Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Six

21 Jan

I’m happy to announce that the over/underrated 2015 series has reached the halfway point! That means that instead of ranting about what was over or underrated in 2015, I will now be ranting about what was on pointe and what was off the mark this past year. Enjoy!

On Pointe

Mindy Kaling

I’ve adored Mindy Kaling ever since her scene-stealing days as Kelly Kapoor on The Office. The scene where she explains to Ryan how to use Netflix? Classic. This year, though, with her show The Mindy Project making the move to Hulu, a role in the hit Pixar film Inside Out, and a new bestselling book under her belt, was clearly the Year of Mindy. So, how do I love Mindy Kaling? The ways are innumerable, but here are my top 3 from 2015.

  1. The Mindy Project
    Mindy Kaling’s role: creator, star, executive producer, writer
    I want to be Mindy Lahiri when I grow up. For one thing, she says everything I’ve ever thought (see exhibit A and exhibit B). If her spot-on commentary on life wasn’t enough of a reason to love her, she’s also a doctor and businesswoman. In short, she is smart, successful, and on top of her pop culture game, which is basically everything I aspire to be. To be clear, I do know that Mindy Lahiri and Mindy Kaling are not the same person, but it’s Kaling’s spot-on comedic timing and smart writing that make Dr. Lahiri a character that so many people can identify with. With The Mindy Project’s move to Hulu, Kaling has been able to take the show to an entirely new creative level. The dialogue is racier, the characters are crazier, and the laughs are louder. The Mindy Project was always a groundbreaking show for starring an Indian-American actress. Diversity props aside, is it worth a subscription to Hulu? Absolutely.

  2. Why Not Me?
    Mindy Kaling’s role: author
    On September 15, 2015, Kaling released her best selling collection of essays titled Why Not Me? Like her previous essay collection, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), her work in Why Not Me? is funny. Sure, we’d expect nothing less. But, her essays are also deeply relatable, touching on topics universal to women everywhere. Kaling writes with a tone that oozes honesty, and her insights into her own thought process make her even more endearing. Why Not Me? should most definitely top everyone’s to-read list in 2016. (Don’t believe me? Check out an excerpt from the book here.)

  3. Person I Want To Hang Out With
    Mindy Kaling’s role: fashion icon, social media superstar, role model
    Aside from her obvious professional prowess, Kaling has solidified herself on Twitter and Instagram as the girl that everyone wants to be. If I can’t instantly become Mindy Kaling, then I guess I’ll settle for being friends with her. And if I can’t have that, then I’ll live vicariously through photos of her wearing stunning Salvador Perez ensembles, or hanging out with friends (some of which are cast members or fellow writers on The Mindy Project) while they go ice skating, or vacation in Hawaii. Then, if I can’t do that, I’ll just longingly read her Twitter feed about watching old episodes of Sherlock, and sigh wistfully while I’m imagining that I’m watching it with her.

Whether it’s acting, producing, directing, writing, modeling, or simply being Mindy, it’s clear that there’s nothing Kaling can’t do. How do I love Mindy Kaling? I’m sorry, I’m too busy trying to craft Tweets as clever as hers to count the ways.


Off the Mark

Fiction Recycling

It’s bad enough when shitty writing somehow makes it through a publishing deal and winds up on shelves. It’s even worse when that shitty writing somehow becomes a bestseller with an even shittier movie adaptation. And worse? When that original shitty writing is revamped and redistributed to the masses, all the while disguising itself as new material.

Take, for example, E.L. James’ Grey. For those of you who may still be blissfully unaware, Grey is a retelling of Fifty Shades of Grey, told from Christian Grey’s perspective instead of from the point of view of his prospective victim submissive Ana Steele. Now I am not immediately opposed to the concept of alternating perspectives. It’s a compelling literary technique that’s wielded great narrative success for contemporary authors like Kathryn Stockett (The Help), Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), and Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train). But, the success of multiple perspectives hinges on the fact that each perspective needs to bring either new information/events into the fold, or a markedly different take on events that the characters have experienced together. This is where Grey fails, and fails epically.

Rather than giving fans new content, James literally rewrote every scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s not a single new encounter between Christian and Ana. Even worse is that their conversations and email messages are copy/pasted straight from Fifty Shades. Ignoring the fact that the writing is heinous and Christian Grey comes across as a psychopath without Ana’s thin rationalization of their relationship, Grey is just straight up lazy writing.

James’ attempt to shamelessly keep the money train going without exerting any further work whatsoever isn’t the only example of fiction recycling to occur in 2015. In order to honor Twilight’s 10-Year Anniversary, Stephenie Meyer thought it would be a good idea to publish a companion novel to the Twilight series titled Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined. The gimic reimagining? Meyer chose to switch the genders of her characters. This time around instead of Bella, there’s Beau, and instead of Edward, there’s Edythe. Nearly every other character’s gender is changed as well. Why she chose to celebrate Twilight this way, rather than finishing the much clamored for Midnight Sun (Twilight from Edward’s perspective) is anyone’s guess.

Meyer explained the concept of Life and Death by saying it was done in an attempt to address concerns that Bella was a “damsel in distress.” As many a critic have pointed out before me, though, all Meyer succeeded in doing was showing people that she’s mastered the “find and replace” function in her word processing program. Aside from the name changes, Life and Death reads as nearly the same novel as the original Twilight. Some have argued that it’s supposed to; that the point was that Twilight would be the same story no matter the characters’ gender. I could maybe buy that if the story was exactly the same. But the changes Meyer has made (again, as critics before me have noted) have only managed to perpetrate even more traditional gender stereotypes. Beau doesn’t cry in one scene, for example, where Bella does. Meyer even admitted that she modified Beau’s scenes so that “he’s not nearly so flowery with his words and thoughts.” If that’s not sexist, then I’m a sparkly vampire.

The bottom line for both James and Meyer is that they took the easy road to quick money. To hide behind claims of giving fans what they wanted and trying to right feminist wrongs is insulting at best. Fifty Shades and Twilight fans may not always be the brightest crayons in the box, but even they know a scam when they read one.

GreyLife and Death



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