TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.20

Title What To Expect When You’re Expanding

Two-Sentence Summary As Mindy struggles with her self-confidence after starting to gain weight due to her pregnancy, she gets some help from Tamra and her cousin Sheena. Meanwhile, Morgan is also struggling with his weight, and Jeremy tries to date again after learning that Peter and Lauren are getting married.

Favorite Lines
Sheena: Mindy, confidence comes from—
Mindy: From within. Yeah, I know.
Sheena: Within? Who the hell told you that? Confidence comes from amazing outfits and perfect makeup.

My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Mindy Lahiri as a character is her confidence. It’s still a rare thing for a female character on television—especially a female character who doesn’t fit the “traditional leading lady” model in terms of her appearance—to be so unashamedly confident in who she is, and that includes how she looks. Mindy makes me feel like it’s okay to look at yourself in the mirror and think you look amazing, and that’s one of the reasons why this character isn’t just entertaining—she’s important.

As this pregnancy storyline has unfolded on The Mindy Project, it’s allowed for deeper explorations of some aspects of Mindy and Danny’s characters that have only been briefly touched on previously, such as Danny’s Catholicism in last week’s episode. In “What To Expect When You’re Expanding,” the focus was put on Mindy’s self-confidence, giving it new layers and depth by showing that underneath Mindy’s healthy sense of self-esteem are some very relatable insecurities.

Pregnancy changes a woman’s body in such a major way that I would think even the most confident women feel insecure as their bump begins to show and a favorite little black dress has to be put away until after the baby is born (or rips, in Mindy’s case). On many shows, a woman’s changing body during pregnancy is often played for laughs and nothing else, but The Mindy Project made me really feel for Mindy. We’ve all had that moment when a pair of jeans just doesn’t fit right anymore, and it’s crushing. Even people with the highest opinion of themselves would go into a bit of a tailspin after that.

I could appreciate the fact that the show was trying to go for balance or narrative continuity with Morgan’s weight-gain storyline, but to me it just felt like overkill. Mindy’s story was strong enough on its own that it didn’t need a companion with Morgan’s story—no matter how funny it was to see Mindy Kaling and Ike Barinholtz in matching tracksuits. Maybe I just didn’t like Morgan’s story because it felt like it came out of nowhere. His weight wasn’t mentioned before, but now it was a huge part of the storyline because it had to play off of what Mindy was going through. Instead of seeming like thematic cohesion, it just felt like an unnecessary side plot.

Instead of Morgan’s problems with his weight and his girlfriend, I wished we could have spent even more time with Tamra and Sheena in this episode. For the first time in a long time (if ever), The Mindy Project put the spotlight on women supporting other women, and I loved every minute of it. I know Mindy has a lot of male friends and mostly male co-workers (because having too many women on one TV show still scares a lot of people), but most women will tell you that they don’t talk about their body and their insecurities about it with their male friends. That’s generally “girls only” territory, and I was so glad The Mindy Project treated it as such because it made the episode feel much more realistic than having Mindy get advice from Morgan or Peter.

Casting Laverne Cox as Sheena was one of the best decisions made by a show that’s been nothing but great at guest-casting. Laverne Cox exudes confidence, so when Sheena helped Mindy get her groove back, I believed every word she was saying about how to feel good about your appearance. There was also something inherently warm about Sheena under all of her fierce makeup and clothing, which I think helped her scenes feel less like the same makeover storyline we’ve seen 1000 times before and more like one woman helping another genuinely feel more comfortable in her changing body. And if that sense of comfort comes from great makeup and clothing first, then so be it. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. On days when you feel less than beautiful, I’ve found the best remedy is to put on a great outfit and do your makeup, and there’s no shame in wanting to look good on the outside to feel better on the inside. There’s even less shame now that I know Sheena subscribes to the same theory.

I also loved that Sheena gave Mindy one of my favorite pieces of advice: Treat yourself the way you’d treat your best friend. In other words, be nicer to yourself. It’s such a simple piece of advice, but it’s so important. Whenever you’re feeling critical of yourself, stop and ask if you’d ever say that—or even think it—about your best friend. Chances are you wouldn’t. I hope every person—especially every woman—who watched this episode takes that lesson to heart.

Watching Tamra and Sheena help Mindy was great, but I think I was even more impressed with the way they handled Danny laughing at Mindy’s attempt to be sexy. Was it wrong for Danny to laugh at Mindy when he knew she was feeling bad about herself? Yes. But was it understandable and human? Yes. It was such a departure from who we know Mindy to be that it did feel a little ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean Danny should have gotten away with laughing at her. And that’s where Sheena and Tamra came in, giving Danny a lesson of his own on how to treat the mother of his child and how to make her feel beautiful when she’s doubting herself. That kind of united front for women isn’t something we see often on this show, and it felt refreshing. It also makes me wish they would use Tarma in this capacity more often. In last season’s finale, she was the one who got the angriest at Danny for standing Mindy up, and here we saw her again defending Mindy. I sense some untapped potential there in terms of Mindy and Tamra’s relationship that I wish the show would revisit.

In the end, Danny knew he needed to make amends for laughing at Mindy, but Mindy knew something even more important: The only person who can make you feel better about yourself is yourself. It’s not your boyfriend’s job to make you feel sexy or confident. It’s not even your friends’ jobs. It’s up to you to change the way you see yourself. And you have the power to do that by encouraging yourself the way you would for a friend. For a woman who so often cared what her boyfriends thought of her, it was nice to see Mindy realize that the person whose opinion matters most about her looks is hers.

However, just because it’s not your boyfriend’s job to make you feel better about your looks doesn’t mean it’s not nice to have them tell you you’re sexy. The ending of this episode perfectly balanced Mindy’s renewed sense of self-esteem with Danny’s appreciation for it. I loved that Danny didn’t tell Mindy what Sheena told him to say verbatim. Instead, he tailored it to exactly what he finds sexy about Mindy, and that’s her confidence. I thought it was really sweet that the thing he loves most about her is the thing others have found off-putting about her. Confidence is sexy, and I like that Danny finds Mindy sexy because she loves herself. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever found Danny sexier than when he told Mindy “I like that” before kissing her as she clearly seemed to be finding her healthy sense of self-esteem again. I love male characters who appreciate the female characters they love for being strong, smart, and confident, and this was a great moment for showing that Danny appreciates Mindy’s confidence more than anyone ever has before.

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5 thoughts on “TV Time: The Mindy Project 3.20

  1. I was a bit distracted during this episode but I’m not sure if that was the episode’s fault or my own. Morgan’s story line was definitely not my favorite.
    Mindy doesn’t have a lot of women-supporting-each-other stories do she? I hadn’t really noticed. I wonder if that’s something that she’ll work on more as the show continues (because it seems like it should be something she’d be all over, especially knowing a bit about her personal life and her besties-for-life, besides the obvious need for it on TV). I’d love to see more Tamra-Mindy friendship. That could be really interesting and fun.
    I don’t have much more to say about this episode (that you didn’t already say), but like I say, that wasn’t necessarily the episode’s fault. But I agree that Danny’s love of Mindy’s confidence is the best thing, going back to that episode where he walked on her nude. He wanted her to be proud of her beauty and her body, didn’t he?
    And that message of being as kind to yourself as you would be to your best friend, don’t forget that applies to your writing too, my dear Katie 😉

    • Thanks, Jo. 🙂

      This show is woefully short on female friendships. It tried that at the very beginning when it was attempting to include some of Mindy’s friends, but it moved away from that to focus more on the office setting. I think it was a smart move to make the show more focused, but it did take away most of the female relationships on the show. Hopefully this episode’s success allows them to work Tamra into more stories with Mindy, keeping the focus on the office but still giving us some scenes of female friendship, too.

      You are 100% right that we first saw Danny supporting Mindy’s sense of body-positivity in “Danny Castellano Is My Personal Trainer” (one of my all-time favorites). It’s empowering to have someone you love tell you they think you should be confident in your body, and I love that Danny has done that for Mindy since even before they were together.

  2. I need more Tamra-Mindy-Cousin Sheena scenes in my life. Can we keep Laverne Cox (though I do want her pilot to picked up)? I love this show very much and think it does great things with Danny and Mindy’s relationship but you know how much I love good, strong stories about female friendship and they are so often just not present here. So more of Tamra being her usual awesome self and supporting Mindy’s equally awesome self (and vice versa) would just make this show even better for me.

  3. Pingback: The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (3/15 – 3/22) | Nerdy Girl Notes

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