The Mindy Kaling Awards: What To Do When Your Art Loves White Men But Not You
On the superstar creator’s recent backlash and the burden of antiblack thought
I love Mindy Kaling’s work so much that it was hard to tell the obvious at first.
I was so enthralled by the creative spirit who would dare embody Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in a 2003 stage play called “Matt and Ben” that I overlooked her sharp focus on Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. South Boston boys and paragons of Whiteness in 2003, two men couldn’t signify hot-blooded, feral White male energy more. That’s her thing. As a fan, I learned to accept it.
Then, I bought her memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a witty, casually eloquent book about the line between weirdness and acceptability. Kaling deftly toes that line, looking for places to insert her weirdness where it hadn’t fit before her boisterous arrival. For any Black or Brown person, that’s a familiar dance. And she’s funny on the page, which can be a daunting and blindingly dogged pursuit. Every comedic voice battles the myopia of first-person storytelling. But narcissism and self-pity can drive individual comedy, and Kaling thrives at summoning them.
Again, I couldn’t help but notice that her memoir mocked the interest that Black men had in her too. On The Mindy Project, she rebuffs the advances of headless Black NBA players in a club scene. The beheaded Black figures underline her sine qua non. Black male desire was further proof she was fat, unfit for White men but lusted after by (underclass) Black ones. Her few mentions of preferred desire squared on the White boys who caught her fancy but never seemed impressed with her body type, her heritage, her everything.
That theme constantly recurs in her work, and coheres her with pillars of White popular entertainment like rom coms and tabloid rags. She also outfits her titular Brown girl characters with the same White-obsessed lust for the mainstream, placing the acceptance just out of their reach despite studious fixation. She plays her exile for humor, dithering into humiliation for…