Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mindy's Funny Fallacies

The creator of the syndicated television show “The Mindy Project,” Mindy Kaling, is a veritable genius in the ways of rhetoric and comedy. In her show, Ms. Kaling exhibits numerous rhetorical strategies in dialogue between characters. What with her Ivy League education, maybe it is only natural for the author to include these things in her sense of humor.

One episode in particular, entitled “The Devil Wears Lands’ End,” includes an extremely interesting bit of logical fallacy. The logical fallacy occurs at the very beginning of the episode, and is immediately followed by rather risqué material, in case you want to see it with a young audience. While driving home from a wedding with her love interest, Danny, Mindy is pulled over for speeding. She immediately informs Danny of her uncanny ability to evade speeding tickets with a self-described sob-story method. In the following interaction between Mindy and the officer, she demonstrates her skill:
“Mindy: Officer, the reason we were speeding is because we were rushing away from this devastating funeral of a very close friend of ours who died.
Officer shines his flashlight on some incriminating photo-booth pictures visible from Mindy’s purse.
Officer incredulous: And the funeral had a photo booth with prop mustaches?
Mindy begins to sob pathetically: You know what? Just give me a ticket. I can’t have a baby!”
This interaction perfectly demonstrates the logical fallacy of appeal to pity. Rather than arguing an actual point, Mindy simply offers random pieces of her own misfortune: “I can’t have a baby!” By sharing one’s own misfortune, the employer of an appeal to pity hopes to achieve one of two things: either the audience will become exhausted by irrelevant information in much the same way as argument ad nauseam, or the story will evoke a sentiment of sympathy in the audience.
In this example, Mindy seems to accomplish a little bit of both. The officer responds by attempting to calm her down, illustrating his aversion to arguing with hysterical drivers who have a lot to say about their personal life. After this attempt to pacify her, the officer concedes the argument: “I’ll cut you a break. You remind me of the demented aunt that raised me.”

This victory shows how logical fallacy can be purposefully employed. Mindy knows that she is diverting the argument, and does so because she has no other defense. In light of this, logical fallacies are often used when legitimate rhetorical techniques are unavailable. On another level, Mindy Kaling's logical fallacies serve to make us all laugh at her bizarre antics. 


  1. I love this show. Yes she uses logical fallacies quite often for the sake of humor. Thank you for bringing this to light.

  2. This is one of my favorite shows! It's hilarious! I haven't seen an episode since we started talking about logical fallacies but now that you mention it I can think of a bunch! I'm sure next time I watch a new episode I'll be able to spot them with no problem. Mindy is always using her persuasive powers to get out of her many duties and I think using logical fallacies is her favorite rhetorical strategy!