Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stray Thoughts on Mindy Kaling's Book

The Mindy Project is one of my favorite shows. And Mindy Kaling is one of my favorite people. So it just seemed super logical to choose her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, to read on the Answerly Book Club channel. But now that we're done, I've got these weird leftover feelings hanging around.

For a book by a comedy writer (and marketed as a humor book), the discussion in several of the book club videos skirted around some more serious issues this time around. (You can watch the full playlist here.) I will admit I struggled making those videos, and it wore me out. Like I've mentioned, I think Mindy Kaling is great. Her humor in interviews and on her show is sharp and engaging and I believe it comes from an intelligent place, and I like hearing her shoot down controversial questions in the blink of an eye. She's also one of the few celebrity tweeters I enjoy. So I guess I was a little taken aback by some of the things presented in her book.

If you know me, you know I'm not particularly an activist. (Insert joke about not being active at all, in the sense that I hate exercise.) I don't believe that everyone has to be or should be an activist, and I don't feel equipped to be one most of the time. That doesn't mean I don't try to do what I think is right. It's just that talking about heavy subjects makes me woozy and sad, and I'm very susceptible to depression and am poorly-spoken in real life.

But this book put me in a weird position. Kinda like when you're hanging out with a friend and they say something surprisingly ignorant in public. The friend side of you wants to let it go, but you know if it were a stranger you'd cringe and probably speak up. But then also, at the same time, you don't want to be associated with what your friend has just said and have everyone think that you agree with it. So it's all just messy and confusing. The difference in this case is that Mindy Kaling doesn't know I exist and we're really only BFFs in my overactive imagination.

In my videos discussing Mindy Kaling's book, I felt pressured to discuss and explore the things I found disagreeable. This pressure was mainly coming from myself and my need to please people. I did feel like if I didn't address the parts I believed were wrong, then people would assume I thought those things were right simply by not addressing them. I'd be guilty by omission. And, since I was responsible for others reading the book, I almost felt like I needed to apologize and explain away the parts I found offensive, despite obviously having not even written the book, myself. Like how you might apologize for a friend saying something particularly ignorant when, well, that doesn't do much for anyone. It sounds crazy, I know.

Also, I understand it's my job as the book club leader to analyze the book. While that means riding the highs in the text and discussing all the great parts, it also means pointing out what I consider to be the lows. However, one of the main reasons I chose to be the "humor books" person on the channel was because I didn't anticipate humor books having this many deep things to discuss. But I'm seeing now that every new book is like walking into a dark cave with just a lighter. I can only see so far, and I have to take things as they come.

I guess at the end of this one I just felt bad. I stand behind the the parts I disagree with, but I still feel bad for some of the other viewers who read along and had negative reactions towards the book. I feel like Mindy Kaling will somehow come across my review (she won't) and now any slim chances I had of becoming best friends with her (which were already practically nonexistent) are gone. I feel like me disagreeing with parts of the book will hurt her feelings and she'll feel awful and never write that second book that I really want to read. The whole thing is playing out like a very dramatic scene from The Hills in my head, which should also tell me how non-real all these same thoughts are.

Despite some of the negative reactions I had towards this book, I still enjoy Mindy Kaling and nothing is gonna stop me from watching The Mindy Project (oh my lawd, the return of the show tonight after the hiatus was amazing). I mean, Mindy Kaling just recently stayed over an hour extra to see fans at a meet-and-great, and then asked for the addresses of the people she didn't get to meet and spent her time DM'ing them on twitter. Ain't no other famous person who's gonna take time to do that.

It's not like you have to agree with everything your friends say or create, right? And you can still be besties despite that. So here's to hoping Mindy Kaling sees it that way, too. And maybe all the praise I've given her in this entry will bring back that slim chance I had of becoming best friends with her on the off chance she ever reads this. But probably not.