In Which Mindy Kaling Retains Some Key Differences

No Reason

by DANA REBTO

Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
240 pp

In Mindy Kaling’s new book Why Not Me? she makes a list of the things her television character on The Mindy Project would do that she would not. This is an extremely helpful distinction, because most people do confuse Ms. Kaling with her character Mindy Lahiri. Terming her alter-ego a sociopath, some of the things she includes in this listicle are “have twelve handsome white boyfriends in one calendar year”, “tell people she is twenty-four” and “save a life.”

Kaling’s new book is a collection of one-liners, memories from her experiences working on The Office and pictures of her in the shower. It is in all ways more boring and mediocre than the character she plays in her show, which was canceled by Fox and now airs in the purgatory that is the Hulu streaming service.

This is a shame, because even though Kaling’s character on the show has settled down in a multimillion dollar apartment with her completely changed husband Danny (Chris Messina), she is still finding reasons, many multiples of reasons, to be unhappy with the world and her place in it.

Popular character actor Garret Dillahunt has entered in Mindy’s gynecology practice. He is a Southern gentleman with rigid views about the role of women in society; there is no possible reason such a person could be happy in New York. Mindy dislikes this new person immediately, and the idea of giving her a smarmy antagonist seems wise on the surface.

But Mindy Lahiri has become too much Mindy Kaling. We are more interested in the person who has surrounded herself with a cult of her own personality, and never found it for the least bit wanting. It is the same emotion that bound a generation of people to Lucille Ball or Mary Tyler Moore. So why is it on Hulu? Kaling explains that each week she had to get on a conference call with executives who would want to know what this week’s episode was about, and it seems to be a relief to have the freedom of relative anonymity.

She is a happy person now, and Why Not Me? reflects that. We hear about her trip to the White House, her disgusting friendship with B.J. Novak, her relationship with a guy named Will who seemed to be using her for sex and notoriety, and her fake e-mails from a hypothetical scenario in which she becomes a Latin teacher in New York. The mercifully brief book ends with a recounting of a speech she gave at Harvard Law School.

There is of a feeling on The Mindy Project of “Where do we even go with this?” Every single character on the show has already achieved their heart’s desire: in this they are the same as Ms. Kaling herself.

Dana Rebto is a contributor to This Recording

“Words” – Gregory Alan Isakov (mp3)

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