This season on The Mindy Project has been interesting. First, it moved to Hulu which has caused logistics problems for people, but hey! It’s better than being canceled! And then we had the heroine/main character pregnant which is usually a sad plot device used to save the show because EVERYONE is interested in pregnant people, right? And then, once she’d had the baby, it seemed like the show was turning into a mom blog. But from the beginning there was an underlying uncomfortable feeling I got from the show regarding her love interest/fiancé, Danny. I’ve always loved Danny and Mindy’s relationship. I’ve been rooting for them from the first episode. And I understand Danny’s idiosyncrasies and his aversion to marriage and family because of his disappointing childhood and failed first marriage, but in the last season and a half or so, I’ve felt like I’ve been watching a different Danny. He’s true to his character, but I’m also seeing all his not-so-pleasant qualities in a brighter light. Which is something that I think this season has done well in revealing gradually but in a serious way which I consider a feat for such a ridiculous comedy show.
You see, when TV shows want to break up a couple, they introduce trying circumstances that change characters so that they just don’t “fit” anymore. But the strife that’s happening between Mindy and Danny in this season is different than that. It actually feels too organic for a comedy. Danny has these old-world ideas about Mindy’s role as mother to their son which to him means her quitting her job as a gynecologist, leaving her newly opened fertility practice, and staying home with Leo. It also means having more kids NOW so that their children will be close in age. And while Mindy loves being a mother and did an incredible job of holding it all together while Danny was in California for months taking care of his sick father, she’s not ready to have another child or give up her just-now blossoming business. However, she’s also not been willing to be truthful with Danny about her discomfort with his ideas and pressures for their future. And this week, it went to the disturbing point of Danny tracking her ovulation cycles and getting her drunk on romantic dates in order to try to get her pregnant and Mindy going on birth control in secret. It culminated in an all too real fight in which Mindy points out that Danny defines everything she does as selfish but everything he does as selfless simply because he thinks she’s a very flawed person.
It was a heartrending but glorious moment to see because amid the slapstick humor and witty banter, there have been several moments of true sadness in each episode this season. I’ve felt for Mindy in a real-world way that I don’t normally feel for TV comedy characters. Danny has some major flaws as a 21st century man, father, and potential husband. Looking beyond the “be a stay-at-home mom” and “your job/dreams aren’t as important as mine” pressures that he’s been putting on her, it’s disturbing how he feels that he needs to control every aspect of her life, even to the point of giving her things to do while he’s away in California (like selling her apartment). The stay-at-home mom and men’s-dreams-are-more-important rhetoric is common, but the overt controlling nature of the heroine’s love interest without a fun, laugh-it-away, everything-is-okay-by-the-end-of-the-episode resolution disturbs me.
Danny’s controlling nature is real life. Women fall in love with men who make them feel safe and loved and taken care of, have children with them, only to realize too late that they’ve traded their independence and free-thinking for security. It’s a sad reality of life for many women that I don’t think mainstream media seriously displays. Usually it’s just a temporary character flaw that can be worked through with tough love and laughs by the end of an episode. But we’re looking at some serious fundamental differences between Mindy and Danny that have extended through the first half of a season. Does this mean that the seeming “it” couple of the entire show isn’t “meant to be?” Does this mean Danny is a bad guy? Does this mean that The Mindy Project won’t end with a wedding and a happily ever after?
I don’t know. But what I love about the The Mindy Project is that it’s making me as a viewer raise these questions in the first place. It’s making me feel uncomfortable about the relationship between the “heroine” and her love interest. It’s showing real women’s problems and dare I say it, even taking on a bit of a feminist tone. But then, I imagine the primary demographic for this show is women, so it might just be preaching to the choir.