After my last post on HBO’s Girls, I was still willing to still give the series a shot. Except now I’m realizing something even worse–these writers really have no clue why people are upset over the lack of minority representation in their New York based show. Amazing.
Let me just say that I’m not surprised that a lot of people are drinking the haterade when it comes to this show. Anything that’s deemed hipster-ish with witty humor, a Modcloth wardrobe and critical acclaim is never consumed easily by the masses (see: people’s responses to Wes Anderson’s latest trailer for Moonrise Kingdom). I also agree that a lot of the backlash against the show is misogynistic: television is a male-dominated media, yet we still find reasons to not celebrate an original, female oriented series and instead call it what Two and a Half Men’s creator, Lee Aronsohn, said, “peak vagina on television, the point of labia saturation.”
But here’s the problem. The writers behind Girls really don’t understand why this lack of representation, especially for young women of color, is a valid issue. They’re clueless.
Example #1: Lesley Arfin, one of the show writers, responded to the criticism with the perfect tweet:
You know what also bothers Arfin? How come there aren’t any college scholarships for white people? How come we don’t have any TV networks devoted to white people? I don’t even want to get started on why this supposedly hilarious joke is quite the opposite, on how Precious (for once) portrays a story about the underrepresented and the ignored–because I’m not very eloquent.
On the plus side, Arfin’s tweet proves all along that she (and probably the other writers) has no idea how institutionalized racism works in this country. The criticism against her show can’t be countered with “Well, minorities don’t support equal representation either.” It’s about the complete and visible exclusion of a very present part of New York’s population.
No, I’m not asking for token minorities to be included in the story. I’m asking for the writers to just widen their horizons and include minorities in their stories because hey, we exist. We’re here. We’re riding the elevators with you, we’re on the subways, we email you and we even went to college with you. Just think of us. These writers have to know some African American or Latina women, right? And if they’re so hipster, where the hell are the Asian girls? Come on. The hipster movement wouldn’t have happened without us. We’re like, everywhere.
Example #2: The writers of Girls think 2 Broke Girls is great.
No, seriously. Yes, that show with the horrible, stereotypical Asian male character who makes us cringe with embarrassment. In the interview with Buzzfeed, Lesley Arfin (again) said the following:
“2 Broke Girls” is very funny and has very smart writers on it. It reminds me of the shows I was really into when I was growing up (must be the multi cam).
That came after Sarah Heyward said:
One of our primary goals in the room was to create a show that felt as real and true to life as possible.
Funny how those two statements really contradict each other. While I understand how a lot of people don’t see racist stereotypes (even when it plays out right before them on the small screen), it still says a lot when you can call another show “funny” with “smart” people without a statement on how derogatory Matthew Moy’s character can be. Okay, I wasn’t expecting them to turn the interview into a serious conversation about race, but I find it revealing (especially after all that public criticism) that some people just don’t see it. At all. And that explains a lot.
Example #3: Lena Dunham says the lack of minorities was an “complete accident.” OOPSIES.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, she mentions that she’s aware of the response towards her show’s casting. She promises,
When I get a tweet from a girl who’s like, “I’d love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color.” You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I’ll address that.
I appreciate her honesty: the lack of minorities wasn’t intentional. I never thought it was but still, calling this an accident just brings up more questions. How is it possible that a room full of professional writers never thought of how white the cast was? So Dunham’s world is really that sheltered? How much does this reflect on Hollywood’s overall exclusion, stereotyping and white-washing of minorities? (A lot.)
Right now, the latest debate in our household is whether or not we should still appreciate Girls for what it is: a smart, honest and funny scripted series about young women. Just because the show is super white doesn’t mean you have to hate it. So I look at Lena Dunham and want to give it another try. Then I read Lesley Arfin’s tweet and my blood starts to boil again. Does a well-written show that unintentionally dismisses non-whites still have worth? I can’t decide but in the meantime, I’ll be vocal about it.