At 12:00 AM Eastern Standard Time on November 14th, the series finale of The Mindy Project was dropped on Hulu. The Mindy Project started six years ago and was about a young OBGYN named Mindy Lahiri as she started off her career.
The show as started by head-writer and actress Mindy Kaling, who, prior to The Mindy Project, was known for her writing on and supporting role as Kelly Kapoor in The Office.
In a Variety article, Kaling is quoted as saying “I really fell in love with the format where the main character was very flawed. It was something you had seen countless times on sitcoms with men, but you hadn’t seen with women. And I was so excited to play that part in a bigger capacity than I had.”
And that’s exactly who Mindy Lahiri is.
Six years ago I created a show called #TheMindyProject and got to play the lead. Not the sassy friend or nagging wife. It completely changed my life. 117 episodes later, it’s ending, on my own terms. That’s so rare, and I just want to say how grateful I am. Love forever, MK ❤️
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) November 14, 2017
The show is a rom-com, Lahiri spends the entirety of the show focusing on romantic relationships between a bunch of different men, but none of them ever really seem to work out. Especially because of Lahiri’s high standards from watching romantic comedies as a child.
For so many reason, The Mindy Project was a ground-breaking show. The main character was a non-traditionally pretty female. Kaling is Indian and is not considered thin, and Lahiri is kind of a psycho. Not in an actual psychopath, will probably murder someone type of way, but in the “this character has so many flaws that they do not hide or try to disguise” way. Lahiri is definitely a flawed character, who loves herself openly and proudly. Overall, the character of Mindy Lahiri is someone women are not used to seeing represented, especially women of color.
So it’s not surprising that from the moment I watched the first episode until the moment I finished the finale, I was in love with this show.
When The Mindy Project started I was a senior in high school, and honestly I loved the show but it didn’t feel like anything special to me, yet. Then I graduated and in my life, shit hit the fan.
When I was 18, I experienced my first heart-break, I started college and my parents split up. It was a really rough year and a tough transition.
I started college but the majority of my close friends moved away to go to universities in different place. I often felt very alone. I was severely depressed. I spent the majority of my time in bed, I felt emotionless. Like I was stuck in a time where everything was dull and life was just different shades of grey. This is when television became an important part of who I was. Thanks to my depression, I became dependent on television characters to feel the emotions I so desperately needed to feel.
The Mindy Project was my main escape. Her show meant so much to me my first year of college that in fact, I have a tweet saying “The Mindy Project doesn’t come back for another few months and now there’s no reason to live,” which was me being hyperbolic but still, I felt like the show was what was getting me through each week. It was “okay I only have two more days until I get to watch a new Mindy episode, I can get through it.” It was my survival tool.
Starting to watch this as I was experiencing my first heart-break and having the emotions she was having and not knowing how to communicate or handle them, it helped me learn how to handle things and how to properly communicate how I felt. But more than anything, seeing the way she accepted her body and felt confident throughout the show, helped me deal with my own body insecurities.
I never really admit it but in high school I suffered from an eating disorder. I was not eating enough and I was spending roughly 5 hours of my days at competitive swim practices. I became underweight and even stopped having my period for awhile. And, I still suffer from body dysmorphia. So seeing Lahiri and Kaling both be kickass women who I could look up to and admire, I gained most of my now-confidence.
To see someone who looks more like me, body-wise, be on camera dating attractive males, being a hot, smart, doctor, mom, friend, girlfriend, wife, etc. and realizing I thought Mindy was beautiful, it helped me come to terms with how mean I am to myself about my physical appearance. Lahiri continued to wear cute clothes and date and do all the things thin women do and there’s no reason why anyone else who isn’t stick-thin can’t do that either.
Alongside her physical appearance, Lahiri’s personality helped me drop my societal idea that being the “crazy ex-girlfriend” was something bad. Lahiri is crazy and a little bit off the rails. She does some pretty insane stuff to get exes back and she’s constantly mentioning celebrities who have restraining orders on her. But she’s not actually crazy. She acts the way most women feel while dating the shit show that is men.
The not-so-perfect behavior made me feel a little bit better about myself because it showed that you don’t have to fit into the stereotypical woman to be smart, beautiful and successful. Lahiri does something wrong in almost every single episode. She makes the wrong decision, she says the wrong thing, but it always ends up okay because she’s still a genuinely good person when it comes down to it. And through Lahiri’s unwavering confidence, she teaches the audience that you don’t have to be perfect to still have a fun and happy life, you just have to accept your flaws and work on making yourself the best version of you there is.
And that’s only part of the reason why Lahiri/Kaling is not a traditional leading lady. She is so likable to young women because she isn’t the perfect girl-next-door type. She is endearingly crazy! She is charismatic and doesn’t let the opinion of others change her actions. She is confident and self-reliant. Her being so unapologetically herself when she’s a little crazy is what makes her stand out. She is multi-dimensional, she is a kick-ass doctor, she graduated from an Ivy league school but yet she still talks about thing that can be considered ‘shallow’ and ‘frivolous.’ She breaks stereotypes by seeming like she’s stupid in her ditzy behavior but actually being smarter/ just as smart as her male counterparts. She is realistic and someone you can relate to.
I guess I tweeted about Mindy and her show enough that I started getting recognized by The Mindy Project’s twitter. In 2016, they sent me a message saying “We’ve noticed you’ve been crushing on The Mindy Project and we’d love to celebrate your devotion to the show with a fun surprise! In order to receive it could you please provide us with a mailing address?” And I got sent a present from the show! It felt incredible to be recognized by something that I loved so much and that had become such a solid part of who I was as a person.
And it didn’t stop, before the premiere of the final season, they messaged me again asking me questions about why I liked the show so that they could feature me in fan appreciation videos. Then, they used my answers. The first one I saw was on my birthday and it was a simple quote saying “she’s endearingly crazy” on the screen of the ad for the start of the season. And the second one was within the last few months and it was Mindy Kaling actually reading my answer about how Mindy Lahiri’s flaws helped me accept myself.
And I know, that after seeing how much I have written about the Mindy Project it’s hard to comprehend that putting this into words was so difficult for me, but it was. This show meant so much that it is hard for me to even describe how much it has affected my life.
The show helped me develop the confidence and personality that I needed in order to live a happier life. Of course, The Mindy Project didn’t cure my depression but it sure as hell helped me get out of the rut I was in and move on.
To put this in SAT terms: The Mindy Project is to me what The Princess Bride is to Mindy Lahiri.
Thank you Mindy Kaling, for helping so many and creating something beautiful. I will forever be asking myself, “What Would Mindy Lahiri Do?”