Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rape Culture Watch: Why, Mindy Project? JUST WHY?

[Content note: rape, rape culture]

In general, I like the Mindy Project. It's lighthearted. It legitimately makes me laugh. Mindy Kaling is a funny, smart, woman of color starring in her own show. It's far from perfect, but it's pretty good.

So I was fairly devastated when James Franco's two episode guest starring story arch ended in his rape.

Let me back up. Franco was appearing as an attractive, superstar doctor, Dr. Leotard, who had taken the place of Kaling's character (Dr. Mindy Lahiri) in the practice while Dr. Lahiri was with her fiance in Haiti. Dr. Lahiri comes back early unexpectedly and awkwardness ensues as they try to figure out how to both fill the same space in the practice as far as the office and patients go.

[Image text: Mindy Kaling and James Franco on the set of The Mindy Project]

Fairly standard sitcom fare.

But then, Dr. Lahiri challenges Dr. Leotard to a shot-taking competition and Dr. Leotard gets drunk off his ass (literally, as in physically incapable of standing or walking or talking.) Dr. Lahiri realizes after this that he's not such a bad guy and helpfully drags his drunken butt home. She kind of props him up outside his apartment door (since she can't get him inside.) And then--inexplicably, since she's supposed to be in a happy relationship and it's super creepy--Dr. Lahiri kisses the semi-unconscious Dr. Leotard. He reacts in drunken total disgust and Dr. Lahiri flees.

I was already uncomfortable enough at this point and made a comment about how awful that was to Ronald, but little did I know how much worse it would get.

Another character, Christina, the ex-wife of Dr. Castellano from their practice (who is letting Dr. Leotard stay at his place) arrives the next morning to drop off some of Dr. Castellano's stuff. She finds the (then slightly-less-drunk as a few hours have passed) Dr. Leotard on the ground, pantsless, outside in the hall and she ...literally carries him inside and proceeds to have sex with him. At least--the show and Dr. Leotard call it "sex." I call it rape. I mean, the next morning when Dr. Leotard is explaining what a "horrible mistake" he made, he even says, as an excuse, "I was blackout drunk."

I was outraged, disturbed, and disappointed, to say the least. I TRULY think this was one of those moments that was meant to be less disturbing because it was a woman who did this to a man, and I am NOT OK with this! Let me make this clear: the only way ANYONE can truly give consent is free from pressure, totally sober, and enthusiastically. I understand that in the confines of a communicative, trusting, healthy relationship, y'all might sometimes get drunk and happily fool around, but let's be clear: Christina and Dr. Leotard barely know each other. And it was totally played off on this whole, "OH HEY! There's a random hot guy laying here...let me take advantage of this."

What a totally unnecessary and dangerous plot point! Why on earth even include this whole rapey thing?! There are so many other ways the story could have gone. If this isn't a clear example of how insidious and prevalent rape culture is, then I don't know what is. I've seen people I respect, feminists I respect, totally gloss over this event in the show and continue to praise it. No. Just no. Fucking no. Never. No. No. No.

If you are a self-described feminist who would go off on someone for liking Blurred Lines, but you don't critique this incident in The Mindy Project, you have got some self examining to do. And do it now.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.


  1. I'm really surprised there aren't more articles about this online was clearly rape and yet I haven't heard a peep about it until this post.

    1. I'm equally baffled. The silence is concerning.

  2. Total silence on this one! If the genders were reversed it would have been a huge deal.

  3. I agree with you. I appreciate your post because it acutally didn't strike me as wierd or wrong at all even though I do consider myself a conscientous person. Perhaps because I am sober I couldn't really put my self in that situation so it didn't strike me how "rape" like this was, but yes. Another thing is that Christina did it as a way to get back at Danny, since her interest was piqued after Leotard said "do you hate Danny for ruining your life?" It isn't ok, and I guess it shows the culture we live in.

  4. No one probably commented on it because... well.. it's "The Mindy Project". ;)

    I'm more irked by the fact that Detective Benson on SVU was raped (well, almost, but what she went through was worse than rape)... yet again. You'd never see them do something like that to Stabler (when he was on the show) or Ice T. Or Munch. No, it's Olivia, probably the strongest character on the show, sexually abused... again.

  5. Agreed. I do wonder if it could be beneficial for a sitcom to turn dark and include a clear cut case of female on male rape that is treated seriously. Perhaps it would dispel myths. It would of course have to be a species of comedy / horror mashup.

  6. I've been curious about The Mindy Project for some time and kept meaning to watch it, but after that I think I'll pass, it's just not right.


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