Mindy Kaling's Pros & Cons of Being a Teenager
The actress pens an open letter to today's youth, trying to decide if life is better or worse for them now than for previous generations
For anyone who follows Mindy Kaling on Twitter, or has read her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, you know the actress never shies away from adding her own opinion to any conversation. Her FOX comedy, The Mindy Project, is another vehicle for Kaling to do so, and in one of last season’s best episodes, the star’s titular character tackled her next-door-neighbor’s decision to become sexually active as a teen, leading to a full-on tirade about how kids are in too much of a rush to grow up.
On Monday, Vanity Fair published an excerpt from the book Rookie: Yearbook Two, in which Kaling is at it again, this time trying to decide whether she can “become one of those old cranks who think everyone younger than them is an entitled, bratty wuss with a lot of outlandish tech toys,” she writes, “[or] I become one of those simpering adults who are like, ‘I know what you’re going through – it’s so hard to be a youngster,’ and I put my hand on your shoulder and you’re like, ‘What are you, my guidance counselor? Get off me.'”
To make up her mind, she presents arguments in favor of both options. Here, I breakdown her best:
• Cell phones: The actress points out teens today never have to fear their parents interrupting their calls simply by picking up a different phone connected to the same line, which made her “want to die” when her father did it. As someone who shared her phone line with both her parents, her brother AND a dial-up modem (remember those?), Kaling’s point is a strong one.
• Greater connectivity: In an era where everyone is just a Tweet away, Kaling posits that aspiring adolescents are that much closer to their heroes, whereas her own, Dana Carvey, seemed impossibly out of reach. The warm reception surrounding San Francisco’s Bat Kid, including words of encouragement from President Barack Obama over Vine, certainly makes Kaling’s case.
• Nothing is forgotten: Though Twitter, and Facebook and Instagram and so on, can serve to bring people together, it also means there’s a record of everything you’ve ever done online, including information that as an adult you’d probably like to forget. Likewise, maintaining one’s social media presence across multiple platforms can be an overwhelming task. In fact, at many companies, that’s someone’s job. “I basically would have never completed high school if social media had existed,” says Kaling – and let me tell you, as an adult, it’s really not much easier.
• No more must-see TV: Before there was Netflix and DVR and TiVo, there were people gathered around a television set, watching something as it aired. That long-forgotten concept led to the record-breaking ratings of shows like Seinfeld, and guaranteed next day conversation that everyone wanted to be a part of. “Now no one watches any scripted television the actual time it’s on,” she writes, “and it doesn’t matter anyway because TV’s basically all singing competitions.” Personally, it hurts my heart to know obsessive fans will probably never again boycott the State of the Union so we can all watch the Lost premiere in peace.
In the end, Kaling decides, “I guess it is harder now. I don’t envy you guys,” and dispenses this piece of wisdom: “Don’t put anything you do on YouTube until you are 21.” Having typed my first middle school paper on a typewriter, and without the aid of Google, I’m not sure that I’d agree, but what do you think? Tell us in the comments: Whose adolescence is harder, teens of generations past or teens today?