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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Rosenberg Project

I've kind of made a hobby of slamming on Alyssa Rosenberg here on my blog, and I feel kind of bad about it.  Sometimes.

Other times, it's wholly deserved.  Take this item on Mindy Kaling's new show, headlined: 

Why ‘The Mindy Project’ Is As Big A Mess As Its Heroine’s Love Life

As soon as I saw that, I knew exactly what complaints she would make.  The male characters are too...male.  The female characters are bad representatives for their gender.  Women's issues are neglected.  Blah blah blah.  You know, the whole "socialist realism" bullshit wherein all art and entertainment must advance the goals and aspirations of "the Movement."

I mean, I knew --knew-- that Rosenberg wouldn't react well to the character of Danny Castellano.  He's too much of a cad, too obnoxious, too recognizably male.  That insecurity masking itself as confidence?  That "I say hurtful things to dull my inner pain?"  It's so familiar to me as "things guys do" that it's easy to forget the character was written by a woman, a woman -- I submit-- more familiar with and understanding of the male psyche than Rosenberg is on her best day.

Take this:
In the pilot, for example, Danny told Mindy, in a line laced with some real ugliness, that if she really wanted to look nice for a date that she should lose 15 pounds.
And yes, in the aforementioned scene, it was part of some back and forth argumentative banter, but "real ugliness?" C'mon, man.

The joke was that Danny was trying to be helpful, but that he just sucks at it.  And are we supposed to believe that fictional Mindy did not wake up that morning, step on the fictional scale, looked into the fictional mirror, and thought to herself that she needed to lose fifteen fictional pounds?  Deep down, she agrees with Danny, and for the very same reasons. Me, I think it's a pretty bold choice --writing-wise-- to give Danny the opportunity to say what Mindy is thinking. 

Not only does it establish Danny's character as an insensitive male, it creates conflict within the scene, and it leaves open the intriguing possibility that they're both wrong, that they both need to stop being so damn shallow.

Much easier to dismiss all that stuff and just focus on the man calling the woman fat.

Missed completely in Rosenberg's criticism is a scene from this week's episode.  The morning after a romantic encounter with her love interest, Mindy wears his shirt in the morning.   It's so cute and charming, the post-coital woman wearing the post-coital man's shirt.

But when he comes in wearing her pants, too short at the ankles, too wide at the hips, it's most definitely NOT cute and NOT charming.  Indeed, she's somewhat offended by it.  That not only struck me as a realistic reaction, it also seemed like an interesting commentary on the equality of the sexes, or lack thereof. 

Rather than appreciate that kind of subtlety, Rosenberg is too busy checking off boxes on her politically correct worksheet.  I don't think I would feel comfortable writing this sentence, and not only because I have a penis:
But that total disinterest in actual women’s health pervades the show.
Why would any rational person expect it to grapple with actual women's health?   It's a comedy set in a doctor's office.  I can't tell if Rosenberg wants to see a "very special episode," superficially dealing with weighty subjects like the sitcoms of the 80s, or if she would prefer the show be a self-serious ripped-from-the-headlines drama.

And does it really matter?  Rosenberg has demonstrated time and again that she prefers to view fictional characters as representatives of a particular class, race, or gender rather than representatives of a particular personality type.  That's a critic's luxury.

People who have actually created a character knows that's a recipe for two-dimensional cardboard characters that interest no one. 

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