The Mindy Project has more alternate universe episodes than nearly any other sitcom. There’s the Sliding Doors one with the adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The Groundhog Day (and cosplay) one from earlier in season 5. And now the best addition to the sci-fi Mindy pile, the one where Mindy Lahiri literally becomes a white man for a day.
The bonkers idea starts in "Mindy Lahiri Is A White Man" when Mindy (Mindy Kaling) goes for a job interview to become the next head of obstetrics at her hospital. Although Mindy is a a lovable mess most in of her life, we do know the fertility specialist is a badass doctor and great leader when it comes to medicine.
It’s already clear Mindy’s interview isn’t going to go well as an all-male panel stammers the words "single mom" at her and asks if she’s able to keep her emotions in check when making tough decisions. It’s a surprise they don’t toss in a question about private email servers.
Mindy inevitably finds out she’s not going to the second round of interviews when handsome Southern white guy Jody (Garret Dillahunt) calls to tell her he’s still in the running. She didn't get the same email. As many women of colour before her, the East Asian doctor goes to bed saying she wants to be a white man.
Unlike many women of colour before her, Mindy actually wakes up as a the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Michael Lancaster (Ryan Hansen) and knows who writer-director Whit Stillman is. From there we see all the obvious benefits of white male privilege — the ability to hail any cab, boys’ night invites, acceptable weight gain, easy orgasms — and the ones we barely acknowledge.
When Mindy-as-Michael walks into Shulman & Associates, everyone is just waiting to laugh at the newly-male doctor’s jokes, take notes on every word he says, and ask how his night went. Although Mindy-as-Mindy says the same exact stuff, her co-workers usually react with eye rolls, insults, and notifications about her stained poncho.
All of a sudden, she’s charming without changing a single thing other than her sex, race, and height, of course. Mindy’s look at how the other half lives gets even more intense when she goes in for her second round job "interview" as Michael, who has a completely different backstory than her.
Doctor Lancaster plays racquetball with the lead interviewer. His three perfect blonde children go to the same ADHD specialist as another decision-maker. Everyone already "knows" his qualifications and leadership skills thanks to his impressive jawline. No one is worried about him juggling his pesky family obligations and a prospective promotion.
Although everyone is ready to hand the job over to Michael and his lupine face, The Mindy Project reveals "loser" Asian woman Doctor Lee actually deserves the position. Despite Mindy-as-Michael’s best efforts, the job still goes to a different white man (and possible wife murderer), who’s so old he had the gig back in the ‘70s.
Mindy didn’t give us the fairytale ending we were hoping for, but it did show the harsh realities of how privilege shapes our lives without realising it. And the more we know, the better equipped we are to fight back.