Mindy applies for a promotion and finds that white men with less impressive qualifications receive preferential treatment.
On March 14, Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) lived what she thought was her dream: She woke up as a white man and watched in awe as the world appeared to bend to her will. The idea came from Kaling herself and made for one of the show’s most compelling episodes to date.
"[The writers and] l agreed that it would be entertaining to see Mindy Lahiri, who has the entitlement of a white man, actually wake up as one," Lang Fisher, who wrote the episode, said in an email to Mashable. "Not only did we hope to make an incisive point about bias and privilege, but we also knew that there was a lot of fun to be had in a body switch-type of episode with our main character."
"Comedy is an incredible tool. It is so powerful that, in fact, it has scared our current president away from the White House Correspondents Dinner."
Particularly in its Hulu iteration, The Mindy Project has experimented with format as well as social commentary. The latest midseason premiere put Mindy in a Groundhog Day scenario, while an earlier season drew inspiration from Sliding Doors. Last season, Kaling and her team received praise for an episode in which Mindy examines her connection to her Indian roots.
"I think message-y episodes should always be as funny as any other episode, because the jokes are how you point out why the status quo is ridiculous," Fisher said. "So when we are looking at white privilege in this episode, we used the jokes to bolster our point. For instance, Tamyra tells Mindy’s white male persona, Michael, that no one ever says no to him, and then she adds, ‘remember when that policeman let you shoot his gun?’ This detail may seem ludicrous, but reality is also ludicrous that people aren’t given opportunities based on their gender, race, etc."
As a white man, Mindy applies for the same promotion she was denied as an Indian-American woman; cabs always stop to pick her up, her coworkers listen to her intently and all her jokes elicit laughs. When she realizes that she isn’t necessarily being judged for her merit, she tries to get the promotion for a colleague, Irene Lee (Ellen D. Williams).
"In addition to making people laugh, I hope that this episode also encourages people to think and to have empathy for others. This episode was inspired by the real experiences of Mindy and me and other people in our cast and crew, so if anything, I just hope it gets people to talk about bias in a constructive way."
These men all have something in common
Dr. Lee doesn’t get the promotion, and Mindy/Michael (Ryan Hansen) is disheartened to learn that privilege does not always equal power. "There’s a million great things about being a white guy," Mindy muses in her voiceover. "But the sad thing is having the ability to help other people and mostly just not doing it."
"Any issue affecting society is worthy of making fun of," Fisher said of using humor to tackle social and political hot topics. "Comedy is an incredible tool. It is so powerful that, in fact, it has scared our current president away from the White House Correspondents Dinner. So, I look forward to making more episodes like this about all sorts of topics in the future."
"Mindy Lahiri Is a White Man" and the rest of The Mindy Project is streaming on Hulu.