Mindy and Me: On Diversity and Other Middlebrow Desires

Criticism / Douglas S. Ishii

:: Mindy and Me: On Diversity and Other Middlebrow Desires ::

In 2012, I made a New Year’s Resolution to balance dating with my doctoral studies: I would go on twelve dates in 2012—a leap ahead of my one date from all of the previous year. I planned on having a tenure-track job and a husband by my hooding ceremony. (A life defined by benchmarks begets more benchmarks.) That summer, the man I nicknamed “Dreamboat” ghosted me after our third date: my first adult romantic disappointment. This made me cry involuntarily whenever I heard Adele’s “Someone Like You”—which, thanks to radio, was often. One August night, drunk on sadness and tequila, I watched the pilot episode of The Mindy Project, the single-camera sitcom by and starring Mindy Kaling as Dr. Mindy Lahiri, an OB-GYN Manhattanite on the hunt for love, when it was released online ahead of its broadcast premiere on FOX. A surprise cut in the pilot’s teaser reveals that our protagonist is narrating her opening voiceover from in an interrogation room. She explains to a police officer that she, drunk, rode a bicycle into a pool after ranting on stage at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding reception. She was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t just that she was minoritized—a term I use to name how “minorities” are not born but made through unequal power relations. She was also fast-talking, frantic, selfish, stylish, and loved to eat.

I watched the series finale at the end of Season 6 in the fall of 2017. By then, I had been on many more dates, but I had not found that husband. Illustrative of the conditions of the new academic normal, I had received a surprise visiting faculty contract at my alma mater, then became a postdoctoral fellow in Colorado, then visiting faculty again in Chicago, no tenure-track position but now a longer-term temporary lecturer for students I adore. Like Mindy Kaling, I had been perpetually on the bubble: continuing Kaling’s rise as a postfeminist icon, The Mindy Project moved from FOX after its Season 3 cancellation to Hulu, to inaugurate the streaming service’s ventures into original content. Like Dr. Mindy Lahiri, I had experienced starts and stops of career success: she had opened own fertility clinic, Later Baby, that swung between bankruptcy and prosperity. By the time the central love story between her then-former co-worker, eventual co-parent, and once-male lead Dr. Danny Castellano (played by Chris Messina, in his own career rise) had fallen apart in Season 4, I too had felt something like love. I nicknamed him “Logistics”: logistically, circumstance cut the fantasy of us short as I left town to follow my latest contingent faculty contract. Like Mindy, I told myself this is the life I love.

This story of Mindy and me was something I had to theorize. In the final moments of the finale, after she has run away from the ensemble’s wrap at two of her nurses’ wedding reception, Mindy and Danny meet in the recurring set of the hospital break room. She utters, “I don’t think I ever stopped loving you, and I don’t think I ever will.” They reconcile as the camera pans out. Something in my heart broke and was mended and was made messy even though she is coming back to a politically conservative low-key racist/high-key sexist to whom she has had to prove herself time and time again. (Academia.) Love, that most sacred discourse of emotional intensity and material belonging, facilitates complex contradictions of race, gender, class, and sexuality in The Mindy Project, as it does in my own experiences of precarity and privilege. Thus the show, which uses that love to navigate the public and private dimensions of everyday life, invites an analysis of some of the core logics of “diversity” today.

I.

Mallika Rao’s November article in Vulture, “The Legacy of Both Mindys on The Mindy Project,” draws a parallel between the arc of the narrative and the creator’s uneven but gradually improving record of progressive representation; as she puts it: “[o]ur heroine stands at a wedding, thinking about a dude, same as six years ago. Only nothing’s the same.” [i] Against the backdrop of South Asian American tokenization, Rao tends with generosity to Kaling’s negotiations of being Other to the white masculinity that defines the comedy world. To further validate Kaling’s intervention, Rao quotes Desi women, who comment that they find joy in how The Mindy Project approximates their lived realities. This is part of the dictum that representation matters: to see your face and experiences reflected to a larger audience normalizes and affirms. However, Rao’s method reiterates what media scholar L. S. Kim identifies as one of the false consensuses between media industries and viewers: that viewer identification depends on racial similarity. [ii] Within this grid of “like” liking “like,” critics such as Rao can only make a moral appeal to an industry against profit creation; the argument is already overdetermined. Thus, I am not interested in The Mindy Project for its ethnographic realism—which, as a male-identified East Asian American writer, I recognize can be a problem.

So why do I like The Mindy Project? It is slapstick, but it is smart. The pilot episode opens on a retroactive shot of Mindy as a child in her suburban Boston home watching romantic comedies, which frames both her relationship to love and the show’s self-conscious play with that canon. The show quickly positions itself as highly self-aware and does not explain or justify that literacy to its audience. Thus, I understand The Mindy Project as a rather middlebrow cultural production. The phrenological language of the middlebrow refers to cultural texts, norms, and identities that inhabit the hierarchical space between so-called highbrow culture, characterized by its aesthetic “greatness” and inaccessibility, and lowbrow culture, known for its mass appeal and presumed lack of value. The academic study of middlebrow culture stems from two significant periods: its 1920s genesis, when the industrial growth of U.S. empire made goods associated with class privilege more available, and its post-World War II resurgence, which coincided with the violent backlash against desegregation and other Cold War reforms. [iii] Though the middlebrow is no longer named as such, contemporary middlebrow cultural dynamics speak to our own era’s class politics as new texts aspire to literacy and artfulness on one hand and consumer pleasure and widespread accessibility on the other. Given our bipartisan political culture obsessed with the righteousness of the middle, I need to say: the middlebrow does not deconstruct class hierarchy, but resolidifies it. The middlebrow does not produce a radical dissensus but a consensus between producer, text, and consumer.

Given its middlebrow self-referentiality, The Mindy Project would seem to take aim at the romantic comedy’s genre politics. However, in a January 2015 Al Jazeera America critique of The Mindy Project’s racial and class biases, cultural commentator E. Alex Jung bemoaned that “Lahiri’s project of finding Mr. Right, in other words, holds the ultimate promise of assimilation.” [iv] This aligns with other criticisms, such as Dodai Stewart’s May 14, 2013, article in Jezebel, “Mindy Kaling Only Makes Out With White Guys on The Mindy Project.” [v] But in a November 11, 2017, story in Vulture, Mindy Kaling foreshadows the series finale:

“The writers all pride ourselves on being feminist, and we roll our eyes at the character in a fun way,” Kaling said. “We love her because she feels she needs a man to be complete, and I think that reflects a lot of what women think. Certainly a lot of my friends—and even when I when I was younger—felt that way. But we don’t believe that, and we don’t want to give her what she wants, so we put her through that experience and showed her it’s not enough so hopefully she can be a little more woke in the process.” [vi]

One way of understanding Kaling’s comment is that, from 2013 to 2015 to 2017, Kaling and her team have grown politically and creatively. Instead, I understand The Mindy Project as part of a diversity discourse conveyed through middlebrow cultural dynamics—a joining of a liberal (as opposed to radical) diversity and a professional, sophisticate identity. I take up sociologist Jane Ward’s distinction between diversity as “a material fact of difference” and diversity as an ideological project that manages that difference through selective incorporation—we keep the diversity that we like. [vii] I use the term in the latter sense. Theater scholar David Savran critiques Rent (1994) for its middlebrow pretenses of inclusivity through its AIDS and LGBT storylines, its backdrop of anticapitalist bohemianism, its metropolitan topicality. [viii] His reading shows how middlebrow texts nominally represent social differences not to transform exclusivity but to assure producers and consumers of their own cultural cache: they already know better. Through such a consensus, diversity has come to have value: not as a social justice project of difference but as a set of digestible knowledges that translate to symbolic capital.

Let me state it differently, from the consumer side. In a very Mindy way, I find myself on OKCupid again, skimming profile after profile. For the uninitiated, OKCupid encourages you to fill out multiple prompts. One is “Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food.” (Sigh.) The question is a test. My litany must demonstrate that I enjoy the pop pleasures, but not too much; that I am cerebral, but not pretentious. I love harder post-grunge, but it gives the impression of unhealthy masculinity. So, I soften Rise Against with Fleetwood Mac—a group with the history to prove my inner sophistication. Maybe Lorde, with enough Pitchfork edginess to show that I am on-trend yet accessible. My catalogue of “Peak TV” shows is also key. Mindy is a driven but flawed but loveable heroine in the vein of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon from 30 Rock (2006 – 2013) and Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation (2009 – 2015). These pop feminist icons are of the wave of NBC single-camera comedies for young, educated, urban sophisticates, like the show for which Kaling previously wrote and acted, the U.S. adaptation of The Office (2005 – 2013). While staking out important ground in the misogynist worlds of television and comedy, these shows all represent a white liberal feminism at which I can roll my eyes and prove my symbolic capital by knowing better. The Mindy Project is perfect to list.

II.

As Kaling’s explanation to Vulture suggests, part of the show’s middlebrow quality is how its writers understand themselves to be feminists. Yet, this language of political consciousness seems to contradict how they reiterate normative femininities, often through Mindy’s relationship to love. This central role of love draws me to think through theorist Lauren Berlant’s The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008). [ix] Berlant frames the texts she studies through a side argument as middlebrow, in that they seek “the management of ambivalence, and not the destruction of pleasures or power” (5). Love for Berlant is “the gift that keeps on taking” since “the search for mirroring (desire) demands constant improvisation (anxiety) and taking of accounts (disappointment)” (15). Middlebrow love tries to be ironic about the norms it portrays, but also maintains a sincere investment in them, and performs intellection through its condescending reflexivity. As Berlant puts it, “she can have her sex and hate it too” (224).

I am less interested in criticizing The Mindy Project as a “bad” attempt at diversity than I am in how its participation in middlebrow love sustains our collective fantasy of diversity. The calls to diversity made by critics including Rao, Jung, and Stewart can be broken down into an affirmative diversity and reactive diversity: affirmative, in that we celebrate that it is there, and reactive, in which we respond to its lack. Reactive diversity is a complaint: things could be better if only we were heard, and thus we express our politics through our complaints while not upsetting our attachments to what causes us grief. [x] (Like television.) Both kinds of diversity can be described in Berlant’s language as juxtapositional (x): affirmative and reactive diversity function in proximity to realm of politics but do not engage power as such outside of calls for confirmation and emotional response. Affirmative and reactive diversity cause responses like the eyerolls that Kaling describes. Eyerolls, sighs, and cringes: Latinx feminist theorist Juana Rodríguez writes of such gestures as kinetic forms of communication with a future temporality. [xi] While Rodríguez mines the resistive potential of gestures for making a new future for queers of color, the middlebrow future is already present. As middlebrow sophisticates, our gestures move between each other to solidify our consensus that we just simply know better: we can have our diversity and hate it too.

The Mindy Project moved to Hulu as part of a wave of diversity programming and thus adds to our fantasies of online streaming services as being free from the institutional constraints of networks. Like Mallika Rao’s article on The Mindy Project, we can easily narrate the handful of episodes in which Mindy Lahiri directly addresses her race through the language of affirmative diversity: as social progress via creative freedom. In the Season 5 episode “Concord,” Mindy, frustrated by her ex-partner Danny’s wedding, hops in her car and ends up at her parents’ house. She is greeted with a frying pan to the head by her mother, Sonu (portrayed by Sakina Jaffrey). Mindy and her slacker brother Rishi (played by recurring guest star of Pitch Perfect fame Utkarsh Ambudkar) stumble upon what they think is their mother’s affair, but she confesses that she has been flirting with a director to try to get ahead in the local theater scene despite the gendered, ageist, and racist biases of acting. In the episode’s final moments, Mindy encourages Sonu to write her own story, a metacritical comment on reactive diversity’s demand not just for more actors but more creative voices. The tag ends as the camera drifts out of the front room, where Mindy and Rishi curl up on the couch to listen to Sonu read from an entry in her journal, one detailing her first encounter with snow during her first days in the U.S., in which she asks: “Will this cold, unforgiving place ever be my home? But as time went on, India became a distant memory and all of it changed for me. My adoptive home became, simply, my home.” (I cringe.) It is a telling of her ethnic story as the ethnic story: disorientation, alienation, adaptation. Only her ethnic story is kind of . . . bad. While the scene seems to mock the sacred status of writing from the ethnic self, the scene offers it with such sincerity, as an invitation into the family and her intimate life. This encapsulates the middlebrow relation of love: an eyeroll that tries to hide a heartfelt sentiment and a heartfelt moment that evinces an eyeroll.

In this way, we can understand the diegetic inclusion of brownness in the Season 5 episode, “Bernardo & Anita,” through affirmative diversity and the middlebrow impasse of love. Named after the lovers of West Side Story (1957) to signal its Brown, ethnic drama, the episode opens with Mindy on a dinner date with Neel, in which she says, “You’re the first Indian guy I’ve ever gone on a date with.” Neel shares that he identifies “culturally as Indian,” and Mindy banters with cluelessness about the content of her Indian American identity. After dinner, Neel walks her home; she closes her eyes and leans in—only to fall forward into nothing. Neel has not reciprocated her gesture and says, “I just don’t really see this going anywhere.” Why? “Being Indian is a really important part of my life,” and he refers to her as a coconut: “because you’re brown on the outside and white on the inside.” Her mouth drops open as we cut to the intro credits. As a fourth-generation Japanese American who has been called the homologous “banana,” and whose similar performance of American identity has been shaped by his family’s World War II incarceration, I freak out. Sure, Neel is freaking hot and has remedied the white uniformity of Mindy’s lovers. But those are fighting words.

The episode proceeds with a formulaic theorizing of ethnic identity. She asks her younger brother Rishi for his thoughts: “you think you’re white, and I think I’m Black.” There is something about the correlation of Mindy’s class and femininity to whiteness that hits somewhere between unfair conflation and systemic truth. He goes on to say: “We represent a new kind of Indian American: ones with literally zero roots to our past.” (I roll my eyes even as I feel so seen.) Further into Act I, Mindy calls Neel again and asks to hang out. He reluctantly agrees, and they meet at (corporate sponsor) Bed Bath & Beyond. After commenting on how a white employee assumes they are married, they lay out the terms of Indian American identity: Neel says, “It’s not really your fault your parents assimilated so completely they completed abandoned their heritage”; Mindy retorts: “Hey, pal, immigrants are supposed to assimilate.” The terms of debate are narrowed to clean and simple binaries: heritage integrity or willful assimilation. As middlebrow, there is no complexity or contradiction: there is merely labeling and anxiety management. But we affirm that diversity is now present. Cultural critic Helen Heran Jun argues that there is a methodological tendency to conflate the media representation of a subject position with an ideological disposition. [xii] In other words, we ask for affirmative diversity over a deconstruction that tracks what that diversity actually does and for whom.

III.      

Since much of the show’s criticism focuses on Mindy’s majority-white pool of lovers as envisioned by a majority-white writers’ room, what ideological disposition do we expect from a change in subject position? [xiii] As I think through my frustrations with The Mindy Project and the fantasies it represents, I refuse to use the expected terms: two-dimensional, fake, stereotype. (Am I complaining?) These terms come from an important activist history: the activist writings of the Asian American Movement (1968 – 1977), which became the intellectual basis of the academic field, analyzed how stereotyped representations of Asians and Asian Americans expressed anti-Asian bias and discrimination as shaped by U.S. politics with Asian nations. Clearly, this still deserves repeating over and over again. However, the mainstreaming of stereotype critique has turned the language of the stereotype into a stereotype itself: a figure without a history, a heuristic to (over)simplify the political world, an easily repeatable meaning. Thus, any deviation from the most racist caricature seems like the remedy: three-dimensional, real, complex. This moralistic framework leaves no space for cringes and eyerolls, as we must affirm it for its political goodness or react to it for not being good enough. This keeps us locked in essentialisms and “burdens of representation” arguments that stymie group creativity.

Apprehending agency beyond models of individual choice can help us understand Mindy’s creative responses to reactive diversity. After their Bed Bath & Beyond hangout, Neel invites Mindy to dinner with his Indian friends. She brings her coworker, the white doctor Jody Kimball-Kinney, with her, as she wears a kortha. She enters a space filled with Brown people but is surprised: “oh, you’re dressed regular.” At dinner, they reference Soulcycle, butter coffee, hipster tastes, and their parents’ surprise over unmarried couples living together at age 32. Their normalcy, performed through a class-specific cultural citizenship that suggests whiteness, creates a sense of community—one that is itself middlebrow. Everyone pulls out their phone and reads texts from their parents in accents: the in-group humor of affirmative diversity. Jody tries to join in with his own Indian accent, but Mindy educates him as her foil—she quickly tells him, “it’s not the same.” We laugh because we know; The Mindy Project has affirmed us as the “diverse” viewers we are, for we recognize the stereotype Mindy has confronted.

Yet, “Bernardo & Anita” shows that affirmative diversity’s focus on stereotype critique is not enough as these interactions lead to the dramatic climax of the episode. Mindy quickly puts together a mundan—a Hindu ceremony for a baby’s first haircut. In front of an audience of Mindy’s new community, her parents, her coworkers, and a “priest she found on Yelp,” her son Leo has a meltdown. Leo’s cries escalate against the steady chants of the priest, but Mindy tries to push through in a diegetic inclusion that lasts over a minute. The camera cuts to shots of Jody, who reacts with increasing trepidation, and her other two white male coworkers, who plead for the ceremony to stop. (I cringe.) Meanwhile, Mindy’s parents look on adoringly as part of the backdrop of Brown people, with her mother Sonu becoming visibly excited. The source of our affirmative diversity has become unwieldy.

The mismatch between the responses is not only racialized: it becomes one about citizenship. The unperturbed Brown people do not respond to the American child’s complaint and the panicking white men must intervene. (I cringe.) Having many dear friends and cousins with babies prone to meltdowns, I respond to Leo’s cries. The camera’s pedagogy turns against us, encouraging us not to identify with Mindy and her seemingly trivial pursuit of heritage transmission; we identify with the out-of-place white men, the sensible ones who respect the diversity that ethnicity represents but do not encourage what in the moment feels like abuse. (I cringe.) Mindy calls the ceremony off and, in the next scene that kicks off Act III, Mindy, Leo, and her parents sit on her bed as Mindy frets, “I tried to do this Indian thing that I didn’t understand and everyone knew.” Her parents reassure her that they love the U.S. and thus did not encourage their U.S.-born children to maintain ethnic ties. Her mother insists: “You make us so proud every day. If that isn’t Indian I don’t know what is!” Validating the Act I understanding of assimilation as an individual choice but dismissing its consequences through the power of love, their permission resolves Mindy’s conflict. (I roll my eyes.)

This identity conflict is love, the gift that keeps taking. Berlant reminds that middlebrow love is not just about a desire for wholeness but the anxiety that attends that search, as well as its resulting disappointments. As I have argued, The Mindy Project and its criticisms occasion a consideration of how diversity contributes to the quotidian ways in which difference becomes so unbearable. Sure, I have criticized how the portrayal of race, ethnicity, and representation in “Concord” and “Bernardo & Anita” aren’t good enough. But I have done so to dwell in this ironic mode of middlebrow diversity, in which the gestures of eyerolls and cringes alone seem analysis enough. When I ask them about their responsibility to bridge the world of texts and the world of politics, my students generally agree, “It is important to have the conversation.” Some days, I snap: “Then what?” The general response is a shrug, a giggle at my impatience, a look down deep into their notebooks, sometimes a truism about needing more people of color behind the camera. Our tools for doing otherwise feel so few because paranoid reading, once a critical praxis, has taken on the role of diversity value creation: all we need is a good complaint and a good eyeroll to no one in particular to show how smart we are.

As I sit in meetings about campus diversity, which seem insistent on erasing power, equalizing differences, and promoting “civility” as our spaces of inquiry are besieged by hate groups and surveillance using the language of “freedom of speech,” it feels like we are so backed into a corner that diversity feels like love—one that we have and hate that we do. Despite my theorizing and advocacy, I am not fully sure what is beyond diversity. But what if we took that not-knowing not as an obstacle but as an opportunity to confront the oppressions we know until we do? Being educated, “diverse” sophisticates, we have a relationship to power, and beyond complaining to each other, we can use that power. Instead of rolling your eyes, have you called your representatives? Instead of cringing, have you donated to Black Lives Matter and other social justice struggles? It’s time for action beyond our disappointments. We must break the political fantasy that underpins diversity: that things would be fine if only we were heard.

This essay has traveled through discussions of class, the sheer fact of race, and the problems of our language of diversity and media accountability. In calling us to organized, political action, I have insisted on breaking the lovely fantasies that insulate us from the precarities all around us. But since I started us out with my relationship to Mindy: what about love? Returning to her Vulture quotation, Kaling has said about the final season: “I think she gets what she needs, but not what she wants, which to me is a happy ending because what she wants is insufferable.” Kaling poses Mindy’s insufferability against the possibility of her being “a little more woke.” Mindy Kaling goes on to describe how her character’s Real Housewives aspirations and brief marriage to Ben, the suburban Jersey nurse of Season 5’s romantic arc, enable her to locate her desires beyond matrimony. As someone who has fantasized having a big, gay wedding reception (I cringe at the thought of “fabulous”), I pause. I mean, Mindy ends up with Danny—which hardly feels like a happy ending, even as I have the tools to critique that very notion. Is the construction of love, and all we attach to it, itself insufferable? As I yet again thumb through the Tinder haze of indistinguishable beards and vacation photos and gym selfies, I wonder: Is unloving love learning our vexed relationship to that which we cannot not want—is there is no outside to ideology, no way to be “woke” with love? This is not to deny the manifold forms of love that exist beyond the romance narrative, as I find consolation after every shitty date from all those who can laugh and roll their eyes at how men are the worst. I guess that’s Mindy and me: we can have our love and hate it too.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the audience of the Northwestern University Asian American Studies Program’s February 2018 Brown Bag for their generous comments on this essay, especially Michelle Nancy Huang, Jonathan Gen Magat, J. Ryan Marks, Nitasha Tamar Sharma, and the aforementioned adored students; my timezone-crossing Mindy simul-watch party, Amanda Dykema and Susanna Compton Underland; Lynda Mazzalai Nguyen and Betsy Yuen, who survived the insufferable autobiographical narrative; and the undefeatable Sarah J. Sillin, for soliciting this essay and the shared adventure that underwrote it.

 


[i]Mallika Rao, “The Legacy of Both Mindys on The Mindy Project,” Vulture: Devouring Culture (19 November 2017).

[ii]L. S. Kim, “Asian America on Demand: Asian Americans, Media Networks, and a Matrix Stage,” in The Routledge Companion to Asian American Media, eds. Lori Kido Lopez and Vincent Pham (Routledge, 2017), 170-1.

[iii]These two periods were when the middlebrow was named as such and when critics like Dwight Macdonald lambasted the cultural field as a “bastardized” cooptation of high culture. See Macdonald, “Masscult and Midcult” (1960), republished in Against the American Grain (Da Capo Press, 1983).

[iv]E. Alex Jung, “Mindy Kaling is Not Your Pioneer,” Al Jazeera America (11 January 2015).

[v]Dodai Stewart, “Mindy Kaling Only Makes Out With White Guys on The Mindy Project,” Jezebel (14 May 2013).

[vi]Maria Elena Fernandez, “The Mindy Project Cast on the Series Finale: ‘Mindy Gets What She Needs, But Not What She Wants,” Vulture: Devouring Culture (13 November 2017).

[vii]Jane Ward, Respectably Queer: Diversity Culture in LGBT Activist Organizations (Vanderbilt University Press, 2008), 48.

[viii]David Savran, A Queer Sort of Materialism: Recontextualizing American Theater (University of Michigan Press, 2003).

[ix]Lauren Berlant, The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Duke University Press, 2008).

[x]I want to be careful here: L. S. Kim criticizes how the figuration of media advocacy as complaint frames racial misrepresentation as an issue of political correctness and not creative possibility, and, if you do not inhabit a minoritized identity, you perhaps should not comment on this issue further.

[xi]Juana María Rodríguez, Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings (New York University Press, 2014), 2-7.

[xii]Helen Heran Jun, Race for Citizenship: Black Orientalism and Asian Uplift from Pre-Emancipation to Neoliberal America (New York University Press, 2011), 246-7.

[xiii]The question brings to mind Black feminist Hortense Spillers’s theorizing of the American grammar of racialization within white supremacy in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book” (1987). Spillers highlights the ongoing legacies of the Middle Passage to critique the “dubiousness” of the language of sexuality—freedom, desire, reproduction, kinship—and its presumptions of human freedom for those who have been systematically denied their humanity on the basis of their race. The Mindy Project’s affirmative diversity participates in the American Grammar of Asian American sexuality, in which Asian Americans are seen as particularly amenable not to disturbing pre-existing racial arrangements. Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17.2 (1987): 64-81.

 

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Douglas S. Ishii is a visiting assistant professor of the Asian American Humanities at Northwestern University. He holds faculty affiliations with the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program and the American Studies Program. His academic work has appeared in Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media StudiesGlobal Asian American Popular Cultures (NYU Press, 2016), edited by Shilpa Davé, LeiLani Nishime, and Tasha Oren; and Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (Rutgers University Press, 2015), edited by Betsy Huang, David Roh, and Greta Niu. Douglas also has work forthcoming in American Quarterly and The Oxford Online Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture.