Tag Archives: Lena Dunham

Is HBO’s newest comedy, Girls, racist?

12 Apr

If you have premium cable and frequent HBO, you’ve more than likely caught a commercial or two touting their newest comedy, Girls.

In short, Girls is the brain-child of writer/director/actress Lena Dunham, and follows the lives of four early twenty-somethings throughout the transitional period between college and being an adult. Yet while it’s filmed in New York City and covers topics like sex, having an identity crisis and a slew of shit jobs, it doesn’t seem to be this decade’s Sex and the City, even if that’s how HBO is looking at it.

With executive producer Judd Apatow behind the wheel of the train, Girls looks full of promise. So, why then, does it seem like the show is getting a bad wrap before it even airs?

Most critics aren’t bothered by the content, the acting or even the dialogue. What’s got everyone talking is the fact that Girls‘ main characters are all – wait for it – white girls.

As someone of mixed ethnicity (I myself am half White, half Hispanic), I’ll be honest when I say that even I didn’t notice it. And why is that, you might ask?

In the year 2012, I have grown up watching television shows that feature casts of mixed ethnicity, as I have also seen casts that revolve around an all-White family, an all-African America family and an all-Hispanic family. I’ve seen this in movies and even commercial advertising.  Hell, HBO’s recently-cancelled series Bored to Death featured a mainly white cast, and it was shot in New York City, but I never heard rumblings about “not enough minorities.” Sure, Jason Schwartzman is Jewish and comes from the Coppola blood-line, but does that make him any less white? And what about his co-stars, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danza? Are they not considered white?

So, why then, is Girls getting such backlash?

I honestly can’t answer this question. Many people are saying that it’s because they feel “under-represented,” or because, like Sarah Seltzer of The Jewish Daily Forward said in her article, “if Girls ends up being as good as the hype, then we shouldn’t be afraid to offer strong, but loving suggestions about its racial makeup.”

But do we really need to coddle the audience for them to “get” it? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but people don’t like music, television, or art because the creator is the same shade of tan. People attach themselves to ideas, and they laugh at jokes or cry when the curtain is drawn because it moves them and they relate to it.

Maybe Girls does need a dash of color thrown in to the mix, or maybe we need to stop criticizing everything put in front of us. I’ll admit that I’m always worried to discuss the topic of race, but that’s not because I’m afraid people will gasp at my racism. In fact, I don’t know anyone that’s a bigger advocate for equality across the board, but even the most accepting position on race can be the most complex to explain.

The way I see it, claiming that there is a certain formula that must be followed in order to “properly represent” minorities is still a form of racism. Characters shouldn’t be written as an after-thought, nor should the only reason they were created was to make sure nobody was left out.

It sounds to me that Americans are still putting too much emphasis on a person’s ethnic make-up in the name of being politically correct, and if that’s the case, I’d rather not be. It’d be one thing if Dunham had stated she intentionally left minorities out and then proceeded to give a reason based on racism, but she didn’t. The truth is, minority representation isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a math equation. Additionally, Dunham isn’t racist for having four White leads, just as Tyler Perry isn’t racist for having all African-American leads on For Better or For Worse.

Nona Willis Aronowitz, Associate Editor at GOOD said it well, that “if we acknowledge that the semi-autobiographical details are what make Dunham’s work great, we shouldn’t be demanding the show to appeal to and reflect every girl.”

The truth is that, nobody really knows whether or not Hispanic or African American women (or men of any ethnicity!) will appreciate this television show, because it doesn’t even air until Sunday, April 15. So here’s my suggestion: let’s wait and see how the audience really reacts to the show before we start pointing fingers in the name of “racism.”

Until then… Congratulations, Lena Dunham. I can’t wait to see what Girls is all about.

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