In this post, I’m going to write about the show ‘Monday Mornings’ and focus on the character of Dr. Sydney Napur played by Sarayu Rao. This is the second medical domain themed show I’m writing about (after The Mindy Project, which made me generally skeptical considering the way Mindy Kaling’s character goes about her duties on that show). I was in two-minds about how to approach this show, considering that on the one hand it is produced by David. E. Kelly (who also created Ally McBeal and we all know how that show fares in terms of female representation. On the other hand, it gave me a glimmer of hope knowing that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who wrote the book the show is based on, was responsible for the creative and factual input in every episode. At least the details of the show would be spot on.
I was however, disappointed in the portrayal of Dr. Sydney Napur, at least in the first few episodes going in. She is the only female doctor of color on the show. She is a surgeon (the other female characters of color are shown to be medical assistants and make fleeting appearances in some episodes). There are two other characters of color on the show, and both are men. The rest are all Caucasian. Out of all the main characters of the show, Dr. Napur and one other female surgeon, are the only women and the rest are all me. It was interesting for me to note that in the episodes that I watched; neither of the two female surgeons is shown performing actual surgery. It was always the men who do the surgery with the female surgeons and medical assistants helping them out. Dr. Napur is never shown performing a surgery. This goes back to my skepticism about the show stemming from who the producer is.
Dr, Napur is shown to be a very strong character and is shown getting into verbal duels with almost everyone from patients to co-workers. It reaches a point where her antics outside the ER become the focus of the show, and the character loses credibility with the viewer with regards to her professional accomplishments. Her personal life is alluded to in the pilot episode itself. She gets called in for a medical emergency and mentions to a co-worker that she was in the middle of a date where her boyfriend was going to propose to her. He broke the relationship off when she got paged, stating that he couldn’t deal with her work anymore. The two female characters are the only ones whose personal lives are mentioned on the show.
It mamazed me that even on a show with such a professional setting and one that could be developed into a wholesome experience about the stress and triumphs of being in the medical field, the show still manages to portray the one female character of color as having boyfriend trouble and being on the verge of getting engaged, but decides to give it up in favor of her career. Is that the only way a woman of color can portray her being fierce and independent? As having to give up her want for a family for a career instead? The stereotype there was a little too obvious for me to overlook.
Also, the fact that since she’s portrayed as being very ‘in-your-face’, there are times on the show when she’s told to keep quiet and not express her opinion. There is even a scene in which a white male co-worker addresses her as a ‘rogue pit-bull’. By having such scenes, the makers of the show are propagating the very ‘imperial gaze’ that is talked about in the book ‘Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film and the Imperial Gaze’ by Ann Kaplan. The notion that a person of color can be talked down to without the threat of retaliation is the faulty representation of an ethnic group that is the result of centuries of colonization. It is unfortunate that such age-old social constructs still get reflected on television today.