Mindy Kaling Engages in a Debate About Diversity on TV and Thinks It's "Sad" to Be Pitted Against Priyanka Chopra

Vulture editor Ira Madison III argues that the Mindy Project star isn't doing enough

By Zach Johnson Nov 13, 2015 2:59 PMTags
Mindy Kaling, Priyanka ChopraGrant Lamos IV/Getty Images, Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Mindy Kaling is damned if she does and damned if she doesn't.

The creator and star of Hulu's The Mindy Project participated in a Reddit AMA Wednesday, and while some of the questions posed were fun and fluff, others were not. For example, user neganeza argued that Kaling she hasn't done enough to embrace diversity. "1) For a show produced by a woman of color, why does your show have very little diversity? (See 'Master of None' for a show that does it right.) Why are very few men of color in your show?" neganeza wrote. "2) Why did you decide to add a stereotypical 'sassy black woman' character to your show? (Although seemingly you decided to round out the character later after criticism.)"

The Why Not Me? author addressed both of neganeza's issues, writing, "Hi! Great question. I think I disagree with your premise. We have six series regulars. One, the lead, is me, and Indian woman. Another is an African American woman. That's a third of our cast – although of course I hate to think of us in those terms. Utkarsh [Ambudkar] and Randall Park both recur on our show. I do think it's important though, we can always do better. I always think it's funny that I'm the only asked about this when sitcoms I love with female leads rarely date men of color. I guess white women are expected to date white men. I'm expected to 'stick to my own.'"

"2) I think you're talking about Tamra. I'm sad you reduce her to a 'sassy black woman.' Xosha [Roquemore] is hilarious and gorgeous and nails lines like 'A cranberry turtleneck is what you give your aunt graduating from court reporter school,'" Kaling continued. "Is it because Tamra wants to be famous and loves to perform at work and puts a value on superficial things? I loved play that as Kelly on The Office, and I love that Tamra is young, loves celebrity, and is confident and into herself. I hate that it's reduced to someone else's version of a racial stereotype."


Kaling then tweeted Thursday, "Someone write an article about white leads on shows who won't date outside their race. You've got PLENTY of options. I dare you."

Vulture editor Ira Madison III didn't accept the dare, and instead, he called Kaling's statements into question. "We can and should do better than white people sis," he argued in a series of tweets. "Life, if the crux of your argument is 'white people get away with it' what's the point of anything? That'd be like Lee Daniels having an all-white crew and writers for Empire then saying, 'The white shows don't hire POC.' JUST DO BETTER. And furthermore if Mindy's argument is white leads on shows don't date outside their race, why a role on your show when there's 500 others? That response from Mindy Kaling is INSANE. Mindy, sis, we don't talk about the fact that only 5 out of 76 of your show's episodes were directed by women. I always says no one's obligated to do s--t, but don't pretend you're making big strides in diversity when you don't." Madison III then referenced the only Bollywood woman who is the lead actress on an American television series: Quantico's Priyanka Chopra. "I'm tired of talking about Sister Kaling," he wrote. "I need Priyanka Chopra to become a star and snatch her coins." In response, Kaling tweeted back, "Sad that there can only be one of us succeeding. I love Priyanka's work."

Chopra's character, framed FBI agent Alex Parrish, is romantically involved with fellow FBI agent Ryan Booth, played by Jake McLaughlin, a Caucasian actor. Unlike Kaling, however, Chopra does not write for or produce her series, meaning she has little or no say regarding the show's representation of diversity.


Madison III continued to disagree with Kaling Thursday night, tweeting, "Never said only one can shine. I support all actors of color, but I'm saddened by your statement about WOC love interests. Which I think you know, I tweeted as such, & I find it disingenuous to make your followers think I'm 'only for one brown girl.' I tweeted a lot about representation on your show. Like the fact that only 5 women have directed 76 of your episodes. How many brown girls do you have behind the scenes of The Mindy Project? How many do YOU help succeed?"

"Any brown female writers on your show, Mindy? Any brown female directors? I didn't think so. You can miss me tonight sis," he wrote. The Vulture editor ended by tweeting, "I've no more to say. TV inches toward more diversity. In a few years, the people who did nothing will be rightly embarrassed. It is not an 'unfair burden' to ask any person to look beyond white men as the only people good for the job."

Kaling has not since responded to Madison III.

Chopra, meanwhile, has not weighed in via social media.

Watch: Mindy Kaling Talks Being a Confident Woman