The Mindy Project is most fun when it breaks from tradition and throws a dash of magical realism on the proceedings. Tuesday, after a sexist job interview caused her to wish she was born someone else, Mindy became a white man on The Mindy Project, and looked at privilege from the other side. Played by Ryan Hansen, the adventures of Michael Lancaster provided one of the funniest episodes of the season.
After spending a while enjoying their effortless confidence (and body) Mindy/Michael noticed that Irene Lee, another doctor at the hospital who Mindy didn't want to associate with during the episode, was actually the most qualified. Before, Mindy didn't want to be in a "clique" with her, as the only two female doctors. As Michael, Mindy tried to intervene and get her the job instead, and ended up learning a lot about just how rigged and complicated "the system" really is.
The dramatic experiment had its ups and downs. I loved watching Ryan Hansen gleefully manspread on the subway, then hail cab after cab, only to send them away. Those visual jokes worked better than Mindy/Michael questioning everyone's reactions to his behavior. The difference between how people treat men versus women in the workplace was clear, but I guess white men do feel the need to explain everything. How about that!
It was also kind of a bummer, though not exactly wrong or offensive, that Mindy/Michael's main piece of advice to Doctor Lee was to change her appearance. Sure, it sucks that guys take relatively no time getting presentable for work on a daily basis compared to women — but I still don't like thinking about it. She also suggested using her sexuality as a secret weapon, which is definitely one valid brand of feminism, if not everyone's cup of equali-tea.
The most interesting lesson that Mindy learned as Michael, in my opinion, was how easily we normalize and adjust to privilege. "The sad thing is having the ability to help other people," she mused, "and most of the time, just not doing it. It's just so easy not to. Your life is so carefree, you start wondering why other people just don't help themselves, because you think life is just as easy for everyone else."
It's always valuable to step into another person's shoes, even if those shoes are ultimately disappointing. At the end of the episode, once Mindy was restored to herself, she even befriended Irene for real. Not only did Mindy learn about white male privilege, she learned some things about herself.