This 2015 American Express credit card company advertisement tells the story of “unlikely leading lady” Mindy Kaling. In the video, the successful Indian American actress, comedian, and writer talks about growing up discovering that she liked and had a talent for acting and comedy, and also how she carved a path forward even though she did not see anyone who looked like her in TV and film. She also talks about the stereotypical roles she was limited to play in the past, and how significant and important it is to her now to be the visibility and representativeness on screen and in the entertainment industry that was missing when she was growing up. Throughout the video, Kaling is shown being interviewed between clips of her getting ready for her day, including exercising, eating, showering and choosing clothes, driving to work, and ultimately walking onto a set to discuss how a show is being filmed. The video ends with the American Express logo and campaign tagline: the journey never stops.
What does Mindy Kaling’s story tell us about the importance of visibility of underrepresented minorities in U.S. popular culture?
How many actors and actresses of South Asian descent can you name? What kinds of roles do they play?
What does Mindy Kaling mean when she says she refuses to be seen as “the underdog?” Why is this important to her to point out?
How does the narrative woven throughout this video touch on individualistic notions of meritocracy and believing that if a person works hard enough, they will succeed? What is missing from this perspective? How does this kind of narrative account for the different resources and social locations people start with that support or hinder their ability to participate at the same level?