The Mindy Project is rapidly becoming one of my favorite shows on television (PM editor Laura Donovan has a great manifesto on why), and a big reason for that is how well it deals with body image issues.
HuffPost blogger Sheila Moeschen praises the show on this issue. She says that despite the sitcom’s early fumbling (and largely unfunny) attempts at fat jokes, it has become a "compelling alternative" to the pervasive body-shaming culture in our society.
Moeschen goes on to say that "[b]y refusing to make body criticism a focal point of the show (in terms of plot and character development), [it] embraces the notion that more women could benefit from spending less time preoccupied with body transformation and more time enjoying and accepting themselves."
While I absolutely agree that The Mindy Project is generally a wonderful, body-positive show, I slightly disagree with Moeschen on her second point. I find The Mindy Project so compelling not because it manages to completely avoid the issue of body criticism but because it manages to deal with it in a healthy, positive, and realistic way.
First off, Mindy doesn’t let other people make her feel bad about her body. When somebody makes a negative remark to her about her body, she fires back.
In the episode "Josh and Mindy's Christmas Party," Mindy finds out that her new boyfriend Josh has actually been dating another woman for two years. That woman bursts into Mindy’s apartment in the middle of her Christmas party, furious that Josh has been hooking up with a "chubby Indian girl."
The other woman being Mindy, her first response is to say, "I will kill you. I will kill you in my house. I will go to prison for life."
Mindy then proclaims that "she is just normal American woman sized!" Another character adds, "and healthy."
"This is a culture of anorexia starting right here," Mindy says, pointing at the woman who called her chubby.
While the scene devolves into accusations of home-wrecking from there, it's important to note that this is not just another one of Mindy's snappy comebacks. Mindy's response demonstrates the show's awareness of body image issues. Not only does Mindy defend herself against unrealistic body ideals, but she is supported in doing so by the people around her. She also highlights the body image-related insult as a symptom of a larger societal problem.
At the same time, Mindy is relatable because she still has insecurities. When she books a gynecologist appointment with her coworker Danny, she lies about her weight and then tries to convince him that he doesn’t need to weigh her.
What makes Mindy a role model is that even though she has these body image insecurities, she does not allow them to control her life or her choices. Despite her insecurities, Mindy has pride in her body, confidence when she flirts, and has sex with really hot guys.
The Mindy Project could become even more body-positive. While Mindy embraces her own shape, she sometimes does it in a way that denigrates overweight bodies. In addition, it would be great to see even more characters of all body types on the show.
These small criticisms aside, I highly encourage people looking for a body-positive show that also happens to be funny as hell to check out The Mindy Project.