A recent article on The Wrap about Mindy Kaling’s FOX sitcom The Mindy Project got me thinking. In the piece, Jethro Nededog wondered why the show’s title character, an Indian-American doctor, seemed obsessed with White guys.
In his essay, Nededog asks why Kaling’s character exclusively dates White men and what it actually means to the rest of us. He writes:
What’s the message being sent when minority female characters on television exclusively date and regularly lose themselves with white men? And, does it really matter if viewers aren’t even noticing or seem unaffected by the leading lady’s dating choices?
I would venture to say that it does matter and that the message being sent to young minority women who watch “The Mindy Project” – whether they realize it or not — is that the measure of success is not just working your way to the top of your profession but that the ideal signifier for that success is a white partner.
And as for non-white men watching the show, it only reinforces the prevailing standard of attraction that ranks them lower on the desirability scale in our culture.
The Mindy Project isn’t the only show that pairs a woman of color with almost exclusively White love interests. NBC’s now canceled drama Deception, depicted Megan Good’s character involved in a hot romance with her childhood (White) beau, and TV’s most popular drama, Scandal, is fueled by Olivia Pope’s steamy affair with President Fitzgerald Grant. Although Pope has dated non-White men, the only other guy to give the president a run for his money is Jake Ballard, Fitz’s naval pal.
The fact that women of color rarely have love interests that look like them may be do to the lack of minority women on network TV in the first place. Gone are the days of sitcoms like The Cosby Show, The Hughleys, The George Lopez Show, or My Wife and Kids that showed Black and Brown families on TV. These days, shows are quite homogenous with a person of color thrown in for diversity’s sake.
American television isn’t the only medium where minority characters are often paired with a White partner. In the UK it’s commonplace to see a Black woman married to a White man, or a Black man married to an Asian woman on-screen. However, it’s extremely rare to a Black couple or family on-screen at all.
Like Nededog, I wonder what this type of casting says about the industry’s politics. While White-on-White relationships are shown as the norm, Black, Latino, and Asian couples are rarely seen, despite these types of partnerships most-closely mirroring real life.