“I love romantic comedies. […] I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world. […] So it makes sense that in this world there are many specimens of women who I do not think exist in real life, like Vulcans or UFO people or whatever.”
-Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling goes on to skewer a few stereotypes, like “The Sassy Best Friend” (she “runs a chic dildo store in the West Village”) and “The Forty-Two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead.” It’s well worth the read. But when I was reading that last night–or, more exactly, when I was having that read out loud to me last night–what stuck out to me most was the comedy. Kaling is taking on some serious cultural mumbo-jumbo, she’s changing the spell of expectations that we cast on our children, but she’s doing it in a way that, at least when read out loud, might make you spit out your beer.
This morning, I’ve been wondering if someone’s style–the perspective they take on a situation–could be arranged by three poles: on the left, there’s compassion, the knowledge that the world is not just you. On the right there’s cruelty. It’s easy to just see me, and when I do, then hurting you is not that hard. Above those two, and between them, there’s humor. You can be funny and mean. You can be funny without caring whether you’re being kind. You can be funny while creating compassion.
When I think about pointing out something that’s wrong, I tend to get all serious. I can watch a movie and ache because of its shallow depiction of love, or gender roles, or violence, or whatever. Kaling can see the same things that are wrong with that movie, but she can also laugh at the jokes and share the entertainment. Part of me thinks, well wait a minute, isn’t that ache part of the motivation to be better? Kaling responds, “Well, sure–but over here I’ve got an engine that runs on laughs. Wanna try it?”
I think I skew towards serious when I’m worried we’ll lose, and the injustice will win. When sexism (or prejudice, or whatever other monster) looks as silly as it really is, when someone like Kaling is going to come along and give our kids a better chance at fighting back, it’s easier to laugh.