The Mindy Project: We Can Work it Out

Don’t mind me. I’m just over here totally blowing past the fact that it’s been about six weeks since I’ve posted. It’s not that I have a good excuse either – just a combination of laziness and other things taking hindu mindyprecedence. Oh well.

Back in January, I wrote a post about The
Mindy Project
– specifically about Mindy and Danny and their potential break-up. Now I’m back to write what I think is very much a follow up to that piece. And here’s the crux of what I have to say. I don’t think Mindy and Danny’s break-up (which was only a possibility during that last post, but has since very much come to pass) is the end of their story.

Watching this latest episode, “Bernardo & Anita,” and seeing the way Mindy and Danny handled wanting to expose Leo to different and possibly at times competing cultures really made me think that Mindy and Danny still have a chance. Yes, they decided to not only call off their engagement but to break up entirely, but I’m not counting them out yet. I’m not done rooting for them.

I read back over my previous post discussing their relationship and I noticed that while I discussed Danny’s faults in the relationship, I didn’t talk too much about Mindy’s own. I truly think that while Danny’s misogynistic and old fashioned decisions were at the heart of a lot of their problems, Mindy was complicit in her own ways. So much of her self worth was wrapped up in her relationship with Danny – in her person being sexually and romantically desirable – that she allowed Danny to plow over her for so long. Danny went into the relationship with clear cut values and ideals, and Mindy didn’t have that. I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing for Mindy (or anyone), but because Mindy lacked super strong opinions on how things should be handled in the relationship or how Leo should be brought up, she ended up deferring to Danny’s opinion and Danny’s judgement. She let herself and her opinions become less than his. And Danny, without any push-back from Mindy, built himself up.

As I said in my previous post, right before the hiatus, Mindy finally took a stand. And it was glorious and heartbreaking and terrifying and hard. She came to the realization that something was wrong with she and Danny and their relationship and that she needed to be the one to fix it. To take a step back and to see who she was and what she needed and go from there. And since we’ve come back from the hiatus, that is what we’ve seen. We’ve seen Mindy moving forward. We’ve seen – maybe for the first time since the show began – Mindy focusing solely on Mindy and not on a relationship.

Mindy has been a bit of a mess since we met her. A delightfully zany mess, but a mess all the same. She’s been superficial and self-centered and – like I said above – found most of her self worth from being a sexually desirable woman. Without Danny and with the responsibility of Leo keeping her out of the dating game, Mindy’s been forced to seek her self worth in other ways: from being a good mother and a competent businesswoman, from learning to stand on her own feet financially, and from growing closer to her heritage.

Since we’ve come back from the hiatus, we haven’t seen a lot of Danny. He’s popped up a few times but for most part we – just like Mindy herself – are focused on Mindy. And though I know a lot of fans have been disappointed with Mindy and Danny’s breakup and Danny’s scarce screen-time, I think it’s been important to keep them apart. His absence has not only allowed but pushed Mindy to grow in some very real and admirable ways. Mindy’s becoming more put together and responsible. It’s taking time and she’s just making some small steps, but she’s making them on her own. She makes the decision to become her own “money guy.” She recognizes the bad choice she’s making in hooking up in a bathroom with a random from a dating app and at the same time dares to ask for what she wants from the cute bartender (can we bring him back?). She begins to think through and settle on what her values are – what is she going to pass down to Leo as he grows up. And I don’t think these were things she necessarily would have been able to do if her relationship with Danny hadn’t ended.

In the latest episode, after realizing she doesn’t have very strong ties to her cultural heritage, Mindy decides to hold a Mundan for Leo – a Hindu ceremony where Leo’s head is shaved, shedding undesirable traits from his past lives so he can move forward into the future. The ceremony, of course, doesn’t go nearly as planned, but by the end Mindy is able to vocalize why it’s important to her – that though she herself doesn’t feel a strong connection to her Indian identity, it’s still important to her to pass it onto Leo and give him the option and opportunity to forge his own cultural connection.

For me, this episode was important for two reasons. One: Mindy’s decision to hold the ceremony for Leo and her realization of the importance of imparting her Indian culture onto Leo mirrored Danny’s own wish to take Leo on a trip to Italy to experience his culture. Danny’s Italian Catholic roots have always been extremely important to him, and his desire for Leo to embrace them as well has been something he’s been very vocal about. Holding this ceremony for Leo, wanting Leo to feel a connection to his Indian roots and Hindu religious beliefs, is Mindy positioning herself – her wants, her needs, her beliefs, her very personhood – as equal in importance to Danny. Yes, Danny can take Leo to Italy to see his third cousins working in the parmesan cheese factory, but Leo is going to know that he’s Indian, too.

Second, the episode was important for the way Danny and Mindy were able to resolve their conflict over the ceremony and Leo’s shaved head. This was nothing like the fights they had before their breakup. There were no accusations, no blame, no guilt. Danny may have been miffed that Mindy didn’t talk to him before shaving Leo’s head, but Mindy shut down any argument that could have erupted pretty quickly just by explaining why this was important. And Danny was able to understand that immediately.

And that is why I’m not counting Mindy and Danny out just yet. This breakup could just be the best thing for them in the long run. Mindy’s growing into herself, learning to articulate what’s important to her and what she needs. She’s learning to stand up for herself. She’s learning to take responsibility for herself. And with her able to do that, able to verbalize those things to Danny, he in turn is growing into someone better able to accept those needs and adjust his own expectations. The love has always been there with these two, now they’re learning how to actually compromise and negotiate. They’re not where they need to be yet. These have just been some baby steps, a few nudges in the right direction. But if they keep working on themselves, I can see them coming back together stronger than ever.

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