For generations, the TV mom that is shrouded in perfection — June Cleaver, for example — has been beautifully displayed on the mantle of entertainment archetypes that totally don't exist IRL. In a post-Bad Moms era, that vision of Susie Homemaker has collected dust. She's been pushed towards the back, behind a participation trophy or a kind-of-cute finger painting. She's been replaced by the Claire Dunphys, the Lorelai Gilmores, and the Mindy Lahiris of the world. Now, motherhood is no longer synonymous with perfection in television or film, and one TV character that has worked hard to go against that perfectly-taught grain is The Mindy Project's Dr. Mindy Lahiri. The FOX-turned-Hulu original, which wrapped its sixth and final season on Nov. 14, forever changed the landscape of how the world views female-led comedies — especially if those women leading the show also happen to be mothers. She may have been a fictional character, but the struggles Mindy Lahiri faced as a single mom were very real and resonated with not only fans, but members of the cast as well.
In April of this year, Xosha Roquemore, who played the too-good-for-the-practice nurse Tamra on the series, welcomed her first child with Atlanta actor, Lakeith Stanfield. The timing of her child's birth and the important topics the show tackles were aligned as if they were specifically written for Roquemore, who found herself relating to everything Mindy Lahiri was going through on the recent seasons of The Mindy Project. While speaking with Romper over the phone, the actress even admits to going back and watching the episodes where Mindy was pregnant — or the episodes about pumping. In one specific scene that Roquemore remembers on the call, Mindy hilariously squirts her breast milk in Jody's face after being shamed on the subway for breastfeeding in public. "I was like, 'Oh yeah, you really can do that. It really does squirt that far sometimes!'," she says.
That moment of the series goes further than a funny stunt many moms can quickly relate to. Kaling, a soon-to-be mom herself, promised fans that the show would lean into the topic of mom-shaming, and seeing the issue of public breastfeeding tackled head on only further proved how groundbreaking this show was.
[Returning to work postpartum] was intense, but felt possible.
The intersection of feminism and motherhood didn't just stop at public breastfeeding. Mindy Lahiri's character also faced a lot of criticism when she decided to return to work after giving birth to her son, Leo. It was one of the reasons she and her OTP, Danny Castellano, broke up. Like Mindy, Roquemore returned to work shortly after the birth of her child. "I started shooting Season 6 [when] I was only six weeks postpartum," Roquemore says. "It was intense, but felt possible."
Although Roquemore describes her return to set as "possible and cool" after giving birth, she still faced a lot of conversation surrounding her postpartum body. The actress admits that a ton of fans reached out to her claiming to see her pregnant stomach in the final season, but in reality, "I wasn't pregnant," Roquemore says. "I was just six weeks postpartum, so my stomach was still big!"
Roquemore compares her postpartum experience at one point during our conversation to being in "a foreign body." But, it's that feeling she had as a new mom that makes her more appreciative of the show for opening up a dialogue about postpartum struggles and personally realizing that what she's going through is totally normal. "Any show or movie or anything that shows the realness and the truth of [motherhood], is going to be empowering and cool for women."
This is where The Mindy Project thrives. It takes any preconceived notions you might have about how women or new moms should be represented on television and throws them out the window.
Mindy was a career-driven, smart, complex woman of color. And yeah, she was also extremely flawed. But if you thought any of those traits would disappear once she became a mom, think again. In fact, her determination to not let that happen was what ultimately led to the downfall of her relationship with Danny.
Watching a woman sacrifice her personal life for her career isn't a new concept, but it's one that isn't explored on television as often as it should. The Mindy Project was a pioneer series in that regard, allowing so many women to see themselves in the titular character and revolutionizing what it means to be a mom, both on and off the screen.
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