One of the most interesting things that happened at the Sundance Film Festival (at least in my opinion) was the Serious Women panel where New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum spoke to comedic heavyweights Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Jenji Kohan and Kristen Wiig about writing, sexism in the industry among other things.
Goddess of everything, Mindy Kaling, spoke about one of the most poignant topics which should be on people’s lips, the need for a more diverse representation of different types of people – especially on television.
“So many girls who look up to me or are interested in me are young girls of color who have been told they’re ugly and who feel that they are not normal. It’s so important for women who look like me — or who look different than me — can find themselves beautiful and be objects of love and attention and affection. I feel sad when people say, ‘You were the first person who made me feel like that was possible.” – [x]
Lupita Nyong’o in an interview with Oprah Winfrey explained to her how The Color Purple meant so much to her because to be able to watch women who looked like her, awed and inspired her. Gina Rodriguez broached the subject in her Golden Globes acceptance speech, saying how important it was for the Latin community to see themselves as heroes, and Viola Davis in her Screen Actors Guild Award acceptance speech spoke about how important it is to create roles for everyone.
We tend to trivialize the amount that things like representation play into how we see ourselves and others, but we cannot even begin to understand how much influence visual media has on our lives. There is a reason why homosexual and interracial relationships being played out on TV make us uncomfortable because we aren’t used to it. Racial typecasts happen faaaaar too often, we rarely even realize how much it is. There are certain roles which are allocated to non-whites while quintessential ordinary roles are given to the white, safe choices.
Especially with regards to women, we have an emotional connection, or are inspired by what we consume if we relate to it, and very few of us relate to the maid in the background, or the villain. We want to be protagonists, we want to be survivors, we want to be the girl in the romantic comedy and be able to choose from men from different races, we want to be action hero saving the day, we want to be young adult heroine in the dystopian age. We want to be 3D, we want to be funny, we want to be smart, we want to question ideologies.
The reason why I love The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling and her TMP alter ego so much is that they are real. Mindy Lahiri, Kaling’s character, is Indian-American but while her ethnicity is complicit in her character it is not the defining point – which is true of most people since globalisation. Mindy Kaling created a relatable character by creating the show herself, and along with Lena Dunham, Tina Fey and other showrunners, have shown us that we cannot wait for men to come around to the idea that diverse women need to be represented, we need to make the space ourselves, push our way in, demand that our voice is heard.