The room got a little tense when the question was asked.
At the this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas, Mindy Kaling fired back at questions concerning the diversity, or lack of, on her hit Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project.”
Kaling, part of the Marie Claire-sponsored panel discussion, “Running the Show: TV’s New Queen of Comedy,” was asked by a female audience member, “You guys have a great, diverse set of characters, but was it a conscious decision for Mindy to be the only female doctor, and the only doctor color of show?”
After a few minutes of pleasant responses from the panel, Kaling put her foot down.
“I look at shows on TV, and this is going to just seem defensive, but I’m just gonna say it: I’m a f***ing Indian woman who has her own f***ing network television show, OK?”
According to Flavorwire, the audience applauded, but Kaling was far from done:
“I have four series regulars that are women on my show,” she said, “and no one asks any of the shows I adore — and I won’t name them because they’re my friends — why no leads on their shows are women or of color, and I’m the one that gets lobbied about these things. And I’ll answer them, I will. But I know what’s going on here.
“It is a little insulting because, I’m like, God, what can I — oh, I’m sitting in it. I have 75 percent of the lines on the show.”
This is not the first time Kaling was called out for the lack of racial diversity on her show. There’s even a running meta joke that her character, Mindy Lahiri, only dates white men.
It’s true, other comedy shows are not held to the same criticism that Kaling receives since her show premiered back in September 2012. As the first Indian American woman to lead her own network series, she often finds herself held to a higher standard to represent other people of color.
Fox’s new shows, such as “Sleepy Hollow” and Golden Globe winner “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” have gotten positive responses for their diverse casts that do not rely on stereotypes. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” even takes place in New York City, just like Kaling’s “The Mindy Project” and Lena Dunham’s “Girls,” the latter which receives its own dose of criticism for lack of racial diversity.
But no other television show holds this much scrutiny in its lack of representation than “The Mindy Project.” Is that fair, or does Kaling make a good point? Should she continue to find success in pre-existing ideals of the entertainment industry, or should Kaling be held responsible in challenging the norm?