A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Mindy Project has been firing on all cylinders so far this season, so to see it stumble back and trip over is unfortunate, to say the least. The Bitch Is Back is a traditional episode of Mindy in its abundant humor and some of the best one-liners in comedic history. It is less traditional in the abundant over-the-top absurdity that threatened quite soundly to sink all of that aforementioned humor down the proverbial toilet. Sure, The Mindy Project has rarely been show that’s adopted subtlety in its whole form, but neither has it for the most part intentionally shot way past the jugular just to provoke and garner a reaction. That’s beneath it. No one is asking for John le Carré levels of subtlety here, because the format of the show alone would work inherently against such a drive. But the request of consistent intelligence in subtle humor is not too much to ask for. I realize it’s not very subtle of me to constantly point out the lack of subtlety in this episode, but my justifications remain sound in the wake of a New York subway stupidly cheering on a stereotypically Southern sexist asshat. I always think back to one of my absolute favorite Mindy Project moments of all time, where Mindy is approached by Danny’s ex-wife and it’s assumed that Mindy is the one doing all of the harassing and not the other way around. The social constructs it tackled right there spoke volumes without betraying the intelligence of the humor.
A key example is the subway scene, the subway itself being a nice motif running through the season so far. But unlike the birthing sequence, this one doesn’t work. It begins well enough, with Mindy being called out for breastfeeding her son in public. Breastfeeding is for some reason seen as being queasy and indecent, as if a new mother should hide the fact that she needs to feed her child. Far more often, it goes way beyond that, to openly shaming the woman for doing so, as if it is causing some sort of absurd personal harm to anyone around her. Mindy shuts him down as only she can, but even in her shut down there’s mounds of additional truths hidden inside. When she retorts that no man can tell a woman what to do with her body, it rings as truth to the billions of women oppressed in some way or another by patriarchal societies and their numerous and varied institutions. Adding to that is her acknowledgment that only women’s magazines can do so. In one line, Mindy uncovers the harsh realities of what women face on a regular basis: on one hand, they have traditionally sexist men telling them what they can or cannot do with their bodies. On the other hand they’re being told how they should look and live like in order to be worth something. Just as the greatness of the scene was cementing itself, the proverbial dam broke and all of the subway joined in a chorus with Dr. Jody Kimball-Kinney to shame Mindy. There are a lot of idiots who would shame a women for breastfeeding, but I have a really hard time believing that not a single person would come to Mindy’s defense.
As that scene drifted into a caricature, it comes to everyone’s unfortunate attention that Dr. Kimball-Kenney is the new doctor to join Mindy’s practice, since everyone there already is such a well-rounded character with weighty storylines of their own. This naturally and understandably throws Mindy into a fit of epic proportions and frankly, no one who balks at breastfeeding ought to be a gynecologist in the first place. To add to his growing list of sexist tendencies, he tells the husband of one of Mindy’s patients that her husband shouldn’t be with her during her birth so he could still have a vagina that was “clean” and “pristine.” Mindy’s fury spirals even further, tempered only slightly by Dr. Kimball-Kenney’s nurse sister Colette, who is thankfully a far more decent person than her idiot of a brother. She makes an interesting note, that Mindy was one of the few people that had truly terrified her brother. Traditionalists who espouse sexist and bigoted behavior are often intimidated by those who refuse to bow down to their antiquated line of thought and to see Mindy take that role was fantastic. Apathy and fear are truly two of the greatest things that bigots use in their favor, to garner for themselves this truly self-delusional draw of power. Seeing someone they find inherently beneath them defy their expectations with bravado and self-confidence could be deafening.
That bravado and self-confidence is integral to who Mindy is as a person and whom she will always be, no matter what life throws at her. That sort of perseverance is incredibly admirable at times and it is exactly what I don’t what to see disappear from her character. Danny’s overzealousness at times is endearing, like someone you know that cares too much and it’s sweet. However, at this juncture it’s gone from sweetness to an overbearing misogyny that’s really hard to stomach. Mindy struggles a lot with what every new parent faces, the struggle to go back to work. Mindy loves her work, she loves that professional life she has worked so hard to built and she doesn’t want to give it up to become a stay at home mom. Danny spends the entire episode trying to find the prefect bribe for Mindy so she does stay at home, an exceedingly chauvinistic trick that Tamara wastes no time trampling into the dust. Danny sticks by his reasoning, though, explaining to Mindy that he doesn’t want Leo growing up without someone being at home for him. But then, why does the entire responsibility of being at home fall to Mindy’s shoulders? He’s the father, he has an equivalent responsibility towards the child that he is eschewing with such aplomb. Mindy is a professional who loves her job just as much as he does, so why does she have to leave her job for Leo’s sake? The idea of equivalent responsibility, after all, ought not to be that strange. Please, Mindy Project, don’t let me down.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“What will all the cyber bullies on Pinterest say?”
+“No man can tell me what to do with my body. Only women magazines can!”
+“You’re all about work. That’s why you don’t give me holidays off.”
+“Meet me in the sewers at dawn.”
+“And that’s coming from the queen of going down.”
+“He’s really dark.”
+“Jermery.” Is the show acknowledging its extremely poor use of Jeremy as of late?
+“Did the pigeons steal your pretzels? You have to buy two.”
+“This will be recorded for quality assurance.”
+“Your vagina’s not supposed to be pristine!”
+“You’re trying to buy Dr. L’s freedom? What the hell is wrong with you?”
+“So what? Jay-Z’s so rich he throws his car out when he runs out of gas and he doesn’t stop his wife from working. If you want to get Dr. L a gift, don’t tell her to quit her job. She’s already bled and sacrificed for you. What have you sacrificed for her, huh?”
+“Even Harper Lee’s health aid wouldn’t publish that!”
+“Do racism next.”
+“Every time I try to make a cool exit.” Mindy speaks for all.
Episode Title: The Bitch Is Back
Written by: Tracey Wigfield
Directed by: Michael Weaver
Image Courtesy: Vulture