Multifaceted Mindy

The point of all this rumination about a popular TV series, The Mindy Project, is to answer a profound question: Does fat acceptance serve the greater good? The previously quoted Dominique Lauf says…

Notions of subjectivity, affect, and body schema are crucial to this investigation… [W]hile many may argue that Mindy Kaling is the same size of the average American woman, she is deemed fat relative to the bulk of actresses and celebrities we see in most media today.

So, why is the plentifully fleshy lead character having such a good time? In the name of preventing childhood obesity, shouldn’t we condemn media that gives an approving nod to fat acceptance? But no…

Dr. Mindy Lahiri wears bright, form fitting clothing, acknowledges her size in various positive and negative ways, is proud and vocal about her appetite, is valued, and is portrayed as a legitimate love interest…

Of course with her meticulously curated wardrobe, Kaling can’t look anything but great. A Vulture.com post featured designer Salvador Perez explaining the fun of dressing her, with no complaints about the challenge of dealing with a bounteously curvy glamour figure. Lauf explains the importance of Mindy’s flashy and body-hugging outfits:

Visually, this type of styling places Mindy’s fat body as something that does not need to be subdued with dark, solid colors, or covered up with clothing that drapes over the body… Not only does Mindy wear whatever she wants but her clothing is also body conscious, stylish, and flattering.

And yet, the author notes, the character’s behavior is sometimes at odds with her philosophy, and vice versa. The tension and conflict make her multi-dimensional and thus more “real,” while…

[…] the narrative is constructed to communicate points of shame and shamelessness not only of her fat body but also of her personality and life in general… The Mindy Project overtly and covertly shows fatness as positive, negative, and neutral in various contexts.

Like many normal, real humans, Dr. Lahiri is all over the psychological map. One minute she resolves to get in shape; the next minute she scarfs down second and third helpings of dessert. At a movie theater concession stand, she buys enough snacks to feed a high school football team. She is often shown consuming ridiculous amounts. When she decides to start working out, she seriously suggests that having a food reward dangled in front of her would be motivational.

On any given day she might refer to herself as hot, sexy, exotic, cute, adorable, and even as tiny, dainty, or petite, and also as having “an ass that doesn’t quit.” At times, she says, “I am sick of being the person with the good personality, okay? I wanna be so hot that Cliff would date me even if I had a bad personality.” Other times, she says, “Yes, I’m usually full of candy. Sue me.” Lauf comments,

The tension between her own subjective view of herself not only makes her relatable to other women who may struggle with body image, but also shows her oscillating between moments of shame about her size and moments of shamelessness and pride about her size.

A big change comes in Season 3, when Dr. Mindy is pregnant and starting to show. The precise medical diagnosis is “geriatric obese pregnancy,” a complete turnoff. Now seriously fat, she loses her confidence. Insecurity creeps in. Even though the baby’s father insists that she is beautiful at any size, Lauf notes, “her own relation to her body propels her feelings of shame and inadequacy.” This might be the most momentous problem that comes up, but rest assured, it is only one of many.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “I Fluctuate Between Chubby and Curvy: Shame, Affect, and the Fat Body in The Mindy Project,” Vulture.com, 07/20/15
Source: “The Signature Looks of The Mindy Project’s Mindy Lahiri,” Vulture.com, 10/11/17
Image by Dominick D./CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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