Mindy Kaling and Bela Bajaria on Telling Diverse Stories
Mindy Kaling was aware that her HBO Max hit show would have a title that would be a big seller. “People are far more interested in hearing a show called College Girls’ Sex Lives than the Title IX fight of four girls in college, even though that’s really worthy,” she said Tuesday at the TIME100 Summit. It’s just one example of how Kaling uses storytelling devices like humor and raunch to make larger points about inclusivity and gender.
At the event, Kaling and Netflix head of global TV Bela Bajaria—who worked together to bring Never Have You Ever to the streamer—talked about the importance of creating television shows that entertain, but also ones that prioritize inclusive storytelling at all levels. “What I like about the shows is they’re not like we’re going to teach you how to be inclusive,” Kaling says. “They’re just really entertaining and sexy and fun and what’s so shrewd about the way [Netflix] has programmed its shows is they just happen to have casts that we never see traditionally.”
With hit shows like “The Streaming Company”, it has displayed an eagerness to cast diverse talent. Bridgerton. It’s also worked to create shows like Squid Game Money Heist These shows are targeted to specific audiences around the world. “We don’t make global shows. We make very local shows that happen to resonate globally with an audience because the themes can be very universal,” Bajaria says. “It’s a really powerful thing to be seen that way—so people actually see themselves and see cultures and people they don’t know about.”
Kaling has established herself as a successful showrunner in the streaming era by telling stories about the inner lives of women of color—such as in Netflix hit Never Have You EverThe HBO Max Show College Girls’ Sex Lives. When Kaling is looking for projects to work on, she’s looking for shows that she would want to keep watching, she says. “As it turns out, those are shows about horny young women who want to be in relationships,” Kaling says. “What they show more than actual sex—they show women who are longing for connection and relationships and women who’ve been traditionally told you can’t want to be in sexual situations or to be sexy, being able to explore that in a funny way,” Kaling says. She adds that the characters and narratives are complex and often touch on longing, grief and being a child of immigrants.
Bajaria also touched on Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing, which many users have expressed frustration with. “Ultimately you want people to pay for watching all of that creative talent and time that goes into it,” she says. TIME’s Eliana Dockterman asked the audience how many share their Netflix passwords with people outside of their family. A number of audience members raised their hands—including Kaling, who jokingly pointed to “the thrill of freeloading.” Kaling added that she does believe these artists and craftspeople should be paid. “I’m sad about it, but I get it,” she quipped.
The proliferation of streaming services has led some viewers to wonder if there’s a compromise in prioritizing quantity over quality. Bajaria disagreed with this idea—arguing that variety is only beneficial and that ultimately, it’s really a matter of taste. “If you like dating shows we should have the best of those. You can watch it here. UltimatumOder Love is Blind,” Bajaria says. “If you want to watch the Queen’s Gambit,MaidOder The Crown, we also have that.”
Kaling states that there has been an increase in television show content on multiple platforms, even though traditional media are still available. She cited Abbott ElementaryABC has a great example of an innovative show that uses a classic format and does well. “Good content will always find its way on television,” she says.
TIME 100 Summit, an extension to the TIME 100 annual list of influential people around the globe is a live event. This summit gathers global leaders from TIME 100 to discuss solutions and promote action for a better world. This year’s summit features a variety of impactful speakers across a diverse range of sectors, including politics, business, health and science, culture, and more.
Speakers for the 2022 TIME 100 Summit include Apple CEO Tim Cook, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates, filmmaker Taika Waititi, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, musician Jon Batiste, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, NBA champion, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Dwayne Wade, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio, Christian Siriano founder and creative director Christian Siriano, Brother Vellies founder and creative director Aurora James, author and poet Cathy Park Hong, Olympic freestyle skiing champion Eileen Gu, author, poet, and Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander, filmmaker Betsy West, filmmaker Julie Cohen, BioNTech SE senior vice president Dr. Katalin Karikó, Ukrayinska Pravda Sevgil Muzaieva is the editor in chief, as well as Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce and TIME), and Marc Benioff (chairman and Salesforce chair).
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