Mindy Kaling is positioning herself to be the next Tina Fey. Acting, writing, publishing. Tina Fey was writing, acting, and moved on to producing – with Mean Girls, 30 Rock, and now the bestseller Bossypants, it’s plain to see Team Tina is building an empire in the shadows. Tina Fey is a great example of a power woman everyone likes. It seems the legacy of Oprah and Martha Stewart inspired a new trend in the pop culture of female entrepreneurship (a trend Tina Fey has spearheaded): “build quietly.”
Women have to be subtle. Like the characters Mindy Kaling wants to write in her romantic comedies (the “gorgeous klutz” or the adorable “ethereal weirdo”), women who are improbable and unassuming, so are these new women of ambition. You don’t create an empire accidentally.
It seems popular, effective, and accepted for women to build corporate kingdoms in a “Who, Me?” manner: Chelsea Handler slowly and nonchalantly taking over late night tv (3 shows?!), the silent and miniature Olsen twins with their JCPenney fashion line, Tina Fey dominating NBC and writing a bestseller. Now Mindy Kaling is following in Tina’s footsteps writing a hilarious and insightful book, and publishing articles that are even deemed worthy by The New Yorker.
Women have learned you get ahead as a woman by being a woman (re-watch an episode of West Wing to see Ainsley Hayes or dig up clips of the outrageous Sarah Palin to see a demonstration of the “I’m a likable, ambitious, and non-threatening woman” thing). Palin and Kaling are women who have learned from the reactions to strong and bold women á la Hillary Clinton, Oprah, and Martha Stewart. The new wave of female empire-builders saw how previous power women were perceived and framed as power-hungry, asexual, and too independent, and ultimately, not relatable. Not womanly.
The new empire builders are subtle; they only let us see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their successes and growth and don’t flaunt it. They’re not threatening or intense. They’re quirky and “come by things honestly.” The question remains, have women learned how to have everything? Or are they settling?