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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    No need to scrutinize mealtime for women

    You guys, sometimes women eat. And sometimes they even order dessert. It is astounding.

    In its December issue Vanity Fair’s profile of Mindy Kaling, a writer, producer, director and actor for NBC television show “The Office,” is literally a play-by-play of brunch. And it’s as enthralling as you think, from her “festive Sunday Sparkler” drink to her side of toast with … wait for it … jam.

    There are few things more formulaic than the lunch-with-a-famous-lady story. Sometimes the famous lady orders salad. Other times, she’s “not too careful with the calories” and orders a whole meal. Or, in Kaling’s case, “fruit salad, followed by day-boat sea scallops in creamy corn grits with bacon-braised greens, a poached egg on top, and toasted rye on the side.”

    What’s interesting (or, you know, awkward and sort of sad) is that the profile uses Kaling’s lunch as a clumsy, unnecessary tool to move the narrative along. In between sea scallops and cream puffs, you learn about Kaling as an Indian woman working in comedy with a bunch of white guys.

    “I used to forget that I was an Indian woman,” Kaling said. “I would even forget that I was a woman. I don’t think of myself as bringing to the table a lot of ‘women’s issues.’” But eventually, she realized her Indian upbringing and values differ from many of her friends.

    And then the waiter walked over with the dessert menu, and Kaling “chose the profiteroles with chocolate sauce and melted ice cream.”

    Wait. Stop. Mindy Kaling eats cream puffs and ice cream? Celebrities are just like us!

    Except, you know, not. Because, as Kaling says (as briefly as she is allowed to in between updates on the progress of the meal), she’s realized she believes in a “deeply Indian custom” of having her parents and in-laws move in with her when she’s older, and that “a lot of my friends don’t have that feeling at all.”

    Vanity Fair’s profile also glosses over Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns)” and her success as a writer. She, like every other subject of pretty much any feature about a halfway well-known woman, gets reduced to the eater of some food.

    There’s this idea that little girls are pressured by the media’s influence — by the glamorizing of thin, gorgeous women in pictures. There’s probably no disputing that, but it doesn’t help that the eating habits of those women are so closely scrutinized, in a line-by-line and bite-by-bite update.

    Celebrity profiles aren’t hard news. They won’t change the world. Your eyes will skim over their predictable structure: “Blah blah sits down and orders a beer, a cheeseburger and extra onion rings. Blah blah is not on a diet.”

    Realistically, you could never cram anyone’s life story into a word count of about 1,000 words. But you could try to tell more about them than what they had for lunch one day. Why can’t Kaling be a woman of color succeeding in Hollywood who’s just taking advantage of some publication’s expense account? Why does that publication and its audience need to raise their eyebrows and clutch their hearts over the idea that she ordered a whole meal?

    You can demonize Hollywood and the media for a lot, but in the end, if people actually read nonsense like Vanity Fair’s profile, everyone loses. It shouldn’t be surprising every time a celebrity eats a full meal without expressing concern about a diet. Eating lunch is not like having an “illicit treat.”

    Mindy Kaling eats. People in Hollywood eat. Everybody eats.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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