Let’s all take a moment to give thanks for The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri, Mindy Kaling, Mindy Kaling’s work on The Office, and basically anything with this woman’s name on it. Mindy adds something wonderful to the Hollywood showrunner conversation because she refuses to be defined by one aspect of her identity. Her character is the same. Dr. Mindy Lahiri practices medicine and loves romantic comedies. She wears bright dresses (“And this outfit, well, even I had a couple misgivings when I put it on this morning, but it’s COLORFUL”) and is moderately useless around the house (“You know my plan in an emergency is just to count to ten and wait for death’s embrace”). She chases down a one-night stand because she thinks he left his scarf at her place as a kind of secret Cinderella code, and she gives a college-age woman birth control and a safe place to stay.
Not a single part of this should be revolutionary. We all live in the same world, and it’s a world populated by people like her. Mindy herself hilariously called out the way we laud her for saying what almost every woman thinks about her body. That she plays a real woman shouldn’t be noteworthy. But as long as we’ve got ladies who have otherwise shown themselves to be role models arguing that feminism means what it straight up does not mean, Mindy Lahiri will continue to be the kind of TV character we all need.
DANNY: I don’t know, I just wanted to.
MINDY: You wanted to because I’m about to go on a date.
DANNY: No, that’s not why, I just, I–I wanted to.
MINDY: Well then why didn’t you when we were together watching TV the other night, or any night for the past two months? Why tonight?
DANNY: The moment just wasn’t right.
MINDY: And the moment is only right when there’s another guy in the picture? You turn it on, you turn it off, you change your mind a million times, and I’m not gonna do it anymore. I get to decide.
Mindy isn’t here to let someone else run her life. She wants a relationship with Danny, but it’s hers as much as it is his. Danny is vulnerable and damaged and making mistakes as he figures out how willing he is to risk his heart, and I wouldn’t have him any other way, but I also wouldn’t have Mindy any other way than this. She knows exactly what she stands for, and she needs Danny to understand where she’s coming from.
Loving romantic comedies doesn’t make you less of a feminist. Wanting romance doesn’t make you old fashioned. Letting that romance come at the expense of your own self-respect, compromising your standards, or sacrificing your agency to get what you think will make you happy—that’s the real problem. Mindy won’t play it like that. She’s going to stand on her own two feet even when she’s foot-pop kissing. And I hope tonight’s finale makes her feel like Meg Ryan at a New Year’s Eve party or in a park with a dog or on the Empire State Building (fittingly, Sleepless in Seattle plays with the idea of whether or not we can buy into the romantic comedy dream, and it decides that we can), because kids, this isn’t a “chicks’ movie.” It’s Mindy’s life lived on her terms, and she deserves whatever good is coming her way.