Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mindy Project: "My Cool Christian Boyfriend" and the Endgame: How will Mindy find love?

More than most other shows featuring a single character, The Mindy Project has a clear endgame: The protagonist wants to get married and have kids and a good number of the episodes focus on Mindy's love life with the occasional foray into office politics, Mindy's relationship with her friends, or Mindy's brother.

This week's episode "My Cool Christian Boyfriend" was riddled with plot holes on a number of levels:

THE OBLIGATORY SUMMARY (skip ahead if you've seen the episode):
The episode starts with a smooth-talking guy picking Mindy up from the metro (oops!) Subway. We find out on the first date that he's actually a minister. Mindy's moderately impressed with him but when she attends his church service and hears his sermon, she starts to get all hot and heavy.  After the service, Mindy starts becoming more forward with him and telling him she's (as the youngsters say these days) DTF making for the comic highlight of the episode. He reacts by essentially dumping her explaining that while he had a lovely time on his date, altruism and selflessness are central parts of his life, and he doesn't see those qualities in her.

OK, hold up a second!: Why did the minister want to date her in the first place? She was incessantly complaining and self-involved on the Subway and even disrespectful to the other passengers. And why was the minister taking her to a fancy and expensive restaurant if he wanted to find a prospective mate who didn't value materialism?

Later, Mindy Mindy reacts to being dumped by joining the staff as they volunteer to see patients in a prison.  Mindy finds the whole situation icky and wants little to do with the patients until she meets an inmate so unreal, she could almost qualify as a female friend version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. What inmate would want to waste the rare opportunity to get a free medical consultation to discuss an episode of The Real Housewives?

If the show was attempting to give Mindy a story arc where Mindy was slowly warming up to volunteerism and becoming a better person, it failed. Mindy still isn't a good person, she only likes helping people if they can keep up with her on reality TV gossip.

Even worse, at the end of the episode, Mindy's brother sticks up for her sister when she bumps into the minister and demands an apology for treating her sister poorly. Why should he have to apologize? Being dumped isn't easy but the minister was forthright, honest, and dignified with her.
The episode demonstrates how skewed the show can be as told from Mindy's point of view. I'm not suggesting Mindy should be a saint or that she's significantly more morally vacant than the average person, but its debatable how much the show is aware of Mindy's short comings.

In some ways, the show reminds me of Becker where the show's protagonist is unlikeable and largely unaware of it. When viewed in this light, the Mindy Project is a more interesting show. If nothing else, it makes better sense that Mindy has trouble with guys (although the show seems to stigmatize unmarried women in their 30's as if having not found Mr. Right is equivalent to social failure).

From here, there could be two routes to Mindy's final goal of meeting Mr. Right: 1) Recognizing that she could be a less self-involved person or b) Finding a man who doesn't mind that she's self-involved and matches her shallow interests.

If the show goes with Option #1, it would be a more interesting and holistic show. Less plots would be need to be focused about dates and relationships gone wrong before meeting Mr. Right and the subsequent diversity would be a good way to avoid creative exhaustion from one romantic plot too many.

The question comes from whether Mindy Kailing and the show's writers are self-aware enough to portray Mindy this way. The way tonight's episode played out in the first act, one might think that B is also very possible because the writers can easily cook up slightly contrived situations where a sort-of Mr. Right comes in and easily overlooks Mindy's flaws but I much prefer Situation A

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