Mindy Kaling Wants to Know: When Will Minorities Stop Being Invisible?

The show creator’s Super Bowl commercial makes a statement about getting noticed.
Feb 1, 2015·
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Sure, it’s an ad trying to sell insurance. But with the barrage of Super Bowl commercials sure to offend with their misogynistic overtones, the good ones deserve some attention. And for minority women, this one featuring Mindy Kaling hits the spot.

In Nationwide Insurance’s Super Bowl commercial, the creator and star of The Mindy Project demonstrates how hard it is to be noticed as a woman.

Kaling has an epiphany when a man in a suit takes a cab she was trying to hail.

“After years of being treated like she was invisible, it occurred to Mindy Kaling she might actually be invisible,” the narrator says.

So Kaling just lets it go, displaying socially frowned-upon behavior such as going topless at the park and eating big spoonfuls of ice cream at the grocery store.

Taken at face value, the ad wants potential clients to know that they’re not invisible. But Kaling playing the role of someone struggling for attention also highlights what women face every day.

In a recent interview on Morning Edition, Kaling talked about being perceived as a woman in Hollywood.

“As a producer and a writer, whether it was at The Office or [at The Mindy Project], if I make a decision, it’ll still seem like it’s up for debate,” she said. “And I notice that a little bit at The Office, with, like, an actor: If I decided there’d be a certain way in the script, it would still seem open-ended, whereas...if I was a man I would not have seen that.”

Her struggle represents a widespread issue. A 2013 report by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that women only held 28 percent of producing, writing, and other behind-the-scenes positions in television. The problem is evident outside the industry as well.

Journalist Rhitu Chatterjee at NPR relates, and pinpoints Kaling’s frustration in the beginning of the ad as especially resonant with minority women in general. Writing about the commercial, she says that as an Indian woman in America, she’s felt her share of invisibility.

“[My] minority women friends there tell me they’ve also experienced it,” Chatterjee writes.

Kaling’s ad may not make a direct statement for feminism, but in a sea of commercials that objectify women, it’s a breath of fresh of air. Nearly half of Super Bowl viewers are female, after all, and they deserve to be represented by someone like Kaling.