Mindy Kaling got into a beef with the Television Academy about racism & sexism

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Elle Magazine dropped their multiple covers and cover stories for their Women In Hollywood issue yesterday. I’m still sorting through the interviews and we’ll probably parcel them out over the next week or two. Mindy Kaling got one of the covers, and as always, Mindy gives a great interview. The whole interview is worth a read – you can read it here – but there was one part which caused a weird back-and-forth yesterday as soon as the interview dropped. Mindy discussed how she wrote and starred in Late Night, which was loosely based on her experience being the only woman of color in the writers’ room, and how she was often surrounded with white bros. Here’s the section which piqued so much interest:

Like [Late Night’s] Molly, Kaling has faced her share of sexism in television. Early on in her tenure at The Office, the show was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Shortly after, the Television Academy, which puts on the awards show, told Kaling that because there were too many producers on The Office, they were going to cut her from the list. She, the only woman of color on the team, wouldn’t be eligible for an Emmy like the rest of the staff. In order to receive her rightful recognition, she recalls, “they made me, not any of the other producers, fill out a whole form and write an essay about all my contributions as a writer and a producer. I had to get letters from all the other male, white producers saying that I had contributed, when my actual record stood for itself.” Her name was included in the final list, though the show ultimately didn’t win.

Fighting to prove they deserve their place is something to which all women—particularly women of color—can relate. There’s a quote from Toni Morrison that resonates with Kaling: “In this country, American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” Regardless of how successful she is, Kaling feels she will always deal with some amount of racism and sexism. “It really doesn’t matter how much money I have,” she says. “I’m treated badly with enough regularity that it keeps me humble.”

[From Elle]

I totally believe that happened. The Office had so many producers, and I totally believe that the Television Academy looked at the producer list and was like “that’s too many, we need to cull,” and then immediately saw Mindy Kaling’s name and said “she’s the one who needs to prove that she did something other than get coffee for the men.” Well, if you ever want to see old white dudes respond in a hurry, accuse them of being quietly racist and sexist for years. The Television Academy released a huffy statement about how ACTUALLY they are totally not racist and sexist for singling out the one woman of color in a sea of white dudes:

“No one person was singled out,” the TV Academy said in a statement. “There was an increasing concern years ago regarding the number of performers and writers seeking producer credits. At the time the Producers Guild worked with the Television Academy to correctly vet producer eligibility. Every performer/producer and writer/producer was asked to justify their producer credits. We no longer require this justification from performer/producers and writer/producers, but we do continue to vet consulting producer credits with the PGA to ensure those credited are actually functioning in the role as a producer.”

[From Variety]

Mindy then clapped back, as the youths say. She got on Twitter, posted the Television Academy’s statement, and responded with this:

Respectfully, the Academy’s statement doesn’t make any sense. I *was* singled out. There were other Office writer-performer-producers who were NOT cut from the list. Just me. The most junior person, and woman of color. Easiest to dismiss. Just sayin’.

I’ve never wanted to bring up that incident because The Office was one of the greatest creative experiences of my life, and who would want to have an adversarial relationship with the Academy, who has the ongoing power to enhance our careers with awards? But I worked so hard and it was humiliating. I had written so many episodes, put in so much time in the editing room, just to have the Academy discard it because they couldn’t fathom I was capable of doing it all. Thankfully I was rescued by my friends, the other producers.

The point is, we shouldn’t have be bailed out because of the kindness our more powerful white male colleagues. Not mentioning it seemed like glossing over my story. This was like ten years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t happen now. But it happened to me.

Hey, @TelevisionAcad! I have been a proud member for years. I was the 1st woman of color nominated for writing a comedy script. Why not say “years ago we prevented a deserving woman of color from getting credit for her accomplishments. We’re sorry and it would never happen now.”?

[From Mindy’s Twitter]

Not only did the Television Academy completely disrespect her AT THE TIME, but the huffy statement in response to her Elle profile was also a case study in minimizing the lived experiences of a woman of color. They were gaslighting her publicly - “what you remember as a humiliating incident of racism and sexism wasn’t what you thought, you silly bitch.” Bulls–t. Old dudes keep showing their asses.

ELLE Women in Hollywood 2018

Cover courtesy of Elle Magazine, additional photo courtesy of WENN.

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29 Responses to “Mindy Kaling got into a beef with the Television Academy about racism & sexism”

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  1. Ally Theater says:

    Binge watching The Office at the moment with my 14 year old. Mindy’s a hoot.


    • Marisse says:

      “First of all, How Dare You’?!” -Kelly

      The Office is my fav tv show ever. Never fails to make me feel a little bit better when I am depressed.

  2. Claire says:

    Late Night was a fun movie.

  3. Lucy2 says:

    Good for her for standing up for herself. The Academy looks petty here, clearly she has a point- she was the only one who had to justify her position.
    Not only was she a producer on the same level as several of the others, but she was also a writer, and after the second episode, a performer as well. She certainly deserved to be included in any recognition for the series.

  4. Bren says:

    I totally read that clap back in Mindy’s voice.

  5. Kittycat says:

    No one wants to be accountable

  6. Bananas says:

    👏👏👏 love this, love Mindy’s response, love everything about it. Thanks for posting Kaiser.

  7. HK9 says:

    I’m glad she called them out because so many organizations/people in general think this kind of thing is ok and it’s just racism & sexism. They should just acknowledge their error.

  8. Marie says:

    First of all, HOW DARE YOU!

  9. Lizzie says:

    i think her response was really wonderful. other celebrities should pay her to write them. she was firm but courteous and expressed her gratitude and thanks to her colleagues while still holding the academy in check….without a single insult. she is a great writer and obviously extremely professional and measured. it is so unfair she and others have to be treated like an aside when they have proved themselves to not only be extremely creative but also tough business people.

  10. Ladiabla says:

    I wonder if she ever received any noms for The Mindy Project? Maybe in its first year? I’ve watched episodes multiple times and like the Office, it never fails to make me laugh out loud. I went to see Late Night at the theater and enjoyed it; it was exciting cause I felt I was watching a proper film for adults, not just one about superheroes (which I enjoy as well, admittedly), but it still seemed like a rare occasion. She’s so talented, and her response here is dead on.

  11. Valiantly Varnished says:

    Her clap back was strong and I doubt they were expecting it. I hope more and more WOC call out these old white dude organizations like this.
    I still am reeling from the fact that they made her write a f-cking essay! Like a third grader. That gets my blood boiling.

    • BlueSky says:

      Me too! As a WOC I’ve had to deal with these micro aggressions all the time. We are expected to jump higher and run faster just to prove we deserve to be in white spaces. It doesn’t matter how educated or experienced you are, people cannot get past your color and treat you as if you are an imposter.

    • otaku fairy.... says:

      Right? Glad she’s calling this out.

    • Hoopjumper says:

      You know if they were able to say “many people of all demographics were asked to account for…” blah blah blah they would. But they didn’t, because they can’t. Mindy waa precocious, but absolutely no more so than BJ Novak. And yet…

  12. tw says:

    I LOVE her. Trailblazer, so smart and funny. I follow her on IG and love her style, too. Go Mindy!!

  13. Mo says:

    Yeah, as soon as I saw that I was guessing that it was because she was also a performer. I’d have to know if the others were already vetted by the Academy because they were more senior.

    I can totally believe that someone pulled her for extra vetting because she was either a woman or person of color, depending on their particular set of biases. These things need to be much more open and transparent and done for everyone. Everyone needs to jump through the hoops.

  14. JustSayin says:

    Just curious. On other shows at the same time, were any producers asked to submit the same documentation? And if they were, by Mindy’s account, they were probably women of color, correct? She asserts that her gender and race are to be assumed THE ONLY POSSIBLE EXPLANATION for the requested documents. So therefore, other shows producer women of color, like Greys Anatomy for example, must have been treated the same?

    • Paisley25 says:

      BJ Novak was also a writer/producer/performer that year. Given their relationship, I’m sure Mindy would have been aware if he had to run around getting letters to justify his producer nomination.

  15. nuks says:

    She says she was the **most junior person**, and a performer/writer. So I’m going to guess that’s why she got shafted. There may have been other factors, such as if the other performer/writers had more clout. And I’m not sure but the show submits credits, so if the EPs were asked to revise credits *they* may have dropped her in a more glaring case of individual prejudice. But the academy doesn’t sit around like Mr. Burns cackling as they single out WOC and women in general.

    Not to excuse her bad experience, but the situation sounds more frustratingly complicated than this piece is making it sound. Institutional and individual prejudice get blended together but we have to separate them as much as possible or we’re not going to put the right safeguards in place to put an end to them.

    • TorontoBeach says:

      Actually “Nuks” that’s exactly what you did. You are making excuses for Mindy’s bad experience. Other shows had even greater number of producers nominated so unless their most junior, not a person of colour was also dropped from the list, your reasoning doesn’t hold up.

  16. Mtec says:

    But, wasn’t she called out for only having white male writers on her staff for The Mindy Project?

    I looked it up on IMDB and only say a writing credit (15 eps) for one woman that was over 2 episodes.

    She is good a writing to shows where diversity is represented on screen, but behind the scenes it’s another story?