian woman to dress up as a hot school girl and giggle do the sake of “comedy” (I'm looking at you Dads) or dealing with the horrendous trend of “rape jokes”. “White-obsession”? Come on, you can do better than that.

  • Elle

    Are you kidding me? Everyone has a ‘type'. I'm half Asian half Caucasian. I like white nerdy smart boys in glasses. i married one. No freaking surprise. No one says, what's with that white female character? How come she only dates white guys? The only person here reinforcing some idea that minority men are less desirable is you. Get real. Every girl who met my brother (although I hate to admit it) thought he was hot and wanted to be his girlfriend, no matter what their ethnic bkgd was. Sorry. I didn't mean to get all crazy! I think it's a non issue until someone decides it is. I still think it's exciting to see mixed couples on tv at all.
    Let's just enjoy how freaking hilarious this group of actors are :)

    • Baakus

      You're fortunate that you belong to a minority group (Hapa) that's perceived as desirable.

      Try living as a Black woman or an Asian/Indian man. Then you'll see how race plays a huge impact in your love life.

    • Cari

      You are also a fetish for white men, though I don't doubt your boyfriends have been attracted to you for who you are and not what you are, but it still stands that the odds of all the white men Kaling has dated on her show (tall, successful, moderate to very attractive) would consistently date her (non-white, plumpy, and moderately attractive).

  • aktorchick

    That's exactly what's wrong with the world. Expecting that she should be dating a minority because she is one. Look around the world – it's changing. TV should reflect that and it's way behind the times. Ummm… maybe that's her character. Everyone DOES have a type. This is a really stupid question, sorry. Makes me think without even googling that this must be an old white lady or man that is writing this article.

    • LR

      Since the world is changing as you say, why isn't she ALSO dating a “minority”? As for having a type, a type is at its base what one is subconsciously conditioned to prefer.

      • aktorchick

        Maybe she only likes white guys. Do you date every minority??

        • Will

          Your comments are a profile in being obtuse.

          Choosing a romantic or sexual partner based on their race is discrimination, it doesn't matter its a common practice. Black, Asian, and Latino people come in a massively wide variety of packaging some are short, thin, gay, Republican, nerdy, agnostic, educated, middle aged, fair skinned, funny, readers, etc… So saying you have type isn't an excuse for discriminating against an entire race.

          No one is reasonably saying she has to date every race and ethnicity but of the ten or more men Mindy has dated or slept with over the 2 seasons each was personally and professionally diverse. Also the fact that she lives in New York with it's large minority population and her character's search for the “perfect RomCom” romance, These factors start to make the absolute lack of men of color looks purposeful and problematic.

          Now if you want to only date a certain race that is your business, you can do that, but that doesn't make it right. Do people put their used gum under tables and chairs, sure, is it the right thing to do, no.

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      Did not Olivia Pope have Black U.S. Senator she was involved with that wanted to marry her? Or didn't that fit the premise?

    • lyn

      I think you are missing the point. No one is saying that minorities should not date whites or that some have preferences outside of their race and ethnic groups. The crux of this article is that for an Asian American woman to have so much control over the show (her credits) it is odd that she has no men of color as suitors. The article is also asking what does this say about success for women of color. Again the article is not anti-interracial relationships, it's questioning the decisions made about the character's love life (please know casting takes a staff, it's not done willy nilly)

  • Julsdunn

    This is why the world is the way it is. Why does race always have to be brought up? Why can't we just watch the show for what it is, a half hour comedy that we can immerse ourselves in and forget about the world for 30 minutes. It's meant to make us laugh not make us delve into all the racial nonsense that goes on in this world. This article was a waste of words and is just meant to add fuel to the racial fire.

    • LR

      The way the world is is because we are in denial about Race. Like anything else, it will remain until it is properly addressed. Wishing it away, being annoyed when it is brought up, or anything else like that is not addressing the fact that Race matters….and it matters because a group of folks a while ago made it matter and treated people poorly because of Race and we have never gotten over it (all Races) and never will until we make some kind of amends (and I'm not talking about money)…maybe a heartfelt, I was wrong, I am sorry and ensure that no one is ever mistreated due to Race and given equal access to resources from then forward…then and maybe only then….

    • Baakus

      Let me guess. You're white.

  • Annette E Alvarez

    I am a manager of Ethnic Talent . . . Multi-Ethnic Talent & Promotion, Inc is our name, we are based in NY, we are bi-coastal, and we have been around since '94. Our actors . . . you have seen them; they are everywhere. I sent this story along with the comments to all our clients this morning. Here are their comments, which I will post as I get them.. . . I can be found on twitter @Multi_EthnicMgt

    From @Geeta_Pereira:

    I think this article completely misses the mark. The point is not that these shows are depicting the negative image of a strong, accomplished minority leading lady haplessly in-love with a white male character who will validate her affections. It is that these shows are reflecting an increasingly prevalent social construct of inter-racial relationships. For too long, TV shows were married (pun-intended) to the idea of same-race relationships and it is no longer a realistic observation on humanity. People of different racial and cultural backgrounds are more likely to at least try dating each other this day in age. Just as same-sex relationships are becoming more prevalent on TV & in film, these showrunners are trying to illustrate the very human experience of dating.

    I think Rhimes & Kaling were eager to add these constructs of dating outside one's race to mainstream TV (Grey's Anatomy was one of the first with Sandra Oh's character, and The Office, where Kaling started out as a staff-writer, followed). Further more, I think having female showrunners ensures a more accurate portrayal of women seeking love on screen. Male showrunners are often notorious for botching these storylines entirely or misrepresenting female characters in love & dating. (Aaron Sorkin, anyone??) When I heard James Franco would be guest starring on The Mindy Project as a love-interest, my first thought wasn't: why is Mindy dating a white guy AGAIN?? It was: oh, I wonder what their dating experience will be like.

    And that is what we should think every time our leading man or leading lady dates someone new. We should root for them and stop analyzing what race their partners are and what messages they are sending to young men & women. The message is: date around & follow your heart. It's a healthy one.

  • HeyItsAllie

    Though I do understand your point about measures od success, this article is interesting because if all of Mindy's partners were Indian, this article would never have been written even though the casting of her love interests would be just as homogonous as it is now. White women on the small screen date exclusively white men in most cases and no one cries foul about how her dating choices aren't diverse enough.
    I am a Caribbean-American female, so I'm black, but I date exclusively Asian men. Why? It's my preference and I date all the time – wonderful men who display the qualities that I value in a partner. I am a diversity in media advocate (always!) but sometimes art does imitate life, whether we like it or not.

  • Ike

    Did not Olivia Pope have Black U.S. Senator she was involved with that wanted to marry her? Or didn't that fit the premise?

  • Reader

    This article's “argument” is one of the most contrived I've ever read. How did an editor not notice it's written on quicksand?

  • zigwithbag

    They're just pushin’ yer buttons, ‘dog. Git over it.

  • anon

    To those asking why the same questions about why race and dating aren't brought up with white female leads, is because usually those shows are already backed up with questions of “why aren't there enough POCs on there at all?” And I do think that it is a question that is on a lot of people's minds (it's definitely on my mind). But in the case of the Mindy show where the lead is a woman of color and she so seamlessly falls into relationships with white men, I'm not saying it doesn't happen in real life, but in becoming the lead as someone who is brown, not a stick, does not have a complexion of a typical white female lead, why does she continue to favor white men?

    I think it's important to constantly question why we choose the people we are with, including how race plays into that equation. For a lot of women of color, we are told that our men are criminals that they are backwards, that they will not treat us right. We are told that white people are beautiful and that we should gravitate toward white men, cry for them, and do everything we can to end up with them.

    I think it's valid to critique and try to understand real social issues through fiction, especially with this show considering that one women of color has so much influence in how her characters develop.

    • Baakus

      But it doesn't seem as though Mindy Kaling wants to address it at all. In her interviews, she seems to just want to not have her EXCLUSIVE preferences questioned.

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  • rrube

    It's articles like this that keep race a huge issue. I watched that Mindy show tonight and wasn't impressed. I was wondering what the hype was on the show and found this article. I did realize then, but not until I read this, that yes, her interests are white guys. And big deal. I don't have statistics of course, but I'm going to guess that for every person that notices this race issue on that show, there's going to be three that don't think about it in any terms other than another fast-talking sitcom. Get over it. She's a beautiful woman and those are all hot guys. Enjoy the show if that's your style and try not making a racial hotbed out of everything!

  • Anya

    Don't see why she has to date people of colour or why it would be strange if she didn't.

    • Cari

      It could be because she's indian and Asians tend to get a ‘pass’ on television in this area. You often find asian and hispanic women paired with white men on tv. Almost never black. It's mostly the idea that minority/minority and white/black is a ‘no no'.

  • Stet

    I'm Indian and really like Mindy Kaling. (Though her show is starting to lose me because it's not so funny anymore, but I digress.) I too find it pretty weird that Mindy has only dated white dudes on the show. C'mon. I understand that maybe they float her boat, but every single guy who's played a love interest has been white!! Just throw one in there to throw us off, Mindy.
    Also, perhaps additional non-white characters should be added to this show, aside from the sassy black nurse (….. hm). This would be a more accurate reflection of the show being set in New York. Otherwise they can change the setting to Boston, and it might be more realistic.

  • Reckless_Evileye_bawler

    Lol the show sucks! And incase u don't know, Asian bitches dig white penis..#fact

    • guest

      Succinct and to the point.

  • maryttm

    I don't care I just want she dates Danny. the END.

  • maria

    It is not all in her control, the powers that be in casting and the like control it. Take Jennifer Lopez for example, every single movie, her love interest is a white man. Hollywood does not think that two leading POC would make money. Unless it is a Tyler Perry movie/show.

  • Jaden Levi

    Mindy Kaling is the furthest thing from talented. Cancel this shit. Hiatus is not strong enough.

  • curiouswhite

    Wow!! This is absolutely amazing. I was searching for some Info about interracial dating/sex between white women & dark black men because we see so many commercials & programs pairing black men with white women. Our 4 daughters date/sex dark black guys & it's amazing see how people are reacting to this black woman dating a white guy on a TV show although it didn't seem like anyone even cared to mention black guys with white women. Seems like a double standard. Especially since the black guys seem to be interested in white women primarily for sex & racist domination whereas the black women & white men seem to want real, caring, romantic relationships.

  • Dr. Bread

    Maybe she just prefers clean, un-smelly, un-drugged, white guys with IQ's above room temperature. Some Americans still choose to exercise their right not to knuckle under to the far left hollywood bigots.

  • Katsarida

    Maybe she just likes white men! And if she only dated men who weren't white, wouldn't that be a stereotype of sorts? Like, Indians only date other Indians or soemthing? Of course, men of other races could be added into the mix, but again, maybe it's her personal preference.