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Monday, April 16, 2012

700

Where (My) Girls At?

Here is what we know about the girls on Girls (the first episode of which is now on YouTube). They are lean and they are leggy, they have fat thighs and they have smart mouths, they call each other at work to discuss the details of their STDs, they get into tipsy arguments with their exes, they post up in bars to avoid unpleasant truths, they make out with strange boys in stairwells, they hate their boyfriends' best friends and they flirt with mysterious men on the street.

Are these Girls like the girls we know? Some girls who watched Girls last night thought so, although others did not, according to Twitter.

“Some of #girls I totally loved. Other parts, I wanted to slap in the face.” — @amandamillwood

“Dayum, @HBO. I didn't think it was possible but you finally let me down. #Girls is mind numbingly horrible.” — @smwalt

“Absolutely perfect portrayal of living in NYC.” — @irreverentlyliz

“The fact that there is now a recognized show written, directed, and produced by a 25 YEAR OLD WOMAN should be reason enough to watch.” — @brennalyn

They are us but they are not us. They are me but they are not me.

The first time I saw the poster for Girls, the new HBO comedy about four twentysomething girls living in Brooklyn, I was hurrying home from yoga, clutching a bag of newly purchased green leafy things to make a juice before meeting up with some twentysomething girlfriends in Brooklyn. I'd been aware of the show in an ambient kind of way, seeing mentions in tweets here and there, but I hadn't seen any promotional material for the show. It was something I filed away under Cool Shit To Look Into Later.

I paused at the base of the poster and looked up — it covered the entire side of the building. My eyes traveled up their phosphorescent legs to their faces and back down again. My heart dropped and I swallowed once, hard. Girls. White girls.
I pulled out my phone and texted my friend Willa.

"So Girls is like indie SATC," I wrote. "Yeah" she replied. "And everyone on the show is white," I responded. "Yea,” she typed back. “Lots of White." 

Before that moment, I didn't have an idea in mind about what to expect from the show. I knew the name Lena Dunham, but I hadn't gotten around to seeing Tiny Furniture yet.

But I definitely did not expect these kinds of girls. They looked like the kinds of girls in college who would push their hands into my freshly teased party hair – without asking – to ask me if my curls were real and whose already overstretched smiles would wobble a little bit when I showed up at the party with my roommates before cautiously asking if I went to school there.

My chief beef is not simply that the girls in Girls are white. I'm a white girl and not a white girl, identified by other people as black and not black for as long as I can remember – which, in mixed people speak means biracial. But the problem with Girls is that while the show reaches — and succeeds, in many ways — to show female characters that are not caricatures, it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that. And that is a huge fucking disappointment.

The argument has been made that smart women on screen are already enough of a minority to make up for the lack of women of color. Nope. Not good enough. This is more than a stock photo op, it's more important than that. Cause here's the thing about Girls: as much as I wanted to dislike the show, I couldn't help but love it. And that made it worse.

I wanted to write Girls off, file it under a category my girl Mary calls "White People Shit I Don't Care About" (which is different from the "White People Shit I DO Care About, which includes Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, MSCL, Game of Thrones, King of the Hill, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jerri Blank), I couldn't.

Because the show (at least the first three episodes) is actually good. It gets So. Many. Things. Right. It's on point again and again, hitting at the high and low notes about being in your twenties, about being on your own and still so far from grown. Getting involved with the wrong guys, saying the wrong thing to your boss at work, trying — and failing — to relate to your parents, flinging your arms around your best friend when Rihanna comes on in the club, pressing your lips into her sweaty cheek and feeling triumphant, thinking we're going to make it through this year if it kills us. The show is painfully self-aware of its characters' entitlement and tries to use the vantage of privilege as a mirror, intended to bouncing back their flaws and their potential for growth to those us at home watching, and nearly all of it works the way it's supposed to. (Except for the tubcakegate. I have taken the following things into the shower with me: a beer, two beers, an iced coffee, and a mixed drink. Food? Never. Doesn't it get wet? Where do you put it while you get undressed? The sink? The edge of the tub? The top of the TOILET?! Does not compute.)

At least that is a relief, as others have pointed outGirls is good for girls. But which girls? If this show succeeds, what other shows will get made because of it? Probably a half dozen just like it. Who wins, then? And who loses? Girls was supposed to be for the people, by the people. It is for people like me — weaned on Sex and the City, amused by the simple charms of Gossip Girl, and weary of the bromance comedies that rolled through theaters the last two summers like a never-ending heatwave — who were hungry for something relatable, something real. It's a tricky time in America to talk about race and belonging, but deep down, I'd hoped that this should would somehow get past the same challenge of all the BIG shows that came before it — Friends, Party of Five, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl — that failed to weave a main black character at the show from the jump.

Buried within that oversight is a kind of uncomfortable exclusivity, an othering of the people who are not included, by default, stirring the same kind of unease that's evoked when scrolling through those racist Hunger Games tweets or the first time you read that ESPN headline about Jeremy Lin. For a show so sharply cognizant of the shortcomings of its characters, it is shocking that the only drops of a black girl is a contestant on a reality show (not pictured, by the way) who spends $1,000 on her weave and describes it as "un-be-weavable."

In a way, this matters more than the shows that came before it. When those shows were on the air, there was more diversity on screens all around, so we didn’t notice it as much, it didn’t seem as glaringly missing. There was Dionne in Clueless, Moesha, Kadijah James, Tia and Tamara Mowry, and most of the WB. There were Gina and Pam, all of the Cosby daughters, and Ashley, Hilary, and Will's girlfriend, Lisa, plus Mom 1 and Mom 2 on Fresh Prince. Tyler Perry wasn't around yet, so the theaters, too, were abundant with a broad spectrum of different kinds of black people: Love and Basketball, The Wood, Best Man, Friday, Soul Food, Poetic Justice.

It makes it feel all the more egregious to see that while Girls missed so many of the other traps of its forebearers, it failed to account for this one. Plus, back then it was pre-internet, so we didn't really know what the world did and didn't look like beyond our window. But now, we know better. We can see hundreds of thousands, millions, of other people out there, just like us, blogging, tweeting, posting makeup tutorials, comedy skits, and Dance Central videos on YouTube, so that we could see more of the world is like us.

Because these girls on Girls are like us, they are like me and they are like you, they are beautiful, they are ballsy, they are trying to figure it out. They have their entire lives ahead of them and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I just wish I saw a little more of myself on screen, right alongside them.

Jenna Wortham is a technology reporter for the New York Times. She can teach you how to dougie and/or make your own kombucha.



700 Comments / Post A Comment

Lola P.

YES

allendaniel

I wanna cry!@a

aarij

I just kind of wish there had been someone you met there who didn't end up saying something awful and clueless to you.. hard drive data recovery

jason049

on the lookout with regard to this kind of advice on the net for sum time right now so many thanks go nawaz go rank your site here

Judith Slutler

There really is NO reason for a show set in NYC to be that white. Disappointing!

annev6

@Emmanuelle Cunt I didn't watch the premier. But I can say if they're covering the subset of women I think they're covering, those women would automatically find any neighborhood/club/bar/side of the street with too many minorities on it to be "sketchy". So that would be the excuse for having these women all be white - they are far from actual New Yorkers.

applestoapples

So much yes here.

Regarding the whitness: I've observed that while plenty of young white people in my generation have moved to the city and been able to create/maintain relationships with minorities, there are still a lot of white kids who and maintain fairly racially homogenous friend circles for either purposeful or unwitting reasons (I call them "'Friends' friends").

So, yeah, the idea that this show wouldn't feature minorities in an insular circle of white NYC transplant girls is not that surprising (to a person who was once "jokingly" nicknamed "Token" by some white friends--a little too meta for my taste), and maybe more realistic than I'd personally like.

I want to get past this and enjoy the writing for what it is (can I?) because the "NYC artist slash carpenter hookup who tries to slip it in the back door" really is relatable, though.

Whitney@twitter

@annev6
Exactly. This show perfectly encapsulated for me the friends of friends who live in San Francisco who are trying to 'make it' and are fun to hang with but have shocked faces when it comes out that someone decided to move to Oakland. (Oh the horror! Isn't it sketchy and violent?)

noodge

@applestoapples I was about to come down here and say pretty much the same thing... the influx of suburbanites to the city that has accompanied the recession appears to have created a number of urban social groups that seem, to me at least, a collection of people who are much more homogenous than I've ever seen before in our urban centers. They still seem to carry a little bit of that "fear of the other" that (may or may not) have driven the urban flight of their families years before. It seems especially notable here in Philly, but I would assume it's the case in other cities as well (although Philly seems to have a more edgy racial situation than many other large cities I've lived in).

Emma Peel

@applestoapples Obviously this is arguing by anecdote, but I find it surprising too. I'm midwestern, white, suburban and went to a privileged snooty private college. Higher education has a long way to go on diversity, especially economic, but I also feel like it's becoming pretty rare these days to graduate from college with an overwhelmingly white group of friends.

Also, Jenna Wortham! It's so great to see an awesome lady reporter contributing non-newsy stuff over here.

Judith Slutler

@annev6 Yeah, I mean... I guess. But somehow I doubt it was a conscious choice on the part of the showrunners.

Emma Peel

@annev6 Isn't that a little... reductive, though? One of the reasons this is so striking, I think, is that even privileged upper-middle-class kids move in much more diverse circles than they did a generation ago. You don't have to live in a heavily minority or sketchy neighborhood to have friends who aren't white.

annev6

@M. A. Peel This is true. I'm just having flashbacks of trying to look for apartments with fellow female ny transplants in my early days. I learned the difference between someone who moved here to live here (me) and someone who moved here to live out their SATC fantasies (them) is that I'm ok with having black neighbors and they aren't. Because THAT'S NOT WHAT THEY WERE PROMISED ON TV. Or something. Anyway, I'm sure the showmakers are not deliberately aware of this. Most people who are guilty of this aren't.

applestoapples

@M. A. Peel I did qualify that a lot of white people here DO have diverse circles of friends. But the homogeneity in certain places is noticeable/prevalent enough in NYC, anyway, to be a Legit Thing.

Por ejemplo: Murray Hill (please don't stone me if you live in Murray Hill--I know this is not true of ALL its denizens) is one neighborhood that strongly perpetuates these groups. But then again, it tends to attract young people who are still seeking out college-level ideals of socioeconomic (and often by default, glaringly racial) exclusivity, so.

parallel-lines

@Emmanuelle Cunt The hipster experience in NYC is not this white! Waking down Bedford Avenue you'd definitely see plenty Asian, black and hispanic folks, and it seems like you'd have to try pretty hard to not have ANY non-white friends in Brooklyn.

Ellie

First I have to say that I sincerely believe that if you have to say "No offense," you just shouldn't say it at all. Second I have to say that I sincerely hope that this doesn't upset anyone. Here goes: What is the solution to being a person who doesn't really have friends who are of different racial or socioeconomic backgrounds from mine? Like, almost none. In my group of friends from college, there were only three non-white people at all, and almost everyone with the same upper middle class background as me. My office is the same with only one non-white person. I live in the metro Boston area which is famously very segregated. So overall the people I come in contact with are almost all like me. By contrast, my best friend lives in New York and is the only white person living in her apartment (and the only girl too). She's a musician and has a very diverse social circle in terms of background, race, everything (mirroring that New York is so famously diverse). I'm happy with my friends and I don't feel the need to seek out "token" diverse friends, obviously, because that's patronizing and stupid. I also have had and will have again a lot of contact with people from other countries due to my field (studying Eastern Europe). But I am bothered when I see people criticizing those who only have friends who are the same ethnicity as they are, because I do too - I feel like I shouldn't and that because of that I am having a limited world view, fail to appreciate some social issues correctly, and that I'm not benefiting from diversity of perspective about many things, and I'd like for this not to be the case.

parallel-lines

@M. A. Peel There are middle class and upper middle class non-white people in NYC--the kind that go to Lena's fancy schools and engage in "hipster" culture, so leaving them out of her realm feels extra icky. She has said she's addressing this in future episodes but...I'm skeptical.

This show really bothers me and if I hear one more twentysomthing with an assymetrical haircut say "Oh but Leslie Arfin does it so it CAN'T be bad" I might spill a kombucha on their Strand totebag. And no one is allowed to keep referring to this show as "FUBU". Just stop that.

Emma Peel

@parallel-lines Exactly! The fact that people seem to find an all-white circle of friends implausible (rather than thinking a more diverse group would be overreaching or whatever) makes the omission of people of color from the cast even more glaring. If TV is lagging people's lived experiences of diversity in a show that's supposed to be of-the-moment, that's not good.

It bothers me much more than the lack of diversity on Mad Men, which at least is easy to explain away.

For God's sake, The Office is more diverse. I've been to Scranton. Not that diverse.

RK Fire

@Ellie: There isn't an easy answer? I guess at the end of the day we all just need some self-reflection about why we are comfortable with who we are comfortable with, and why we might react to people of different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds.

I'm 2nd generation Vietnamese American, a daughter of refugees. When I was born, my family (and some extended family relatives) lived in a one bedroom apartment outside of DC. I ended up growing up in an upper-middle class suburb because 1) my parents had college educations prior to coming to the US, 2) they worked their ass off, and 3) they were lucky. My husband is Black, and his childhood could also be a story of socioeconomic mobility, albeit in a very different contexts. What I have found, under a lot of thinking, is that I tend to feel more comfortable with people who have felt out of place socially one way or the other, whether by class, race, or something else.

That being said, because of our interests (obscure sports, e.g. rugby) we are often the only non-white people in some of our social circles. And it is weird as shit to me (Maryland is 45% people of color as a state, let's not even talk about the major pop centers) and I find myself wondering somewhat similar things that you're musing about. Why the hell am I around all of these white people when I live in a major city that is 66% Black?

That being said--where do you live in the Boston metro? I lived in Somerville for 1.5 years going to a grad program at A Small Liberal Arts College Outside of Boston (ha) and Somerville/Cambridge seems to have a fair amount of white people. Also, in the realm of where upper middle class-raised people feel comfortable in, there's also Jamaica Plain. I don't know though, I was in grad school world when I was there so I never had to (and never did) operate outside of non-grad school world.

RK Fire

@Ellie: mystery double post!

thebestjasmine

@Ellie I like that you posted this a lot. I think feeling like that's a problem is a big first step. I feel like a lot of the negative response to the white white Girls is that Lena Dunham obviously didn't think that this was a problem. Also, Boston can be very segregated. But recognizing that because of a less diverse group of friends "I am having a limited world view, fail to appreciate some social issues correctly, and that I'm not benefiting from diversity of perspective about many things, and I'd like for this not to be the case" -- that's huge self awareness, and I think as long as you see that and make an effort to try to get diversity of perspective in other places, it makes a difference.

.
.

@Emmanuelle Cunt I agree that its good you're thinking about these issues, but the issue here is the media representation of a very small demographic of privileged people and everyone else getting the shaft because our experiences aren't 'representative' or whatever. I don't mind that there are people who don't have the opportunity to socialize with people of color for whatever reason, but to be honest, I don't want to see a tv show about your life. It's been done and done and overdone. The fact that the characters in the show are supposed to be representative of a generation of people that includes many who don't look like them or have the same life experiences is insulting. That is the main issue here, not people's individual friend circle demographics.

_questingbeast

@Ellie I feel the same as you. I'm from the UK, so things may be slightly different, but I grew up in a rural area, went to a school where out of 1800 pupils maybe half a dozen were not white, did an entirely white subject (I'm not sure why, it wasn't anything dodgy, but it was a small department) at a posh, overwhelmingly white university, and now live in another very white rural area. None of my close friends are not white, and only a handful of acquaintances. I read so much about race and diversity in the media and feel like it's an important conversation being had that I don't know how to contribute to, and I should.

Ellie

@RK Fire I live in Medford right now, I work at Tufts and almost everyone I interact with is somehow related to grad school at either Tufts or Harvard. As you mention, grad school people (which I admittedly am the same demographic as) is like a totally different category and not very diverse.

@thebestjasmine Thanks for your thoughtful response! I think I do try to get other perspectives by reading articles and books about social issues that are contingent on ethnicity. But I feel like there are some things that it's helpful to talk to people you know about their actual experiences. Whenever I do hear something like this it makes me conscious of the fact that I often only hear about one kind of experience. E.g., I have a friend who has a black younger brother (adopted) and he was saying that when he visits her in NY it's much more comfortable than where he lives in the Bay Area where white people will sometimes cross the street away from him. I don't hear anecdotes like that on a regular basis. So I appreciate articles like this one by Jenna A LOT.

@questingbeast - I definitely agree with feeling I should be contributing but am not equipped to. Also, <3! Your username!

I forgot to say that I lived in Hyde Park in Chicago for four years which is very weird from a racial/socioeconomic standpoint because it's surrounded by South Side and largely black area, but almost everyone connected with the university is white, so that's weird too, and I often reflect on that.

RK Fire

@Ellie: So, looking back over my rambling response to you, I totally meant to say that Somerville/Cambridge has a fair amount of non-white people, but in hindsight, it's in really weird dribs and drabs--East Somerville and Cambridge mostly, and then whatever people of color you have in the universities, which varies so much from program to program and school to school. (When I was up there, the architecture program at Harvard had, on average, one black student admitted each year to their Masters of Architecture program, which was usually a class of 100. hooray.) But yeah, I'm a little familiar with Medford and Tufts and it's not really diverse.

I guess one thing that has been really helpful for me to think outside of my own limited experience was reading a bunch of different blogs. For instance, Ta-Nahesi Coates' blog continues to be a fantastic read for me because the commenters are also thoughtful and civil, and TNC writes really compelling posts about race and class. He's really upfront about where he comes from, what he knows and what he doesn't know, and he's willing to be called out by his commenters on race, sexuality, and class. I've learned a lot too; even though I've grown up either in majority black or majority white schools, his posts about growing up in West Bmore, meeting upper class and middle class black students while he was at Howard and learning about different black communities, etc., has been incredibly helpful to me. His commenters are also really great writers themselves. Racialicious is also really awesome.

I mostly just read on those blogs, and comment very little, and I think that is really key for a lot of this, no matter who you are and regardless if you are white or not. Even between my husband and I, we've had a lot of thoughtful conversations learning more about what it's like to occupy each other's spaces--he had as much understanding of what it's like to be walking around as a small Asian American woman as I did of being a tall black man. In short, it's awesome that you're thinking about this too, and it's tough work.

RK Fire

@Ellie: Btw, if you do decided to go to Ta Nahesi Coates' blog, be also prepared to read about video games, the Civil War, politics, the Dallas Cowboys, D&D, history, learning French, and a broad range of music. It's what makes it fun. :D

Niko Bellic

@Emmanuelle Cunt I'm not sure how many non-white people live in Greenpoint, but it has to be funny how the show set in *the* Polish hood of NYC does not feature any Polish people (and nobody besides this fellow Slav of theirs will even notice). But hey, there's an Anglo chick from UK wearing a hat! So diverse!

dale

@RK Fire TNC is the best! I've learned so much loitering around there.

thebestjasmine

@RK Fire God, I love his blog so much. There and The Hairpin are the only places on the internet where "Don't read the comments" shouldn't be your mantra -- indeed, he's managed to gather a group of brilliant people who read his blog, and the comments are often fantastic.

Ellie

@thebestjasmine Have to add - I think The AV Club needs to be on that list too!

goldservice

It would be nice to see more employment in the toy industry. Working in it already I've come to find that this is a fun job.

gold service

FoxyRoxy

There was so much to love about Girls but goddamn, as a woman of color, I was so irate about the lack of people of color, except you know, the Asian woman at the "publishing house" and the black homeless guy who each got one anemic line. It's embarrassing, the lack of color on this show. You can go for days in NYC without hearing English spoken so what on earth part of NYC are these girls living in? They don't have one blipster friend? Really? And to see the critical praise being lavished on this show is annoying because what that praise says is that it's totally fine to exclude all people of color because Dunham got a few things right. Also, shout out for Girlfriends which covered a lot of this territory, to very little acclaim, years ago, only it was about black women so it was relegated to UPN.

WaityKatie

@FoxyRoxy Although, it was just one episode so maybe we haven't met all the characters yet? (I don't know why I'm feeling so optimistic today, probably because vacation starts tomorrow.) I will readily condemn it if the characters are still all white in the second ep.

LaLoba

@FoxyRoxy Fuck yes Girlfriends!! UPN has had some GEMS.

FoxyRoxy

@WaityKatie Well, critics have had a chance to screen the first three episodes so.... it doesn't get better, at least within that framework.

Judith Slutler

@WaityKatie Ahhh you're around! Hop over to the open thread, I completely forgot to write you about what to do in Hamburg

WaityKatie

@FoxyRoxy Oh. Well, I was already a little alienated by the aura of economic privilege, and now I have another reason to resent this show. (Although I do think much of the money talk was satirizing the characters' overprivilege, I was still just...resentful because there are so many people who actually live like that.) But, the show does have some good aspects despite these things, I think.

H.E. Ladypants

@FoxyRoxy OH gosh, yes, Girlfriends. I was just bitching a couple of weeks ago to my boyfriend about how not enough people remember Girlfriends.

FoxyRoxy

@WaityKatie The show definitely has a lot of merits. I just resent that people assume that people of color don't come of age. I mean, these stories are kind of universal but they are only ever mediated through whiteness. The class privilege stuff is there too but I'm willing to let that go (to an extent) because sometimes, people come from money. They can't help that.

FoxyRoxy

@H.E. Ladypants TONI CHILDS

WaityKatie

@Emmanuelle Cunt Yes I am! I leave tomorrow!

WaityKatie

@FoxyRoxy I took as kind of a result of the fact that the show seems pretty autobiographical, and maybe Lena Dunham's inner circle really does consist of 4 white chicks. But you're right, it would be better if TV could manage to fund a show created by someone with a different background, once in a while.

Judith Slutler

@WaityKatie OK, ridiculously detailed city guide at the bottom of the Open Thread. I will not be responsible for your heart disease / killer hangover if you literally eat and drink at every place I mentioned, lady.

WaityKatie

@Emmanuelle Cunt Yes! Thank you! I always consider it a failed vacation if I don't come back with heart disease and/or a killer hangover.

summering

@WaityKatie I agree, and felt totally alienated by the sense of privilege and entitlement.
@FoxyRoxy While it's true that some people come from money and can't help it, that's one thing, but to be totally unaware of your privilege, and to not acknowledge it, and to think you are so hard done by because your parents are cutting you off from your psuedo trust fund, well, that makes me want to throw up in my soul.

werewolfbarmitzvah

Yes yes YES. I can't get past the whiteness, at all. If the show were set in Omaha, maybe I could accept the whiteness, but it's not set in Omaha. It's set in New York City, in 2012. I am also a millennial white lady living in New York City in 2012. And when I think over the people who are in my life: friends, coworkers, men...they cover a very broad spectrum of ethnicities. I just can't wrap my head around the idea that someone living in a city like this one in 2012 could NOT have a variety of types of people in their life. It's downright implausible. Hell, among the four leads in the show, nobody even has a different hair color! Based on the trailer (I don't get HBO so I can't watch the full show), there are several things that give me an unsettled feeling, but the 100% whiteness is the biggest thing for sure.

WaityKatie

@werewolfbarmitzvah For the record, I would totally watch a show about four young people (of any race) trying to be hip in Omaha. It would be like that reality show about the matchmaker that used to be set in Buffalo. Am I the only one who watched that show??

DH@twitter

@WaityKatie

It would be like what Fargo Rock City's title makes you think it's about! And I would watch it.

Vicky

@WaityKatie WHAT omg that show sounds terrible/terribly fantastic. What was it called? Can I netflix it? I just want to watch shows about people in Buffalo and freak out every time they drive by a Mighty Taco.

Miss you, Mighty.

WaityKatie

@Vicky Johnson I think it was called "The Matchmaker"? It definitely had the word Matchmaker in the title. The woman running the service was totally loud and entertaining, and they were constantly having these bleak "mixers" held in strip malls, and...it was brilliant.

werewolfbarmitzvah

@WaityKatie Thing is, I hear that Omaha IS actually a big hipster Mecca right now, so a show of this sort could totally work!

whateverlolawants

@werewolfbarmitzvah I'd believe it. I'm not sure where some people get the idea that hipsters only live in Brooklyn and Portland, because in my midwestern city (known mostly for sports), there are many hipsters. And all-around cool folks. I'd be so happy to see more shows set in "flyover country" that don't make us look lame, boring, down-home, hickish, and/or "trying".

10lees@twitter

@werewolfbarmitzvah i did watch the first episode and i was struck by the whiteness too and i am (clearly, see picture) white. i can't imagine why girls who've moved to brooklyn (BROOKLYN) can't find friends outside of their college group? it seems rediculous!

BoozinSusan

I hope that, given The Hairpin's ever-expanding popularity and visibility, this article will reach someone at the show (Dunham?) and prompt them to incorporate Wortham's insights, because positions like hers are so often either overlooked or casually brushed under the rug.
Wouldn't it be great if this article changed things?

Jolie Kerr

Man, the juicers really are winning.

Oh, squiggles

@Jolie Kerr Oh god, Skynet is in the juicers! This is how they plan to take over!

Alice

My first thought when I saw the cast photo was how disappointingly white it was. And how, even in its whiteness, there's a very samey-samey-ness to at least the appearance of these girls. They all have essentially the same hair colour! And basically same hairstyle!

I haven't seen it, so it could be that they have wildly different personalities, but really, casting people. If you're going to be making the whitest show ever (which you shouldn't be), use your imagination a little. At least SATC had a blonde, a redhead, a brunette and a Carrie.

I'm sure I will like the show when I see it, but this stuff is important, and it does matter. It's disappointing that they didn't try harder to get it right.

atipofthehat

@Alice

How many out of the 4 have a famous parent?

atipofthehat

@atipofthehat

Answer: 2!

cuminafterall

@atipofthehat I think actually 4? Jemima Kirke's dad was in Bad Company, and Dunham's parents are "artist famous."

atipofthehat

@cuminafterall

I'm glad it's still possible for a woman to succeed if she inherits an excellent pair of bootstraps.

Skanky Baggington

@atipofthehat: Brian Williams' daughter and David Mamet's daughter are in it as well, apparently all the actors on this show are personal friends of Lena Dumham's. She's written and directed at least 5 of the 10 epiosdes, and I think she has talent, and find it unfair when people act like someone's upbringing or connected parents takes away from their own artistic merits.

whimseywisp

@Alice I WAS THINKING THE SAME THING! It really turned me off from wanting to watch/get into the show :(.

atipofthehat

@Skanky Baggington

1) I'm not acting

2) It doesn't "take away from their own artistic merits," it gives them access that other people (as talented and more talented) may never have, no matter how hard they work

3) "Unfair," probably, but which situation do you think is MORE unfair? And which is keeping more excellent work from us?

In other news, researchers at IBM have used a scanning-tunneling electron microscope to create an even smaller violin. If I could find it, I would play it for you.

Mira

@atipofthehat Agreed, agreed, and agreed. I don't know, I want to like this show, but I'm already turned off by its whiteness, straightness, and general air of privilege.

H.E. Ladypants

@atipofthehat I wish there was a name for the emotion caused by watching the children of rich and connected parents make art and realizing it is exactly the level of art your less rich, less connect friends could make if they had the resources.

It doesn't mean that person isn't making something good but there's a real feeling that comes along with the first time you really get that.

Skanky Baggington

@atipofthehat: (shrugs) I just think that there are more worthwhile things to get uptight about, as opposed to petulantly stomping and basically saying "When is it going to be my turn?". Far less talented people have gotten ahead because of who they know, it's a fact of life.

Mira

@Skanky Baggington And I think there are way more respectful ways to address people who are kind of sick of never seeing themselves represented on TV than to refer to their expression of disappointment/anger/general unpleasant feelings as "petulant stomping." I don't think it's cool to be so dismissive.

atipofthehat

@Skanky Baggington

Who they are seems to have had a big impact on what they have produced.

Fact of life in a corrupt third-world dictatorship, sure. Complacency is not my preferred response.

As for your characterization of what you suppose the mindset and attitude of anyone who dares to point these things out to be, I guess that's what you would do. What I'm going to do is not watch TV.

martinipie

@Skanky Baggington It's a shitty, fucked-up fact of life.

WaityKatie

@H.E. Ladypants I bet the Germans have a word for this.

WaityKatie

@martinipie And just 'cause something's a fact of life doesn't mean we all have to embrace it and not try to change it.

martinipie

@WaityKatie Yes, thank you, I hate that excuse! Haaaaaaaate it.

atipofthehat

@WaityKatie

Yes! And if we can change it, we will be sure that famous offspring are also adequately represented!

I honestly don't feel resentment about this, I feel sorrow. We are missing great things because of it. Imagine if we lived in a culture that valued human potential as much as it values minerals and oil.

Skanky Baggington

@Mira: Maybe petulant was the wrong word, but it was used in response to Hat's unrealistic attitude that connections shouldn't get you ahead, not seeing people like him/her on tv. A lot of my favourite artists and performers are children of other famous people, such is the way it is, and the way it shall continue to be. To make so many points about how irritating it is screams of sour grapes to me.

atipofthehat

@martinipie

Put that coffee DOWN!

COFFEE IS FOR CLOSERS

H.E. Ladypants

@WaityKatie Privilegbegabungschmerz!

WaityKatie

@Skanky Baggington I guess that a lot of my favorite performers are the children of other famous people, but way more of my favorite performers aren't. I think arguments that famous people's kids are taking up a lot of spots that could be occupied by maybe even more amazing non-famous people's kids are legitimate.

Skanky Baggington

@WaityKatie: Right, complaining on a message board about a tv show, when we should all probably be doing work, is a really affective way to "change things". You hear that, tv executives, lots of people don't like nepotism, so give all these creative jobs to all the dilettantes out there, they deserve them more.

wee_ramekin

@Skanky Baggington So, if I read you correctly, you're saying that we...should not talk about something that we think is wrong unless we have decided to dedicate our energies to fixing it?

I'm also trying really hard to read your tone as anything other than combatitive and condescending, and it's increasingly difficult to do so.

WaityKatie

@Skanky Baggington I really want to be a total bitch and post the definition of "dilettante" right here, but I will hold back.

WaityKatie

@Skanky Baggington Also, nobody on the show works, so I don't see why we should have to.

H.E. Ladypants

@WaityKatie No, no, she's right. As a matter of fact, I am suddenly realizing that the years I spent working my way through college and fighting to get by in a large city, while gaining an education and experience necessary to allow me to professionally facilitate and work as an administrator in the arts do not give me license to engage in/absorb dialogues outside of work, which are critical of patterns in the way that art is created.

Would that I had been born to famous parents so that my discussion could be considered productive or my opinions worthwhile.

Skanky Baggington

@WaityKatie: "...arguments that famous people's kids are taking up a lot of spots that could be occupied by maybe even more amazing non-famous people's kids are legitimate"
Really?! Yeesh, it's not like there are a limited number of spots. There's lots of potential acclaim out there for everyone, I truly believe that, and think drawing lines in the sand about who is or isn't more worthy is incredibly petty. Also, I find the people who complain most about this type of thing are failed creative types themselves, or mere dabblers in the arts (I know what dilettante means, thanks).

atipofthehat

@Skanky Baggington

Is it possible to find success without famous parents? Of course!

David Mamet did. Brian Williams did. Simon Kirke did. Laurie Simmons did.

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington Awesome, it's the "you're all just jealous!" comeback to a complaint about privilege and racial issues. You're filling out that BINGO card nicely.

atipofthehat

@thebestjasmine

Maybe the ensemble can deal with these very issues as the show develops. (It would be one of the rare shows of its kind that ever did truly develop, once formulated and formulized and formalized, but it is at least possible.) I would love to see a head-on approach to these issues that would answer some of Ellie's questions above.

rararuby

@atipofthehat I think there are two manifestations of this - there are the kids of connected, well-known people who embrace the opportunity, acknowledge their privilege and show gratitude for it, but bust their butts extra hard to be credible on their own terms.
Then there are the kids of rich and famous who take their privilege for granted, and sail through life off the back of it while denying that it has made any difference.
I know both kinds of people - I can be so happy for the successes of the first, but blindingly, seeringly frustrated by the successes of the latter.
I don't know which one Lena Dunham is, but I hated Tiny Furniture for all of it's self-indulgent privilege and found the 'vulnerability' that critics went nuts over kind of manipulative. Don't make me feel sorry for your dumb-ass choices, rich white girl!

H.E. Ladypants

@Skanky Baggington Drawing lines in the sand may be petty but it is not petty to talk about what kind of art we want to see and who we want making it. That is an enormous conversation that is happening all the time and SHOULD be happening all the time.

Culture does not just happen, it is created. And as a society we must be allowed to talk about what sort of culture we want to create. And whether we film producers or accountants who dabble in watercolor EVERYONE should be allowed to talk about what sort of culture they want to see.

One can disagree with what sort of art or from whom one wants to see art but the idea that one is not qualified to discuss it at all or that such discussions are useless is a pill I absolutely refuse to swallow.

leastimportantperson

Lol "message board".

atipofthehat

@H.E. Ladypants

Well said.

For the record, I don't think lacking or having privilege makes a person a better or more talented artist, or a worse or less talented artist. I don't think anyone is saying that, just as no one is saying that outsiders who may (or may not) be better, and have more important works to create, have easier access than insiders do.

What I am saying is, outsiders should have a better chance to break in; and that when and where they do, we will be having an entirely different conversation.

WaityKatie

@Skanky Baggington There actually are a (very) limited number of spots for shows on HBO, or any other mainstream media outlet. I think how those slots are distributed is a valid subject of discussion. You apparently do not. And for the record, speaking only for myself, I never considered myself any kind of artist and have always aspired to, and had, a very conventional, non-artistic career path. Yet, I still feel entitled to complain about all matter of subjects on the internet, whether they directly affect my livelihood or not. Not everything can boil down to "you're just jealous," sadly.

Skanky Baggington

@WaityKatie: No, I'm saying *everything* boils down to "you're just jealous", at all. I usually love The Hairpin, and was dismayed to see such a "jealous" attitude in a fair number of comments to this article (and I'm talking *only* about the privilege aspect here), and there were a LOT of comments about how Lena Dunham and her co-stars/friends are only where they currently are because of their famous parents, and I think getting upset about things like *that* in not productive for anyone, and is just an exhausting attitude to have.

rararuby

@Skanky Baggington Being critical of how privilege operates in media doesn't come from a place of jealousy, necessarily, and I think it is productive.
This conversation is really about being, or feeling, represented in the media. The role of privilege, power, and channels of influence in media programming that produces shows that are wide of the mark in terms of representing their audiences is an important conversations to have. Making it about being petty or jealous of the successes of others trivializes an important issue. There have been well-composed, balanced responses to your dismissal of it in those terms. You not hearing them is exhausting.

Hiroine Protagonist

@atipofthehat http://www.racialicious.com/2009/12/21/and-we-shall-call-this-moffs-law/

I found this relevant.

.
.

@Skanky Baggington I would think you'd be exhausted after taking up so much time posting over and over again essentially telling marginalized people to shut up about their erasure in mainstream media. What I am actually tired of is seeing countless shows about upper middle class white people that are supposed to be 'for everyone' while poc issues and lives are a 'niche demographic'. So there's that.

atipofthehat

@Skanky Baggington

You're projecting the jealousy. If you really do care about these issues, try actually reading the comments and actually responding to what people say, rather than trying to label people and their views with emotional states you invent for them. And which no one seems to believe but you.

Eventually, that starts to look like trolling.

summering

@atipofthehat So true. Imagine if everyone's voices could be heard. I always imagine that in terms of what it would have been like if more women had been encouraged to be artists during the earlier centuries ie pre-1900...

paperbuttons

Just a minor point, and it hardly has to do with this show, but I feel like it should be noted that it is in fact possible to be born to a famous person and not have any "connections" at all. I know it's seductive to assume we know what life's like for "celebrity kids," but A) they are actual people, B) life is complicated and not all famous offspring end up rich and pampered. Even if some are truly everything you assume and worse, it's still totally small-minded to lump them all into a single category and judge blindly. Why do that to any group of people?

hotdog

@paperbuttons so, which famous person is your parent?
(I'm joking. Sort of.)

paperbuttons

@hotdog Britney Spears

paperbuttons

@hotdog LEAVE BRITNEY ALOOOOONE!!!

Xanthophyllippa

@H.E. Ladypants Gesundheit!

redheaded&crazy

ugh i find it almost more frustrating when a show/movie/whatever gets it "almost" right than when it totally fucks up and disappoints. Like Melissa McCarthy's character on Bridesmaids. I feel like it got close in a lot of respects to being a non-caricature portrayal of a fat girl, and then there were some lines that it's just like, ugh, no. YOU WERE SO CLOSE!

eta: I don't get HBO so I can't really comment on this directly but I agree with @BoozinSusan above that it would be great for this to be read by the creators of the show (especially if they ARE 25 year old women, it's totally likely??) and then have a 5th character added in. I wonder if that's even possible.

WaityKatie

@redheaded&crazie Re: Melissa McCarthy, I FINALLY saw this movie a couple weeks ago and my friend and I agreed that she was the only funny thing about that movie. So even though she was playing a caricature, it was kind of ok, because she saved that movie from sucking. And maybe the sequel will be all about her? Please please please.

Slapfight

@redheaded&crazie I will say that Melissa McCarthy's character definitely strayed a long way from the norm. They didn't make a major issue out of her (downplayed)appearance (unless I'm misremembering) which would have been cheap and just plain shitty. She ended up being the most "together" character as well as the smartest and funniest. Plus, she was a master in the art of seduction.
Sorry, I'm uber-passionate about that role/performance. It was so damned refreshing. We need more!
I haven't seen Girls yet either. I'm looking forward to it, but the whiteness is definitely weird to me.

Slapfight

@WaityKatie She IS starring in an upcoming romantic comedy with Jon Hamm....

Ellie

I thought her character was mostly supposed to be funny because she was so weird rather than because she was fat. That's what it seemed to me anyway. Although the other characters were weird too. I don't know.

WaityKatie

@Slapfight Aaaaah really?!?! I will be first in line to see this!

WaityKatie

@Ellie Yeah, and I think she was awesome in part because she didn't give a crap about any social norms, and was just like, I'm gonna do whatever I want, rock! And yet turned out to have a totally successful life/high powered job, etc. While the other characters were all kind of hysterically hyperventilating about weddings and conventional values and boring romantic comedy tropes. Basically every time she came on screen my friend and I were like "ahahahahahahaaa awesome!" and then the minute she went off, it was like, "What is this, now? Boring!"

redheaded&crazy

hmm y'all make good points about all the supporting characters being weird and caricature-y (and the married chick who was obsessed with being married bothered me even more so...) and I guess she was the most fleshed out of any, what with her conversation at the end with Kristen Wiig.

I really liked Bridesmaids though, at least, I really loved and identified with Kristen Wiig's character. And I definitely went in with high expectations. I suppose what bothered me was the equating of hypersexualized/sexual fetishes with the fat character since that seems to be the common romcom stereotype. But then again I suppose anybody can have sexual fetishes including fat people obviously so it's not unrealistic to ...

I dunno. Now I'm overthinking this. Basically I liked a lot of her lines, and disliked a lot of her other lines. So, there ya go. :\

Slapfight

@redheaded&crazie No, that's cool. I'm just a big fan of the sexually aggressive ladies. I find it refreshing for women to be the "creeps". I blame Jerri Blank for forming way too much of my persona. ;)
@waitykatie: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/16/jon-hamm-melissa-mccarthy-paul-feig-comedy_n_877946.html

H.E. Ladypants

@redheaded&crazie The thing that made the sexual overpoweringness (that's not a real word, just go with it) of her character work for me so well was that Air Marshall John is Melissa McCarthy's husband in real life. Which just. It all felt like a wonderful in-joke once I got that.

03313961h

@redheaded&crazyBut also, anyone who watches television expecting to learn how things really are with ANY group of people, or expecting to see a reasonably accurate reflection of the world, or a minimally serious take on anything—is indulging in Flintstones paleontology. There is nothing to be believed about TV except for the occasional real-time disaster footage some non-professional happened to capture on her phone. this website explains it

atipofthehat

All true about the demographics of the show, and it's sad. WHY?

But also, anyone who watches television expecting to learn how things really are with ANY group of people, or expecting to see a reasonably accurate reflection of the world, or a minimally serious take on anything—is indulging in Flintstones paleontology. There is nothing to be believed about TV except for the occasional real-time disaster footage some non-professional happened to capture on her phone.

Oh, squiggles

@atipofthehat I agree with you about the accurate reflections not existing in television. For one thing, it is entertainment, and entertainment doesn't have much to do with accuracy!

But, to criticize on the entertainment factor, I think it is easier to suspend disbelief, and thereby enjoy the show more, if there is something as basic as representing more than just 5% of the population (5% is not accurate, but really, not everyone is young, skinny, beautiful, and white!). Kind of wish the entertainment industry would realize this!

atipofthehat

@Awesomely Nonfunctional

Me, too, but why is it always entertainment and so seldom art? Why is even the news on TV entertainment?

I love entertainment, but on TV it is a monster that eats everything.

Oh, squiggles

@atipofthehat Well, we could discuss the definition of art, entertainment, and the difference between both, but the conversation would end when one of us died of old age :P

We are a culture with a lot of free time, all of our basic needs are easily met. So, lots of time for entertainment. I predict there will be a higher need for entertainment in the future, as well as a large spread in the quality of that entertainment.

atipofthehat

@Awesomely Nonfunctional

What culture do you live in, so I can move there? I have no free time and my basic needs take a lot of work to meet.

Also, I don't think the difference between entertainment and art is all that difficult, in spite of a great deal of overlap.

Oh, squiggles

@atipofthehat I was referring to the ease with which one can access food, water, clothing, and shelter (all for money of course) without having to actually self provide (hunt, gather, build, ect.)

Um, not to be mean, but you have time to be commenting on the internet...so I feel like my comment probably applies to you as well.

atipofthehat

@Awesomely Nonfunctional

I don't understand the distinction between self-providing and providing the same things through earning money. Are you being serious?

I have a job that often involves long hours and also time spent waiting, how about you?

SuperGogo

@atipofthehat All it takes to remember the unreality of everyone on TV: They never watch TV.

atipofthehat

@SuperGogo

HA !!!

RK Fire

@atipofthehat: I think the deeper issue that people have with the show is that it is still confirming, at the end of the day, is that white people = normal, with the implied corollary that people of color are not. The fact that it's set in NYC just makes the idea of white people = normal more ridiculous. It just confirms and reinforces aspects of white privilege.

Of course most people don't turn to fictional television as a way to learn more about the way the world actually is, but it does seem to subtly influence people's perceptions regardless.

atipofthehat

@RK Fire

Agree completely. And the consequences of all this fantasy are often very real and not harmless. (But I still want to warn everyone not to capture a bee in a clamshell and try to shave with it.)

RK Fire

@atipofthehat: Interesting metaphor! I think there are people in Hollywood who are trying to shift things around this topic to varying degrees of success and exposure, but our conversations here don't negate their work, nor does their work negate these kinds of discussions. Not that you're arguing the latter but I think I'm seeing flavors of that in some of the other threads on here.

baklava!

@SuperGogo Another reason to love Community?

SuperGogo

@baklava! Exactly! I was this close to adding an asterisk to my original comment about the Blade exception.

Bed Monster

I haven't seen this yet, but I had heard a lot about it and got excited about the show's premise. This bums me out, though. NYC gives you the opportunity to have lots of different types of people as the main characters of your show, and this is what you do? I'm Indian-American, so there are VERY few representations of someone like me on screen (one of the few times I've ever been able to relate to a movie character is when I watched Bend it Like Beckham). I'm tired of it. There are places in this country that have huge Indian communities, so we are, you know, present. I totally agree with your sentiment, and I really feel it, too.

nocomment

@Bed Monster I am not Indian, but I wish there was more Indian representation, too. I have so many Indian friends (in NYC and from the midwest) and it's a huge, diverse community that's not being serviced in US pop culture but for Mindy Kaling, Aziz Ansari, and Kal Penn. I also think it's dumb because from what I've seen, consumers are EXTREMELY supportive and loyal when they are represented. My best friend's mom will see anything M. Night Shymalan makes because he's Indian. I feel similarly when someone is Jewish and/or from my hometown, or a woman I admire. If you create more diverse casts, you only attract more people who can connect and relate.

nyikint

@Bed Monster

I'm going to disagree. I think the Indian-American community is quite fairly represented. There aren't that many huge names, but we at least we haven't been governed by stereotypes - Kaling, Ansari, Penn, Maulik Pancholy, Frieda Pinto + the lady that plays Cece in New Girl each play very different and developed characters. That's nothing to scoff at.

The problem of a disproportionately white casts still stands though, but seems to be the Indian community has it better than most.

nyikint

@nyikin And why I'm quibbling right now is beyond me.

sevanetta

@Bed Monster God, I know. OK, disclaimer, I'm in Australia and haven't seen this show, but I kept thinking as I was reading these comments, with the range running from people saying 'I'm from a well off background so that's why I only know other white people' and mentioning all these other backgrounds people can have... and thinking... you know even in my fairly white upbringing in my part of the country, there are quite a lot of Indian people or second or third generation Indian families here!

So yeah. Sounds to me like an Indian character would have fit in just as easily.

cherrispryte

As anyone who's met me at a meetup can attest, I'm kind of faceblind, and seriously, there is pretty much no way you can convince me that there are four different women starring in this show. It's like how Grace Park played both Boomer and Athena, as well as other random Eights, right? Same woman, lots of roles?

angelinha

@cherrispryte Now THAT would be interesting, if Dunham herself played all four friends. If that were the case I could definitely take it as an intentional comment on the homogeneity of young entitled women in New York, no problem.

bb
bb

@cherrispryte Now this show, I would watch enthusiatically! Like a sitcom Anna Deveare Smith?!? (bonus: both white and nonwhite roles)

sox
sox

@ cherrispryte & @angelinha Oh, I love this concept! I would watch! (has this already been done? I am clueless about watching tv in general...)

_questingbeast

Re: bath food: you put it on the soap rack. Doesn't everyone have one?

Bolero

I did not watch this, but I'm assuming all the girls are straight too? Lack of diversity makes me cranky.

atipofthehat

@Bolero

One of them is gay on Mad Men!

Oh, squiggles

And from the sound of it...young, beautiful, and skinny. Which is just like a lot of other shows! And really not like a lot of the population!

Bolero

@atipofthehat How progressive.

Passion Fruit

@Bolero Hahaha.

Congratulations. How progressive.

DH@twitter

Aaaaah when 60s NYC is more progressive than 2000s NYC.

Oh, squiggles

Wah wha (sad noise)

but Mad Men really strives for accuracy...accuracy for the time period, and what society is like. And White Girls, whoops, I mean Girls, sounds like it is striving for accuracy for...those specific types of girls?

deepomega

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Mad Men isn't striving for accuracy. We've introduced two (2) non-WASP characters this season with speaking roles. Guess which one they've written any sort of backstory whatsoever for. Oh? It's the jewish guy, not the black woman? Huh. Huh!

slutberry

@Bolero I'm feeling like a bit of a jerk for writing this, but I feel like the straight-ness is more believable than the whiteness? I mean, it would be awesome to have TV showing the whole gamut of queerness without making a big deal of it, but I would be much more surprised to find my whole circle of friends was white than to find my whole circle of friends was straight.

mlle.gateau

@deepomega ...but, Mad Men is accurate to what Madison Avenue was like in the 60s, in terms of whom the main characters would have interacted with. Another show the 60s in a different setting would obviously have a totally different set of characters. Also, the show has progressed with the changing mores of the time period- the relationship with Jewish characters, for example, has changed, and I think it's important to wait and see how Dawn develops as a character. On a surface level, I agree, it's another show about white people, but I think if you look at how the show has developed, it's unfair to criticize the development of a single character after only two episodes (I haven't watched the third yet) when plenty of other characters have taken a fair amount of time to develop.

deepomega

@mlle.gateau No, my point was that Ginsberg and Dawn are being treated TOTALLY DIFFERENTLY, in a way that seems really fucked up. Ginsberg's first episode ended with us seeing his home life, plus we saw his complicated personal neuroticisms and reactions to Peggy and Don. Dawn, on the other hand, feels like she fell out of a Sandra Bullock movie about New York in the 60s. And they've had exactly the same amount of time to write about both of them. But for SOME reason, the jewish dude gets more attention. I wonder why!

Bolero

@sniffadee Of course it's more believable, but we're talking in terms of the hype, in terms of the "this is us, now" label being flung at the show. It should have more diversity. Just a weensy bit. We don't want to tax the writers, heavens.

At some point in the future there will be a queer girl on the show and (prediction!) it will be around sweeps and it will be awkward. Same goes for when they introduce the token POC.

@Bolero How much do we all want to bet that the queer girl will look exactly like them with a slightly more asymmetrical haircut? And that the girlfriend will look exactly like the queer girl she's dating, and that there will be a complete lack of queer culture because omfg everyone's just so cool and open when it comes to non-threatening hipster lesbians.

Once, just once, I want to see a queer chick who looks like me and isn't cast as a straight chick who happens to be dating a girl.

Maybe I'm bitter because the women in this show are a lot like the women I find to be bitchy and passively obnoxious in real life?

Chesty LaRue

@S. Elizabeth I would love to see a show where two queer ladies looked like you and your girlfriend. I hope there's red lipstick involved as well :)

@Chesty LaRue OMG you're on the mailing list! AHHHHH! Dude, if someone made a TV show about a couple like us, I would watch the everloving fuck out of it every single day.

Last night there was a firefly in her apartment (the screen on one of the windows is shitty) and instead of killing it, we named him Roger and decided that he should be our friend. This is material made for network television, ladies!

Danzig!

@Bolero Smart money's on at least one of them being bisexual. Probably the British one because, you know, she's already "foreign".

@Awesomely Nonfunctional To be perfectly fair, aside from the best friend character (the one with the boyfriend she hates), it doesn't seem like the show has been cast by MTV.

Saaoirse

I kind of hope- and I know that this was the plan for Freaks and Geeks, so maybe it's not impossible, but who knows- that the writers are completely aware of this, and that the plan is to use it to talk about latent racism and about insular worlds. I don't know, though, maybe that's no better.

runner in the garden

@Saaoirse it's a good comparison - Apatow and Feig have admitted that F&G was more or less entirely written from their own memories of growing up. I think both they and Dunham were/are doing the "write what you know" thing... which can lead to really great honest insightful work (and is even, in both cases, showing us perspectives that we don't often see on TV, because advertisers aren't interested in authentic stories about youth and shame and struggling), but doesn't lend itself well to people who don't resemble the storyteller.

So basically, I'm glad this show exists, but I wish there were black/hispanic/Indian/muslim/etc Lena Dunhams with well-advertised TV shows too.

Saaoirse

@runner in the garden Well, F&G is very, very white, but it's on purpose, because it's a snapshot of a place and time. And, IIRC, there were plans to broaden it out and talk about race, and racism- the whiteness of the start of the show wasn't the point or something unconscious, it was a starting point. Because it got cancelled, F&G never got to do what it wanted to, but if Girls is about becoming more self-aware and growing up, maybe something similar could be a part of it.

nocomment

@Saaoirse Plus, there was definitely at least one nod to it in the Beers & Weirs ep with the one black kid and Neal bonding.

VolcanoMouse

I'm aware of this show's existence only because I heard that HBO would be streaming it online. I got very excited-- because I was hoping this meant HBO was beta-testing a way for me to fricking watch Game of Thrones without buying a TV or resorting to piracy.

But! The review has piqued my curiosity.

Oh, squiggles

Great article!

Don't have HBO, so cannot comment about the show too much, but this did make me think about the make-up of my current viewing schedule. Happy Endings is a new sitcom, that is basically Friends, but with a black guy and a jewish gay guy. But the gay guy is not sterotypically gay, neither is the black guy (well, not glaringly so, I haven't really dissected the show for it). So it is pretty refreshing IMO.

Also, Community is pretty diverse in race/age/sex, but all the characters are equally crazy, and it doesn't necessarily reflect an accurate portrayal of society. But! It is a comedy, and is not meant to?

Also, british television! Like, the actors look like real people who you could see on the streets, as opposed to all the perfect model/actor types you typically see. They are not all beautiful, young, super fit and skinny! You can see when they have breakouts, and it is so refreshing, and makes it easier to get into the story.

I don't really seek out diversity in my shows, but I think I end up naturally preferring it. Gossip Girl/Glee type shows, which are always trendy/popular, never really hold my interest. Homogenized people are kind of boring...

Oh, squiggles

Also! Yes, I read about the cupcake in the shower, and I agree completely. Drinks-yes, food-what?

Love me some shower wine! Or shower coffee if this is a morning shower.

martinipie

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I, too, have noticed the awesomeness of British TV in this way! It really is refreshing.

stephanieboland

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I really liked Greek in a similar way. It had a range of ethnicities and sexualities, which were discussed- and characters faced discrimination- but not written as stock parts.

digsapony

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I love that you notice that about British television. I'm British and I find a lot of American television quite forgettable because it's so unrealistic. There seems to be a much greater emphasis on being funny or clever or wierd in the UK. It always makes me sad when I see some comedian or celebrity who wants to break into American TV and goes and whitens their teeth and loses some weight.

nyikint

@Awesomely Nonfunctional You know who does it well? SCRUBS.

Xanthophyllippa

@nyikin God, I miss that show.

Passion Fruit

Thank you times a million.

Normally, I just love being invisible on TV. It's nice. Makes me feel... stealth.

But sometimes, I, too, want to hear about a brown girl and her zany exploits as a rich, healthy, upwardly mobile (if she ever got around to it!, har har) young woman having sex with the brochachos of Williamsburg. I know it's happening; why can't I see it on TV?

atipofthehat

@Passion Fruit

Every day, almost 100% of what I see is never on TV.

As soon as Edith finishes launching H magazine, I think the Hairpin needs its own cable channel.

Passion Fruit

@atipofthehat Hmm... Well I see alot of white people in real life, and I see alot of them on TV. I also see alot of brown people in real life, but very few on TV. My experience is different from yours. About 50% of what I see in real life I see in TV. The remaining half is just... kind of never there.

As for H magazine, I intend to be a multi-year subscriber.

atipofthehat

@Passion Fruit

I don't see people on TV who have the concerns, interests, environments, and cultures I see around me. And, of course, that has never, ever, been the point of TV.

Passion Fruit

@atipofthehat But you see people that look like you, broadly? (I am assuming you are white; maybe you are not.) That have American accents and similar hair, skin, body types? The people I see that look like me are often used as a gag joke, in the "their culture is so funny, tee hee!" way. It's annoying.

Anyways, I'm getting unnecessarily defensive. I think I have a point here, and I'll leave it at that.

atipofthehat

@Passion Fruit

I think I was agreeing with you?

Passion Fruit

@atipofthehat Yeah, I think I'm just being defensive. I can't read what you're saying without thinking, "Does he think he's better than me? He thinks he's better than me." I don't think it's what you're saying, but my mood and the lack of tone/body language via the internet. My apologies.

atipofthehat

@Passion Fruit

Not at all, probably my fault. Or...TELEVISION's FAULT !

 
DH@twitter

This whole shebang reminds me strangely of this horrible Newsweek article I read when I was, like, 14 which purported that there were three types of girls: alpha girls, beta girls, and gamma girls.

Gamma girls unfortunately were not girls who could Hulk out. They were smart and stuff.

DH@twitter

@DH@twitter

Also, this is kind of the rock-and-hard-place of being female fans/consumers. If I, as a female comic book fan, don't buy Voodoo because I don't like the art or the writing and that title fails, the company sees it as failing because it's about a female character, not because it had shit writing and/or art. It probably won't get revamped because "hey, maybe the writing and/or art were shit and we can do better"--it gets permanently benched because "women don't read comics."

If girls/women don't watch Girls and it fails, it is always going to be because girls/women are not reliable consumers/not important enough to cater to, NOT because it wasn't what we wanted to see. Do we support things we don't enjoy or have problems with just because SOMEONE at least is trying? It shouldn't have to be that way, but it often is.

Lila Fowler

I think the things that's really frustrating about this is that it's a woman of MY generation. When I watch white washed network TV shows, it sucks but it's easy to write them off as products of an older, richer, whiter generation of men. Seeing someone my age do it is a lot more disappointing. I've been so excited for the day My Generation started producing The Art& Entertainment because I thought we were going to get it right! Or at least do it better

On another grumpy note, I'm so bored of shows set in NYC. I get it; I'm from LA and we also love to talk about how the sun shines out of our hoo has and unicorns grow in our backyards. But I'd be a lot more interested in Girls of Seattle or Girls of Houston or Girls of Chicago. Girls of Minneapolis! Girls of Fresno! Girls of Albuquerque!

Oh, squiggles

@Lila Fowler (sweet valley high reference FTW!)

I understand the disapointment, but maybe it is a case of the doing what you know? It can be pretty daunting to try to accurately represent a world view that is not your own. So I'm not super critical of the creator of the show for that reason.

deepomega

@Awesomely Nonfunctional Except "doing what you know" is always, always, always the excuse for doing things like "only showing New York" and "only writing about people of your race and gender." As though no writer could ever write anything other than themselves, or you know, HIRE a writer with other experiences.

Skanky Baggington

@Lila Fowler: From the A.V. Club "I always find criticisms of artist’s worldviews a little ridiculous to begin with. I mean, yes, if Dunham is still making this same basic story when she’s 55, then it will have gotten beyond old. But it feels a little silly to me to request that Dunham look outside of her own demographic and make a series about an Amish farmer who’s worried about all the stuff his kids might read about on the Internet or something. Down that road lies shallow hackwork." In short, Lena Dunham grew up in New York, she's writing about what she knows, and the co-stars on the show are all real life friends of hers. She wrote and directed 5 of the 10 episodes for this first season, for a 25-year-old I'd say that's pretty impressive.

Oh, squiggles

@deepomega It's not really an excuse per se, it is more a defense of the creator. I just think blame for lack of diversity shouldn't fall all on this one creator/show. Shouldn't we be asking why diverse shows aren't being made? Why are they not being greenlit? Who is turning these shows down, and why?

deepomega

@Skanky Baggington "I can only write my own life" is a) a lame excuse, since many people manage to write about people who aren't themselves, and b) presupposes an inability to hire other writers with other life experiences, which is bullshit. A 10 episode teevee series is not written by a single person.

Lila Fowler

@Skanky Baggington My gripe about setting shows in New York is really aimed more at HBO and networks. I get that Lena's "thing" is writing about her particular Brooklyn, artsy niche, but I don't think that gives her a pass for hiring an all white cast. . As people have said upthread, any show that is realistically portraying New York has to have people of color in it. I'm from LA and the only way for people from LA to write a show about LA without POC in it is by LYING(which happens all the time).

deepomega

@Awesomely Nonfunctional The other thing everyone always says is "we shouldn't get mad at just one show for being only about white people." Weirdly, every single show only about white people gets this defense. Huh.

Oh, squiggles

@deepomega Well, I think if we address the source of the issue we have more of a chance of changing it. This one show, or any show in particular, is not to blame for the problem, it is merely a symptom of it.

Skanky Baggington

@deepomega; Actually she does get sole writer credit on 5 episodes, I guess she's just that awesome. Judd Apatow and HBO saw something in her, and wanted her to be the show runner. Once she gets a lot more famous duties will probably be farmed out to teams of hack writers who feel they have to buckle to pressure.

atipofthehat

@deepomega

Well and good if someone says "I write about what I know."

It's perfectly okay for us to respond: "Sorry, but we don't care about what you know."

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington Or it means that she's not a particularly talented writer, if she can only write about her own life and can only cast her own friends to be in it. Also, I guess it means that she's somehow managed to actually whitewash her life in New York City, which seems impossible to almost everyone, since I guess this means she really knows only white people.

Skanky Baggington

@atipofthehat: Well, I'm sure the show will be successful regardless, and just based on this one episode I've enjoyed it far more than a lot of the crap that's currently on tv.

Skanky Baggington

@thebestjasmine: Oh c'mon, she's 25 and this is only..what? the second thing she's ever done? I just think all this vitriol is over dramatic and unwarranted. I don't understand why it's all being directed at her, anyway. She was approached by Judd Apatow and HBO, and they're a lot more seasoned than her, so maybe people should cut her some slack. Plus, writing from life is *exceedingly* common, so if you're going to waste your time being mad about Lena Dunham you might as well make a list of several thousand other writers and complain about them too, you could make a weekend of it!

Brittabot

@deepomega I agree that it's overused as an excuse, but at 25 you probably aren't experienced enough as a writer to not write what you know, I think we should at least give her that.
Writing only "what you know" 20 years into your career is a different problem though, and we should all give her crap if she keeps doing the same thing till 2030, like we do with other people who build their careers doing the same thing over and over again (then again, Woody Allen just got an oscar, so...).
Of course it's perfectly ok, as @atipofthehat says, to not care about what some poeple know, but I think it's more important to demand more power for people who know different things and let them all tell their stories.

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington I see that you're a Dunham fangirl, and that's fine. But belittling every concern listed here as "This happens all the time!" is a really terrible argument. No one has a problem with her writing from life, we have a problem because the life that she's writing from is privileged and whitewashed, and neither she, Judd Apatow, or HBO seem to care.

Skanky Baggington

@thebestjasmine: Yeah, I get it. Everyone hates the privileged, and it's certainly okay to belittle them for whatever they try to put out into the world. If she wrote about things outside her sphere, people would be all "Where does she get off?", and if she just used her privilege to be some stuck up, useless, heiress, people would shit on her for that too. The tone of the comments here it's like she can't win, and I just find it hard to hate on a fellow woman for doing what she loves, and for things that were probably beyond her control. I'm positive the super whiteness of the show wasn't a conscious decision on her part, and that everyone whining here should put their sour grapes away about the opportunities she's gotten. Who are any of us to say who does and doesn't deserve anything? It's such a small, paltry, excuse of an issue in my opinion. It shouldn't fall solely on her shoulders to diversify tv.

deepomega

@Skanky Baggington She. Could. Hire. Other. Writers. She could hire other writers. She could hire other writers. Dan Harmon wrote a fantastic thing about how when he started work on Community, he was forced by NBC to have a half female writing staff, and he hated having to do the extra work at first but then got a huge payoff in the writing. This is how it should work.

Also, please keep saying things like "Everyone hates the privileged." It's a good look. Definitely true that rich white people have a really hard time breaking into entertainment.

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington FYI, the way to respond to people talking about privilege and whiteness is never ever to claim that it's whining or sour grapes ("Oh, I wish I was white like Lena Dunham!" --> not what people of color are saying). It's also not to say that overwhelming whiteness on TV is a "small, paltry, excuse of an issue." Please do me a favor and go read Unpacking the Privilege Backpack before you respond to any more comments, because you're really embarrassing yourself.

Skanky Baggington

@thebestjasmine: Sigh, not what I'm doing at all, but thanks for assuming the worst about me. The "whining" and "sour grapes" I'm referring to is in reference to the plethora of comments about how she only got where she is because she had the good fortune to "inherit her bootstraps" by having a famous mother, and other snotty nonsense like that. And I'm not defending the overall whiteness of tv, I'm just saying that because this is show is about a white girl, and stars her white girl friends, is no reason to have a race debate.

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington Yes. A show about a white girl set in New York that stars only her white girl friends and shows an entirely white New York City is indeed a reason to have a race debate. My God, do you even hear yourself? I don't have to assume the worst about you, you've said it all right here.

atipofthehat

@Skanky Baggington

I don't think everyone hates the privileged. I think we all try to be aware that we are all privileged in some or even many respects compared to many or even most people.

Speaking for myself, what I like is some awareness of these issues and some concrete and ongoing effort to address them. Which might actually happen sometime on the show in question but also might not.

If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the sitcom.

Skanky Baggington

@thebestjasmine: Look, there's been only ONE episode, and all I'm saying is that people need to calm down, and that the only beef I've had were with comments that suggested that Lena Dunham didn't deserve her own show, and that is the kind of talk that just personally gets my back up. Like another commenter down thread said, her show doesn't have to be all things to all people. At the end of the day it's just ONE t.v. show, and I don't think it's fair at all to insinuate that I'm some sort of clueless racist. I think that's pretty harsh.

martinipie

@Skanky Baggington I guess the thing that bothers me--and has been quite thoroughly noted by other commenters--is that, in the advertising and much of the early criticism and hype of the shows, it WAS supposed to be "all things" to "an entire generation," except it very quickly became apparent that it wasn't. Bridesmaids is, as has also been pointed out, a good parallel, because people saw it is a bellwether for "movies by and about women," as this show is being framed. Which is unfair to a single movie or show, yes--but we should examine why they are being seen as that, and what it means if they fail to be that (which they certainly will, by the vastness of the task given to them), and if anyone, like, ever, has the right to say a show is "the show" for a whole population. Guhhh feelingsssss.

deepomega

@martinipie I'll go a step farther and say, of course it doesn't have to be all things to all people, but I think it's fucked up that there's yet another instance of a show being made by, for and about white people. It is unrealistic that there are no non-whites with any significant roles, even in just the first episode. And I'm wondering, SB, whether there's any number of episodes without non-whites that'd make you say "actually, I like Lena Dunham's work, but this is fucked up."

Skanky Baggington

@martinipie: Well, I think the answer to that is blame HBO's marketing. This happen constantly with movie trailers, for example, studios often dumb down trailers to make a movie look way worse than it actually is, or they bloat it with a bunch of messages that aren't actually present in the finished product, so I rarely ever pay attention to entertainment advertising because of that.

Emma Peel

@Skanky Baggington I don't get why "she's only 25" is an excuse for anything. If her work isn't good enough because she's only 25, don't option it (or whatever one does with TV shows). Say she has a lot of promise and you look forward to what she does in the future, which is what happens to most people who want to be the Voice of a Generation. I'm 24, and I accept that my work isn't as good as it will be 10 years from now. "Great for your age," in my experience, ends when you graduate college. In the world of work, most people's work isn't graded on a curve.

A 24-year-old won a Pulitzer Prize today. It wasn't because her work was great for a 24-year-old. It's because it was great, period.

Dunham obviously has a ton of talent, and as someone her age, I'm psyched for her. But that doesn't get her a pass on only writing what she knows. As others have said, she could hire other writers to fill in the gaps in her own experience, at the very least.

/end rant

leonstj

@Skanky Baggington - I don't have anything to add to the main debate (Jenna is right, and Deep's constant "HIRE A FUCKING MINORITY WRITER" refrain should probably be the alarm clock for about 75% of the people who head writers rooms) but I'd like to address the "pretty great for a 25 year old" thing constantly being said around these threads.

George Harrison was 25 when "The White Album" came out, which includes "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", which he wrote. Gatsby was 24 when "This Side of Paradise" was published. Rachel Whiteread was being collected by Saatchi by the time she was 27.

Lots of young people do really amazing things in their 20s. It is really and honestly fucking wonderful that people are no longer shocked to consider someone (usually a man!) considered still "hot" in their 40s, or that careers seem like, for the best artists, to be lasting longer. But let's not infantilize people in their mid 20s as if it should be a surprise that they're capable of constructing a successful narrative.

Dunham is really talented, and it's a little patronizing to use her age as a reason to not criticize her, or to praise her. She may be in the early stages of adulthood, but she's still an adult.

WaityKatie

@leon.saintjean Yes. Buddy Holly died at 23 and he was one of the most amazing musical geniuses ever, as far as I'm concerned (and I will fight anyone who tries to say different!). Plus, you know, Mozart and people like that.

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

@thebestjasmine +1 to the Backpack article. I'm just going to say to everyone, if you've gotten this far and you haven't read it, you really should. Otherwise some commenters here are going to take it upon themselves to educate you, and trust me, you're not going to like it.

Skanky Baggington

@leon.saintjean: I think in this day and age it is an accomplishment to have done much of anything by Dunham's age. The amazing examples you used aren't anywhere near this current generation of 20 something's, and weren't even a part of my parents generation either. I'm a millennial, and I think Louis C.K. got it right when he called my age group a bunch of useless assholes, but that's just my personal bias.

Inkling

@all
I just gotta throw out there that, by 25, "write what you know" is a sack of bull if you are literally basing your characters off your friends. That should have been left behind in MIDDLE SCHOOL. By this point in your experience, you should have gathered enough of the world and had enough creative sparks to invent people, whose characters--ambitions, passions, fears etc--are relevant to the story, not just freakin' stand-ins you view through a biased filter and have no literary value.
I don't know if this is relevant to the racism or her merit as a writer or ANYTHING but it is a valid point, I believe.
I should probably just change my nickname to The Whiny Writer or Ask Me About My Imaginary Friends or As A Creative Person etc.

ETA @leon.saintjean "Gatsby was 24 when This Side of Paradise was published"--I know it was a mistyping, but it was an adorable mistyping!

Brett Phillipson@facebook

@Lila Fowler Ugh, exactly. Whitewashing and trust-fundie problems aside, one of the things that really bothered me about this show is it seemed like Dunham literally just took her real life and put it on TV. People being all "she shouldn't have to have a character of colour because authenticity!" are maybe missing the crucial point that Lena Dunham's actual, authentic life might not be good storytelling?

Also, all this talk of people who created great art in their 20s makes me want to cry. I was supposed to be one of those prodigies! And now I'm almost 25 and I haven't been offered a SINGLE book deal or TV show or anything. (Publishers and TV execs: call me, it'll be awesome.)

Diana

@Inkcrafter

Pretty ironic comment considering Fitzgerald is the perfect definition of somebody in their 20s writing about his own social scene and friends.

Diana

@Inkcrafter

Pretty ironic comment considering Fitzgerald is the perfect definition of somebody in their 20s writing about his own social scene and friends.

Skanky Baggington

@deepomega: I think what a lot of people criticizing this show don't seem to get is that this is a very low budget cable production, and it doesn't have a friggin' writers room like a sitcom on a major network. You repeating over and over about how she needs to hire more writers is not the great point that you think it is. There's only one writer credited for the majority of these episodes, Lena Dunham, with the others only having a total of two writers, as is common with cable t.v. I'm not a regular watcher of "How I Met Your Mother", but that is a major network show with a team of writers, that's been on for nearly a decade, and I've never seen anyone screaming about how that show needs to be made an example of for the whitewashing of everything. It's been on for years and years, and I've never seen any POC on it. I'm not saying it's right, or that I agree with it, but the approach "Girls" has taken is obviously one of satire about entitled, over grown white kids, who think they're something special and have a myopic world view. The HBO commercials hyped it up to be some "voice of everyone" nonsense, but I've never once heard Lena Dunham say that herself. Also, enough people liked her idea to put her life on tv, and thought she was a good writer, so any of us here saying she's not really means nothing in the grand scheme of things. I'm not telling people what they can or can't waste their time complaining about, but given all the potentially race related things one could make points on, this seems pretty damn minor.

thebestjasmine

@Skanky Baggington Well, this tweet from a Girls writer has basically told me all I need to know about how much they care about diversity in the Girls writing room: "@lesleyarfin What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME."

-- She has since deleted it, maybe because people called her on how rude and racist that was, but I can tell she gives one big goddamn about these conversations.

deepomega

OK, here's my question. If they wanted to make a show about a group of entitled white people in their twenties, with no risk of scary minorities showing up, why didn't they just set it in Portland?

cuminafterall

@deepomega Only New York gets to have multiple shows about itself, silly!

Oh, squiggles

@deepomega It is called Portlandia, and it comedically skewers those types of people.

Danzig!

@deepomega Boulder's due for a show, I say. No minorities, choice weed year-round, plus skiing in the wintertime!

whimseywisp

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING THIS!!! ILU Hairpin <3.

Brittabot

Hi everyone, delurking to comment here, because this is something that has been eating at me for hours now.
I agree with the general sentiments on here, which are, if I'm reading you guys correctly, that it's a shame that the one "smart and progressive" show every critic seems to be championing this year is looking to be so excluding when it comes to ethnicity.
However, I think it's a little unfair to expect this one show (created by a 25 year old) to do everything right and to satisfy everyone. Believe me that I'm sincere when I say that I would have loved nothing more than to see the lives of urban, smart and funny women of different ethnicities and backgrounds on tv, but I don't think Dunham is the one to do it or that the horrible lack of diverse characters in mainstream tv should somehow fall on her shoulders. She is too unexperienced as an artist to not write what she knows and have her friends collaborate and I think that's simply what she was hired for and what she does.
There is however someone us smart ladies (and smart folks in general) have a reason to be pissed at, and you know it's not her. Tv executives have been greenlighting extremely "white & upper-middle class" shows for decades and we should be telling THEM to also hire someone like perhaps Dee Rees (have you seen Pariah?) to create their own shows and show their point of view, not telling the one young smart female who has made it that she's doing it wrong, because maybe she hasn't figured it out perfectly yet or maybe she just feels safer working with her (white) friends.
I don't want to really defend Dunham yet, because I've only seen the first episode so far, but I do think it's unfair to declare a show too "white" based on the trailer alone.
Also, the succes of a low-key, low-budget, personal show like this one might eventually lead to more small personal shows from more different people. Let's hope so.
Sorry for TL;DR, guys, let's see how the season goes I guess.

Oh, squiggles

@Brittabot I don't think the show, or the creator are really the issue, but are merely being used to show the current lackings.

Whitney@twitter

@Brittabot
The thing is, that you could have that excuse for a lot of shows. I mean, the more mainstream sitcoms and so on seem to be getting better at ticking off boxes, if not getting better in terms of being entertainment. But every 'breakthrough' show out there could have some sort of excuse. Oh it's not what the writer 'knows,' it's the era the show is depicting, it's the source material, the person just brought in all their showbiz friends, it's meant to only show one subset of people, it's ironic, etc., etc. It could go on forever. Lena Dunham isn't personally responsible for this problem, but when yet another show you like goes the same way, it's disappointing and people should feel free to talk about how disappointing it is.

Brittabot

@Awesomely Nonfunctional I guess you're right, I just think the whole shebang around this particular show is a little unfair when we've got horrible stuff like 2 Broke Girls, where the lackings are way more apparent.

Brittabot

@Whitney@twitter
I'm not trying to make excuses for the show I only saw one episode of, I was just trying to emphasise that we need more diverse creators, not merely more diverse characters in shows created by rich white folks. But yeah, it's disturbing that most executives in general seem to think only white people watch tv or buy stuff, I think we can all agree on that.

Skanky Baggington

@Brittabot: Yes, thank you! 2 Broke Girls is a Top Ten show, and I find its success way more offensive than this. Also, why am I not seeing more articles about the horrible way minorities are treated on that show? The way the Asian diner manager is portrayed makes me cringe.

skyslang

@Brittabot Thank you. I was thinking the same thing.

anitabath

@Skanky Baggington 2 Broke Girls is SO offensive in so many ways. None of them good.

Cat named Virtute

@Skanky Baggington I'm not sure which internet you're on, but there have absolutely been articles about the horrible ways minorities are treated on that show. Still not a good excuse for shutting down productive conversation here!

Skanky Baggington

@Marika Pea@twitter: I said *more* articles, not that there haven't been any, and what little I have seen said about certainly hasn't affected the baffling success of the show. Also, I was agreeing with something a fellow commenter said, so how is that "shutting down productive conversation"? Also, I've been accused today of being condescending here, and maybe that's true, but "I'm not sure which internet you're on?" Really? That's pretty unnecessarily dickish.

nevermind

I just have a problem getting excited about watching an insanely privileged 25 year old's show about being insanely privileged. I know these people IRL and they bother me.

WaityKatie

@nevermind Yeah, I kind of agree, but am a complete hypocrite because I am totally going to watch it anyway. Plus I think it might have something realistic to offer re: the depiction of early-mid-20's relationships, at any rate. I think Dunham is smart and aware of her privilege, and hopefully that awareness will be fleshed out in coming episodes.

nevermind

@WaityKatie She seems smart and funny and I will definitely give it a chance (missed the premiere but will on-demand it soon). But like I said, I'm not excited about the premise of this show. I'm really happy that Hollywood is finally greenlighting tv shows made by and about women. MORE PLEASE!

josefinastrummer

@nevermind Why are the characters on this show considered "insanely privileged"? I have only seen the trailer but they seemed like normal 25 year olds to me. How do we decide who is privileged? I got more of the "oh look at me, I'm a trainwreck" vibe than the Gossip Girl vibe, which is mos def about privileged girls.

WaityKatie

@josefinastrummer Because the first episode revolved around the various characters discussing how much their parents/families pay to support them per month (Ranging from 800 dollars to 2100 dollars, I believe. Per month.), and this reflects an insanely privileged subset of 24 year olds.

josefinastrummer

@WaityKatie Thanks! That changes a lot! And makes me want to watch it even less!

WaityKatie

@josefinastrummer Although, they also were pretty much all trainwrecks, also. Proof that money doesn't in fact buy happiness?

Danzig!

@nevermind I don't know about you guys, I'm just watching it for the monumentally awkward sex

WaityKatie

@Danzig! Supplemental reading! There's actually a pretty interesting commentary up on Slate right now written by a bunch of male writers talking about how they just cannn't understaaaand or beliiieieeve that a young woman would put up with sex that bad, and whyyyy would she dooooo that? And then there is a response from a bunch of female writers that is kind of like, "yeah, who hasn't done that kind of sex in their early 20's?" Pretty interesting reflection of the absolutely different experiences men and women have with sex, in my opinion.

Danzig!

@WaityKatie Tooootally. I was in a (very TMI, for some reason) conversation with one of my ladyfriends some months back and she was talking about how her boy did not really attempt to get her off and I was absolutely scandalized, but she was actually quite adamant that it was fine and that was how she liked it. I wasn't about to argue with her , but it does baffle me. I mean yeah, there are plenty of pluses to being naked with someone that don't involve physical climax, but... I don't know, you're already heading that direction, why not go for it?

WaityKatie

@Danzig! So many gender issues! Are the reasons why! But, those are for another thread, I suppose.

Danzig!

@WaityKatie Some other time!

Danzig!

@WaityKatie Also I might be giving the show a bit too much credit but did the whole "you shouldn't be anyone's slave... except mine" thing strike anyone as an indication that their relationship had a D/S element, at least in part? I can't tell if that's what they were going for, or if they just meant to show that he was a creep and she was oblivious to it.

I think there's an interesting opportunity there to have a character in a D/S relationship that's dysfunctional in the sense that the dominant is really shitty and disrespectful, rather than it being dysfunctional in that kink is wrong or inherently fucked up. I think having the sub character stand up for herself in a kink relationship would be cool. There aren't a lot of accurate portrayals of kink out there.

WaityKatie

@Danzig! Given the overall lameness of that character, I'm guessing that line was more something he heard from porn that he thought sounded "sexy."

Katie Heaney

ALSO what if there were tons of woman-written and -led TV shows, and they all had non-token representation of POC and queer folks, and this one TV show didn't have to be sold to us as ladies' ONE BIG SHOT (like we better get THIS ONE right, or it's back to the caves for us all!) and didn't put us all in the awkward position of simultaneously judging a show and feeling bad about said judging because it feels terrible to be a feminist criticizing another feminist sometimes, and we could all relate to some of the shows but not others and it would all be okay because there was so much representation out there to choose from? haaaaaaaaaaaahaha.

atipofthehat

@Katie Heaney

Because there are only 4,500 cable channels and they are already completely full up with wonderful stuff. Have you ever taken a look?!

Mira

@Katie Heaney WHAT IS THIS CRAZY TALK.

Brittabot

@Katie Heaney Feels like Bridesmaids all over again, doesn't it?

Katie Heaney

@atipofthehat I mean don't get me wrong, I LOVE CRAP TV. I love it. But this one, this non-crap show that is supposed to be OMG THE BEST, is not MY show, I don't think, and I don't think it speaks for me in a way I feel good about, and CALL ME CRAZY but if we all just had MORE OPTIONS it would be ok if some of them got it wrong because most shows do and it would all balance out because we would be like, oh yeah, ladies are individuals and it's ok if one show doesn't cover half the world's lived experience!

Katie Heaney

@Katie Heaney DISCLAIMER I HAVEN'T WATCHED THE SHOW YET BUT THE ADS/WHAT I KNOW OF IT GIVE ME PERTURBATIONS (?)

atipofthehat

@Katie Heaney

I would (obviously) rather watch a slow roll of these comments than most of what's on TV, but I do think that will change. Here's the Hairpin; there's no reason there couldn't be an TV equivalent. Production costs do not have to be high, and the future of TV is likely to be on the Web.

I would watch that show. Even at the risk of learning something!

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@Brittabot
Bridesmaids Revisited

anachronistique

@atipofthehat See also: Awkward Black Girl?

Lenora Jane

@anachronistique See also: I love the shit out of Awkward Black Girl.

03313961h

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll It comes down to what you can buy in this world. You can buy $10,000 bottles of wine, and chateaux with exquisite views, you can buy politicians and the allegiance of thousands of workers. It's the free treasures--love, faith, friendship, a peaceful night's sleep, among others--that are in fact priceless. healthcarenut.com blog

Reginal T. Squirge

Watched the premiere last night after reading the millio articles about it... and...

I thought to myself, "Oh, it's just a Judd Apatow movie with the gender roles reversed."

parallel-lines

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter Judd Apatow is not a terribly versatile dude. I feel like every movie he's done is like every other movie but with (genders/characters/whatever) reversed.

Danzig!

@ReginalTSquirge@twitter I think that's selling Lena Dunham a little short, but in that Girls supposedly provides a facsimile of the way that a group of friends actually interacts, it's definitely leaning on Apatow's reputation.

Reginal T. Squirge

@Danzig! Just to be clear: That's not my comment on Dunham nor the series as a whole. I'm just saying that you could see a lot of parallels in last night's episode.

Like the girl who had the lame boyfriend that she wanted to break up with but was too chickenshit to actually do it. I could swear I've seen that before in an Apatow movie, except it was a dude that didn't have the balls to break up with his lame gf.

meliz

Ladies, the call is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

DH@twitter

Comment from my Twitter feed: "One thing reax to GIRLS says to me: Ppl are more provoked by upper-middle-class privilege than super-wealth. (At least on TV)."

...which I think misses the point entirely of many reactions. If people are "provoked" by depictions of upper-middle-class privilege, it might be because they're tired of being told that it is attainable by everyone, or that they should relate immediately to this "norm" of Americanness, or indeed that uppper-middle-class privilege IS the norm.

Yeah, I watch Gossip Girl like a fiend--because it in no way reflects or TRIES to reflect reality. Girls is ostensibly about the Everygirl! Except...

WaityKatie

@DH@twitter Yeah, I think a lot of the problem here is that this show has been billed, only semi-ironically, as a show about a GENERATION of young people living in the city TODAY, so when people from that generation watch it and can't identify with the characters, they get (understandably) irked. For me, I'm 10 years older than these characters are supposed to be, so I was kind of watching it as more of a slice of life that I'm not necessarily expected to relate to in any specific way. I could take some aspects from it and relate to them, and I know people who fit the profile of those on the show, so I relate to it that way. But it's kind of like watching Entourage or something for me; I don't expect it to really reflect my life or reality at all.

DH@twitter

@WaityKatie

Yes, part of the problem is certainly that--whether Dunham sought it or not--she is I guess being labeled as the Millennial Voice or whatever (like Coupland and Gen X?). I really wish people would stop doing that, period.

I guess it's like, most of the marketing for this show has been about how it's about realistic people and how 20-somethings can totally relate to these characters who are Just Like Us. The disconnect is bizarre, because it seems so obvious that no, most people are not like those characters. I might be a lot like those characters, but damn if I'm not sick of reading about them and watching them.

But I think also that Twitter commenter was being disingenuous about WHY other people are finding this show problematic. Like meta-hipsterdom. What exactly IS this show saying that hasn't already been said? I think a lot of the irritation comes from being expected to laud something that might not actually be that new or transgressive, simply because it doesn't write women characters as bimbos.

WaityKatie

@DH@twitter And also that this show is shot in kind of an indie-"realistic" way, as opposed to, say, Friends, which also portrayed rich people living in laughably huge Manhattan apartments, although they were supposed to somehow support themselves by being waitresses, etc. That was just a shiny sitcom that was so obviously fake as to not even merit criticism, whereas "Girls" has that kind of gritty, poor lighting, awkward looking outfits thing going for it that maybe makes people expect a little more reality.

DH@twitter

@WaityKatie

Yes. Maybe lot of the feedback around this show is happening because it presented itself as being true-to-life and then got called on that truth. And if it is true to life, there is still cause for commentary, because it's a truth I'd say most people are already familiar with. One of my (male) friends got into Kerouac recently and tried to rhapsodize to me about him and I had no time for that, because the white male canon is ever-present in an English major's life. Similarly I think the white-upper-class experience is ever-present in most Americans' lives, via TV or movies or magazines or whatever.

leastimportantperson

@DH@twitter Well, I think part of the thing is that it's also kind of supposedly portraying just like the harrrrrrrrdest of hard lives ever ever ever. Like, these girls get the dignity of acknowledging that things are hard for them, but, as much as the show can be ironic about that, it's still a dignity that is absolutely not afforded to most less fortunate people.

WaityKatie

@DH@twitter It's also a bit weird how the show has been hyped as The Millenial Voice before it even came out and people even had a chance to react to it, whereas, movies of the past that were supposedly emblematic of The Gen-X Voice (like Reality Bites, or something. Heathers? Anything with Winona Ryder in it?) didn't get that label until they had come out and struck a chord with a lot of people, etc. But maybe that is just one more symptom of our sped-up media hype environment.

ennaenirehtac

@WaityKatie Reality Bites was totally labeled Gen X before it came out. I remember reading an article in Sassy magazine back in the day where they were hyping it as the movie of the current youth or whatever.

slutberry

If this show was a realistic depiction of my life, there would be a lot of sitting in the kitchen, drinking tea, and looking at blogs, and occasionally managing to schedule coffee with friends. Oh, and watching Austen movies with the Gentleman.

Sometimes TV makes me feel defective for not having a loud, raucous, active social circle. GUYS I HAVE NEVER GONE TO YOGA WITH MY GIRLFRIENDS AND I EAT LUNCH BY MYSELF WITH A BOOK.

digsapony

@sniffadee I went to yoga with a friend once in an attempt to make my life more like a sitcom. It was humiliating and I never went back. STAYING AT HOME FTW.

Xanthophyllippa

@sniffadee ARE YOU ME??

slutberry

@Xanthophyllippa .... hush! hush! you weren't supposed to find out!

Xanthophyllippa

@sniffadee (whispers) sorry. You didn't hear anything.

mouthalmighty

Thank you for this!

somethingobscure

I don't have much knowledge about racial representation in the media and the impact It has, but to me that doesn't really matter, just like it doesn't matter that they all have long hair or drink alcohol. There are lots of girls who live in NYC who have short hair or who don't drink. The show isn't about those people. And tv shows don't have to be a reflection of our reality or any reality. I don't feel the need to have tv shows echo my life or to identify with characters just because we share some similarities. The show is demonstrating someone's version of reality, not the only version and certainly not the perfect version...pretty much just the version that she has based on her own perception. This version of reality that the girls live in is clearly meant to be criticizable for many reasons and the lack of diversity adds to that in my opinion.

And if she has mostly cast her real life friends in the show, I think it's safe to say she might not have any close black friends that she could even cast, so in that way it's I think it's more realistic than adding in a minority character just for the sake of doing it. I tend to just take a tv show for what it is and accept that it's not necessarily about me. In many ways I don't identify with these girls either (even though I'm white), but I don't really care because it's a tv show, and I watch it for entertainment. To me this is like critiquing art and saying "but it SHOULD be different for a very good reason"....it doesn't matter what the reason is, it's art, and there's nothin it should or shouldn't be because following rules or expectations takes away from its originality and makes it into something different.

Would it be nice if Lena Dunham did have a minority friend who could act well enough to be in her show? Sure that would be great. Someone should make a show like that. But maybe adding a minority character in This particular show would make it an inauthentic reflection of her experience....and just because that's not what everyone else experiences doesn't make it unwatchable. Its unfortunate that they dont get to expeirence more diversity in their friend group-- and many people dont!-- and in my mind that can be seen as adding a layer to the characters. Now we know that these characters have a limited perspective; it sort of feeds the idea that they are over privileged and entitled and isolated even more.

Girls shows a slice of a small group of women's lives, and there are still things to be gained from watching it. Or not because everyone likes different shows?? Idk. It's hbo. Not CNN. It's a comedy, not the news. It's whatever it is, and it doesn't have to be anything else. It doesn't have to be all things to all people.

josefinastrummer

@somethingobscure Well said. It is a television show, not the true story of all women everywhere, or even just all women in New York. We are all capable of making our own decisions on how we live our lives and who we hang out with.

digsapony

@somethingobscure You raise an interesting point. Should minority characters be put in semi-autobiographical TV shows for diversity? Discuss.

[Playing devil's advocate, but it is interesting. I teach and you could count the non-white kids at school on two hands (North East England is not very diverse), but from the pictures on the school's website you'd think we had the ethnic diversity of central London. If this show does reflect Dunham's experience, what can she do?]

Dorothea

@somethingobscure It doesn't have to be all things to all people.

but there are a lot of us for whom there is almost nothing at all. it isn't lena dunham's fault, per se, that educated young women of color in the big city aren't represented in her tv show--or any other tv show. but we are certainly entitled to use this as an opportunity to talk about our feelings. or are we not entitled to those either?

and come on, being a person of color is not the same thing as being somebody with short hair who doesn't drink alcohol. you don't really think that all traits are the same.

somethingobscure

@blahstudent by all means, talk about your feelings. the lack of shows featuring women of color is certainly important to talk about. But saying they need to be featured in THIS particular show just doesn't make sense to me.

And of course being a person of color isn't the same as having short hair and drinking alcohol -- I used such absurd nuances on purpose because, to me, it's just illogical to critique something for not being what you want it to be when it's simply not meant to be what you want it to be, whether it's something really important (like race) or something unimportant that you choose (like hairstyles).

han
han

@somethingobscure Except this show was really marketed as "20-something girls in the big city! making it big!" not "Lena Dunham's Adventures with Brian Williams' Daughter," even if that's really what it is. I get what you're saying, but it's aggravating to have a show purport to be about this broad swath of people in a very specific place and yet so obviously leave out a huge part of that experience/demographic.

Not to mention, most people involved in the project seems to be there because of nepotism, which to me says that maybe all Dunham really knows/notices is this privileged whitewashed version of her city, and the lack of diversity isn't some snide commentary on rich white girls in NYC but just a fact of life for her. Which is kind of sad but not all that interesting to me.

somethingobscure

@digsapony See, ugh, I hate when institutions attempt to make themselves look more diverse. Is a fake portrayal of diversity better than a realistic acknowledgement of the LACK of diversity? Which is more likely to lead to changes that might promote REAL diversity: faking it or recognizing the truth?

Dorothea

@somethingobscure but would it be un-faithful to lena dunham's life experience to include an asian or black or hispanic character? are women of color not capable of having the same characteristics as the characters in the show? i think one of the reasons we feel so strongly is that the characters are so much like us--it's as if somebody out there thinks that it's not possible for women of color to be the way that the characters on girls are.

grey's anatomy has a lot of problems, but i love that shonda rhimes engaged in color-blind casting. because very few characters actually have to be white or black or asian--we just default assume that they're white absent evidence otherwise.

somethingobscure

@han For something "not all that interesting" to a lot of people, the show is clearly generating some realistic talks about race. Whether that was Lena's (or anyone associated with the show) intention or not, who knows. But, as you pointed out, the whitewashing that exists on TV, in this case, is a reflection of reality. So, isn't it better to see things the way they are (and talk about THAT) as opposed to inserting false diversity into a TV show? Maybe it would make for more appealing TV if Lena had a black friend, but then we wouldn't be seeing things as they, unfortunately, really are.

somethingobscure

@blahstudent Do you learn what you're capable of doing by watching TV shows? I don't watch grey's anatomy, but I'm pretty sure there's a white woman on there, and that doesn't for a second lead me to think I could actually be a doctor (SQUEAMISH!). It's unfortunate that anyone watching a TV show about a particular lifestyle would feel that it wasn't possible for them to live like that just because the characters weren't the same race as them. Does anyone actually feel that way? If so, maybe TV has too much power over our self-perceptions.

I'm white, but I am not like the girls on Girls, and I don't personally want to be like the girls in Girls. In any case, I stand by what I said @Han. How is it better to falsely insert diversity where maybe there really isn't any? Clearly there are asian and hispanic and black women that are similar in personality/work/lifestyle to Lena Dunham, but none of them have movies and TV shows -- or at least I don't think? If so, I'd love to watch! But it seems like there is whitewashing happening behind the scenes of Girls and the show is probably a reflection of that. I think the truth is more compelling, if more upsetting, than false diversity.

atipofthehat

@somethingobscure

I think there's something else at work in TV and elsewhere, and that's having a bunch of white writers who feel terribly uncomfortable writing any characters who are different enough to put them on a collision course with the many unconscious things they have absorbed about THE OTHERS. Because, if they are good writers but don't have a wide range of experience with people of all races, classes, and gender orientations, they'll soon notice that they are coming up with drivel and that the character they are trying to create is a stereotype. And that can make them realize how half-baked their own perceptions have been, and how little they know, which is not a good feeling.

On the other hand, there's the door: anyone is free to open it, go out, meet some of the other people who deserve respect and understanding and representation. And maybe bring back some talented writers with different experience to help with the writing.

RK Fire

@somethingobscure:
Do you learn what you're capable of doing by watching TV shows? I don't watch grey's anatomy, but I'm pretty sure there's a white woman on there, and that doesn't for a second lead me to think I could actually be a doctor (SQUEAMISH!).

I don't think you mean to sound this way, but this sounds a little naive. Just take a look at this for a really concrete (albeit old) example. For those of us who grow up in households that try to impress upon very constrictive career aspirations on us that are then reinforced by mainstream culture, it is actually nice to see people on TV or the movies who are in roles that are outside of the usual stereotypes. Different ethnic media and blogosphere actually highlight those people and those roles for that reason.

Also, with regards to this idea that if anyone feels this strongly about it, they should just go write their own stories: people are doing this! And you know, white people who write reasonable stories about people of color, or people of color writing about other people of color, still have a hell of a time getting financial support and structural support from Hollywood.

Examples:
-one example here about Harold and Kumar
-Danny Glover's ongoing project to get a movie made on Toussaint LOverture
-the fact that George Lucas had trouble fundraising for Red Tails, a movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen.

And two of three of those projects were being led by white people..

somethingobscure

@RK Fire ...
1. I would probably rather see minority (and ALL) girls aspire to be in NASA than to be like the girls on Girls. Also, whoopi goldberg.
2. It's not every TV show's job to inspire people to do great things, especially when the people on the TV shows aren't really doing that great of things.
3. It's great that some TV characters do inspire people to be more than a stereotype.
4. 2 and 3 can be true at the same time.
5. TV is full of characters that we don't want to emulate. As is the world. Then there are some that we do want to emulate. Not everything is an intentional example for future mimicry all the time, and if you think TV shows should be held responsible for the fact that they are our idols and inspiration all the time, then there are quite a lot of irresponsible TV shows out there.

And also, needless to say, the grey's anatomy thing was a joke. But I wonder, hmm.... did I mean to sound naive? Trying to seem naive is interesting because why would you want to sound naive? Maybe you'd really only do it to sort of play dumb. I wonder why anyone would want to do that? Maybe to mock without seeming mocking. I don't know. I'm naive about that I guess.

thebestjasmine

@somethingobscure The point is not that girls watch Grey's Anatomy and want to be doctors. The point is that black girls can watch it and see a representation of themselves on TV as something that is not the Other. You watch TV and see yourself all the time. Step outside of your own experience and see how alienating it is to almost never get that.

RK Fire

@somethingobscure:
Dude, I'm not trying to mock you--I realize you were making a joke. The sarcasm isn't necessary. I was just saying that I thought you sounded naive (insteading of saying that you are naive, because I don't know you) because it didn't sound like you were really thinking about the way that TV might seem to people of color, nor did it sound like you were aware of how powerful representation on TV could be.

So, anyways, a lot of the tone of the discussion I think we're having on this show is not exactly about Girls and only Girls but how the production and casting is symptomatic of larger institutional issues... and that's why the argument about how this show doesn't have to carry the burdens of being everything to everyone fall flat to me. It's not just about this one particular show.

P.S. I'm trying really hard to be sincere and have a genuine conversation about this, instead of being snarky and sarcastic without communicating any of this even though it's really tempting for me to do so.. would it be too much to ask for you to do the same?

josefinastrummer

@thebestjasmine As a white woman, I do see myself portrayed on TV all the time. This weekend I switchec back and forth between Dance Moms Miami and Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids. Just about everyone on both shows was white and all of them were awful, terrible people. It's alienating that television in general is total crap. We need to turn off our TVs in general and read a book or get outside or whatever. But we need to stop expecting and allowing the media to define who we are supposed to be. This show Girls is "the" show about women my age? Well, no it's not, not for me!

deepomega

@somethingobscure Listen, I'm really busy at work so I don't have time to frame this as a joke. So: You're not funny.

Danzig!

@somethingobscure I do think there is something a bit horrific about a show that is aiming for verisimilitude around a particular place, not showing that place honestly. I mean, Friends, yeah, there are no minorities there, because that place they live in is clearly not real. But the Brooklyn of Girls is supposed to be the real place, and it is really not like that, even in its hippest neighborhoods.

thebestjasmine

@josefinastrummer Hmm, I disagree with that. Sure, there's a lot of crap on TV, but there's a lot of crap in all media, along with a lot of really great stuff. I think that saying "TV sucks!" is not the solution to this, especially since reading a book isn't always the solution, with the terrible numbers of women and people of color represented in books as well. Nothing about this conversation is expecting and allowing the media to define who we are, it is saying that TV is an important medium in daily life, and we can't let it off the hook.

RK Fire

@deepomega: Thanks. I mean, I could just respond with memes and snark throughout this entire discussion, but I thought it wouldn't be fair to my fellow Hairpinners, especially since I'm trying to operate from an assumption that we're all genuinely trying to learn shit.

null

@josefinastrummer It would not have taken you very long to find a show that did not depict white women as awful, terrible people. Do you think a minority could say the same thing?

somethingobscure

@deepomega Haters gonna hate

somethingobscure

@RK Fire I'm being snarky?? Did any of you even read my original post? You're tryin to make my argument something that it's not. Its great that you are talking about other tv shows and it's great that Harold and kumar were able to inspire a generation of Asian stoners, but I was actually JUST talking about Girls. Of course there should be minority actors in roles that break stereotypes and are blind to gender and race. But does every show including this one show also have to do that? No.

To me, this isn't about race, it's about artistic license and it's about not forcing something positive like racial diversity someplace where it might not really be present. Like Lena dunhams friend group.

thebestjasmine

@somethingobscure Yeah, we read your original post. You said "I don't have much knowledge about racial representation in the media and the impact It has, but to me that doesn't really matter, just like it doesn't matter that they all have long hair or drink alcohol."

We are saying a) it matters to us, which you apparently don't understand, and b) race is different than long hair and drinking alcohol, which I guess you thought was a cute comparison.

deepomega

@somethingobscure I've said this like eighteen times but WHATEVER let's do it one more: Every single show without minorities is defended with your argument. "I didn't want to compromise the creative vision of the show by FORCING minorities into it, and besides if I had you'd just have yelled at me for faking it!" Every one. And in aggregate, this results in there being no shows with non-white characters. No show exists in a vacuum, and that same excuse ("it's just ONE show with only white people in it!") doesn't work when it is used on EVERY show.

Danzig!

@Danzig! Welp I just realized @WaityKatie said what I said more succinctly in a previous thread, 2 hours earlier. Foiled again

Faintly Macabre

@thebestjasmine Agreed. I'm Jewish, and look very Ashkenazi, and while we're a much more privileged/Hollywood-represented group on average than people of color, I didn't quite realize what I'd been missing until I started watching Mad Men. Suddenly there were female Jewish characters who weren't either Yiddish-dropping moms or unidentifiable as Jewish except for one line of dialogue, who could be both culturally Jewish and a major romantic interest. More broadly, the same goes for Peggy. And I'm sure a lot of the depth of Jewish representation on Mad Men has to do with Matthew Weiner's background.

While I think having a token character of color can be as awkward as none, not hiring a writer/contributor/actor for that reason is a demonstration of discomfort, not of unfortunate circumstances.

RK Fire

@somethingobscure: Okay. You are saying that hey, racial diversity is nice and well, but maybe Lena Dunham's work wouldn't be artistically.. I don't know, authentic, if it actually casted people of color. What some of us on this thread are saying is that the name of "artistic license" isn't enough to make it free from critiques re. casting. Also, "artistic license" also means that she could have also had the license to case non-white people as her friends, and she chose not to do that.. and it's worth asking why.

Everyone else has kind of commented and responded to the rest of your reply to me in a much faster and succinct way that I could, so I'm just going to cosign onto thebestjasmine's response to you.

Finally, just out of curiosity, do you think artistic license operates independently of the artist and an art movement's perspectives on race, class, gender, and sexuality, and a whole host of other things?

EDIT: Just read your response to iceberg, and honestly... I understand what you're trying to say, but it sounded like you were trying to brush off what I was trying to say. For example: the thing with Harold Kumar is not that it inspired a generation of Asian stoners, it's that it showed Asian men as something other than sexless nerds.

Honestly, I personally would prefer to have a couple of token characters of color on a show as opposed to none at all if they were reasonably written/not stereotypes because it would mean that at least the show creators are cognizant of the issue which is better than seeing all white people, all the time, as deepomega is referencing.. Just my opinion, ymmv, etc.

somethingobscure

@iceberg I am listening. I just have a different opinion. And I said several times, yes, it would be great if the show were different but its reflecting a sad truth that world is not ideal. Whitewashing exists, and what I took from the show was that their lack of diversity among the cast meant these are very white white girls with a limited perspective on race, economic adversity, and basically a lot of real world problems. Their lack of perspective and diversity is not a positive thing, but it is something real and to me, still interesting. If its not interesting to you, that's fine. I don't thnk the show should have to change to be inclusive when clearly this is a very exclusive group of people who I don't really identify with either. That doesn't mean that it's not worth looking at, and, as I've said above, hopefully seeing the glaring truth that there is probably a lot of whiteness/nepotism behind the scenes as well as on screen might lead to people acknowledging the real lack of diversity. If they had added in a minority friend, like photoshopping "diversity" onto a school bulletin as someone said above, then the truth of the matter wouldn't have been evident and Girls would be complicit in covering up the real problem. I like that it shows them for who they are, as unappealing as that makes them.

thebestjasmine

@somethingobscure Lack of perspective and lack of diversity isn't an academic thing to me. I don't find it interesting. You can find it interesting all you want, but people here are saying that it's alienating.

And yes, I would much much prefer for them to have a token person of color on the show. Because then it would seem like they at least recognized that this was a problem. But they didn't, because they don't. (Which is just what RK Fire said, and yes, I agree with everything she said too).

somethingobscure

@deepomega I don't watch much TV so I don't know what other shows your talking about...game of thrones, maybe? But, anyway, no, you're wrong. Not every show is going to have to force minorities into it because minorities are present in all places/professions/lifestyles and they fit just fine. However, in Girls, you're basically looking at a clique of new york girls who are isolated and have an over-inflated sense of self importance (at least that's what I got from it?) so to me, they're making a race argument by ignoring race in their cast.

@thebestjasmine Clearly I don't understand exactly where you guys are coming from, but I am not attempting to undermine the value of racial diversity on TV. I'm just looking at it from a totally different perspective, and I still think talking about it is great. If Girls had included a racially diverse friend, would we be having this conversation at all? Would we even be thinking about the fact that probably all her friends IRL are white and their rich white parents helped make her success possible when the rest of us lowly middle classers with student loans and cheap rent are the same age and have not even a chance at the kind of opportunities she's had? Probably not to this extent.

I think expressing that you feel alienated by a show is important too; but in my opinion, that doesn't mean the show should change. Hopefully, REALITY will change, and the shows we watch will reflect a much more positive, inclusive, fair world. But at this point they don't. Just like Lena Dunham shows her dimply thighs, there are imperfections in their personalities and perspectives as well, and I think the casting reveals that.

And anyway, at what point does diversification cross with being "color blind" and then they end up cancelling each other out?

somethingobscure

@thebestjasmine It's certainly upsetting that the creators of the show don't see their racial homogeneity as a problem, but it's the truth. We can be frustrated at their tunnel vision and hope they change, but it's important, I think, to realize that people like that do exist. I wonder how they are reacting to the backlash and if it's really hit them that they are living in a privileged white world ....or if they are simply thinking, CRAP, we need to include a black girl so we don't offend anyone. I'd hate to think that the alarmist responses would make them do the latter because it's not getting at the crux of the problem.

.
.

@somethingobscure The casting of this show IS REALITY. Actors of color do not get jobs *in real life* because of whitewashing. It is not a hypothetical exercise for those people. And hoping that things will magically get better by perpetuating the erasure of poc in the media and denying them opportunities will not work because it's hypocritical. And I have no idea what that last sentence means at all.

thebestjasmine

@somethingobscure I think we all know that people like this exist. We didn't need Girls to tell us that people out there don't hire black people and have tunnel vision. I'm not sure why you think that this one show was necessary for that teaching moment.

josefinastrummer

@klaus Yes, I honestly do think that if you have cable, you can find a show that portrays just about anyone in a positive light. Do you know how many channels were on this TV? I was up to 855 or something like that.

somethingobscure

@Mooah It seems like she was casting her friends anyway, not even actors. But anyway, how is it hypocritical to hope?

And the last sentence...not really that relevant but I was just thinking. So, diversification is a purposeful inclusion of various races, whereas being colorblind is a purposeful disregard for race. They are both seen as positive and they might produce identical results, but they are actually competing ideas. In a series of all possible outcomes, at some point colorblindness would result in (using the tv casting example) a single-race cast which would negate efforts to diversify.

thebestjasmine

@somethingobscure Color-blindness is often not thought of as a positive thing, no.

han
han

@somethingobscure That wasn't my point--I said that the show's whitewashiness was maybe because of Dunham's own life, but what's in the show is objectively NOT just Dunham's life, or her friend's lives. They all have famous parents and are very wealthy-- I'd say they're all far beyond even upper-middle class lifestyles, while in the show she and her friends are clearly supposed to be at least relatable socioeconomically. So even if she does have only rich white friends IRL, it's not as though the show is an autobiography! She's not even trying to write Gossip Girl. (Hell, even Gossip Girl had a black girl in Brooklyn.)

I don't think not having any POC was an 'artistic' choice, meant to highlight her characters' latent racism. I see no evidence of that. I think it's because Dunham plain old didn't consider it important or relevant, which may very well be because of her rich white social circle. But including POC would benefit the show she's trying to make, not hinder it.

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@somethingobscure It is hypocritical to hope for eventual equality while arguing vigorously for the (unequal) status quo.

I don't think colorblindness is positive at all, and it is certainly not possible in an acting audition. People can say that they 'don't see color' but that is bullshit unless they are visually impaired. Stereotypes affect how people see each other, and marginalized people get the short end of the stick because of it. Erasing differences doesn't bring equality- they need to be seen for what they are and be addressed and accepted.

somethingobscure

@thebestjasmine I never said I thought Girls was NECESSARY as a teaching moment. That's absurd. I just think that it is what it is, and it's not doing anything blatantly WRONG, it's just showing an unpleasant side of people. If this one show doesn't include racial diversity it can still have merit on it's own. Not everyone likes the show! That's cool! I don't really care. It's not my favorite show ever or anything, but I don't think it should have to change, and I don't think the principles of justice and equality will crumble because of an unrelatable cast. I don't relate to them and I wouldn't necessarily want to be friends with them in real life, but I am entertained by the show. IDK. SORRY. I never watched sex and the city so maybe I should have already gotten my fill of 4 wealthy white ladies on TV. Maybe/hopefully some good will/can come out of it by having a race discussion.

han
han

@Mooah I wonder if in this case it wasn't so much colorblindness but just opening casting up to non-white actors? Because usually casting calls ask for a specific race, often white (see: the hunger games casting call for Katniss as a white girl despite her racial ambiguity in the books)

somethingobscure

@Mooah I'm not arguing FOR the status quo, as in, a society where racism exists....I'm not making a political argument or even an argument about race....hence my "cute" comparison of race to having long hair. It's not about race to me, although I respect that for some people, it is upsetting -- and luckily, you don't have to watch shows you don't like! I think it's interesting to draw conclusions about our society based on what we want to watch. Fundamentally, I think that it's perfectly okay for TV shows, books, movies, etc, to do their own thing and not have to portray falsehoods for the sake of anyone's approval, just like I am glad that artists don't have to follow renaissance guidelines for how to make appealing art. Yes, of course, there are other issues at play...but that's why I didn't respond someone else's comment of valid sentiment that they were upset by the plight of minorities in the entertainment industry. It's valid to feel that way. I made my own comment because I am thinking about it from a less emotional perspective. Should the show have to change? Should it have to be appealing to everyone? In my opinion, no matter what the reason (within the confines of legality), Girls should have artistic license to do what they want, and I personally appreciate their candor and the realistic look into a very small part of society that I personally don't know that well.

somethingobscure

@Mooah Somoene else actually mentioned color blindness as a positive thing, I think it was about the grey's anatomy director?

@Han yes, that's upsetting that people wanted to cast a white katniss! I'm not sure how girls did their casting but I was under the impression it was mostly friends of hers that she already knew. But what's the solution...regulate the entertainment industry?

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@somethingobscure Oh hell no. "less emotional perspective?" Ew I was afraid this thread would get like this.
You don't see the issue as having to do with race because you are clueless about the reality of racial inequality in this country. It is not just about this show and the whims of a privileged director or creator or producer. It is a system in which very few people of color can get their stories told in a way that is not degrading or trivial.
This is the problem with colorblindness. You think that you are being 'objective' but you are arguing for the status quo like people's personal tastes and the market will take care of institutional racism magically for you. This is all very 'interesting' for you, great. But don't have the illusions that you are on the side of racial equality, eventual or not.

josefinastrummer

@han I don't know anything about how casting works, so is that for real that there is always a race included in casting calls? I am really surprised that for movies like The Hunger Games they don't just go for the best actress. I always think of Rashida Jones and how people give her shit about not going for more black roles. Maybe she isn't invited to audition for those roles or she is turned down?

RK Fire

@josefinastrummer: Race is usually involved in casting calls, and usually when casting directors decided on who is the "best" actor, a lot of it has to do with ambigious words like "fit" and "look." And I say it's ambigious because there are a lot of people of color who may have the acting chops but "fit" and "look" are weasel words that can be used to select a white person over a person of color, even though the physical appearance of a person of color can vary so, so much.

TL;DR: Some white people can look like people who identify as black! Some black people can pass as white! There are spectrum of Latinos can pass as everyone! And yet somehow we still have mostly white, non-Latino people cast for an overwhelming majority of parts.

[sorry, i'm just getting goofy and tired now]

Danzig!

@RK Fire I cling to the good stories. Like CCH Pounder killing an audition so hard that the writers of The Shield rewrote her role from a white dude to a black woman. And she was the best thing about that show!

RK Fire

@Danzig!: Dude. CCH Pounder was AMAZING in The Shield. I guess it does go both ways, but I think I'm just so jaded from say, all of the attempt to make live action versions of The Last Airbender to Akira (I don't know why I'm focusing on anime) to the fact that Kal Penn/Kalpen Modi "Americanized" his name to get more callbacks from auditions, and it worked.

I also don't know why I'm fixating on Harold and Kumar today. I've only seen the first movie. o_O

Anyway. Do you have any other good stories? All I can think of that is similar is Lucy Liu auditioning for Ally McBeal--they wrote a role for her--but the evil twist is that she was pretty much a walking Dragon Lady character for awhile! Womp womp.

Danzig!

@RK Fire Race in anime is a weird thing in general (there was a really good blog post that outlined an enlightening Japanese perspective on it, but I can't find it) but the thing with Avatar was that the (relative, to real world) ethnicities of all the different cultures on the show were obviously delineated but with the movie they just made everybody 'cept the villains white.

As for other good stories, I want to say that Andre Braugher had a similar experience with Homicide Life On the Street but that show (and The Wire) was the polar opposite of Girls insofar as verisimilitude in cast diversity goes.

Alexmen

the polar opposite of Girls insofar as verisimilitude in cast diversity goes. Night life

Alexmen

representation of this Information is actually superb one. This is my first visit to your site....chistesdejaimito

Kristen Felicetti

"The argument has been made that smart women on screen are already enough of a minority to make up for the lack of women of color. Nope. Not good enough."

YES, yes, EXACTLY this. Thank you for writing this entire article, Jenna Wortham. It is excellent. I hope the creators of Girls read it, I hope everyone does.

null

@Kristen Felicetti I'm tagging on to your comment to say pretty much exactly the same thing. The fact that this article is on here in the first place and that there are so many great comments to add to the discussion has put my love for this site over the top.

StandardTuber

I think an argument can be made that the show is good in and of itself, but the press surrounding it has hyped it UP to be "the" show about coming-of-age for young women.

It's not that at all.

That would be like saying "Seinfeld mirrored the experiences of daily life for all New Yorkers in the late 1980s to late 1990s". I do not think so.

Are there any other shows, or movies, out there that DO represent a diverse group of young folks, coming-of-age? One of my favorites (of all time) has to be the movie Smoke Signals.

crawdad

I haven't seen the show yet, but I thought the idea was that all of the girls were exactly the same as eachother, as many girl friend groups seem to be. I thought it was making fun of that aspect a little. maybe I was wrong? Does anyone else see it that way?

DH@twitter

@crawdad

It definitely doesn't seem impossible that the show is making a point (about homosociality, or whatever) and the mainstream media missed it completely.

Danzig!

@crawdad It feels to me like the show is not really cognizant of its characters' actual privilege such that it would be satirizing them. It clearly underlines the fact that all of the characters are the scions of upper-class families but there aren't any characters outside of that milieu who would make it apparent that such circumstances aren't completely commonplace in Brooklyn, or that they are living charmed lives. It's portrayed as normal.

WaityKatie

@Danzig! I don't necessarily think so. There was at least one line (spoken by a male acquaintance when they were in one of their apartments, I can't remember) to the effect that listening to Lena's character complain about being "poor" and how she can't work at McDonald's because she went to college was like watching "Clueless." And the stuff about "tell your parents you'll live in a garret like Flaubert" and (to her parents) "I want you to give me only 1100 dollars a month...for the next two years." I think that was all pretty clearly satirical of the entitlement mindset of the characters. I think we can probably expect more of that to come.

Danzig!

@WaityKatie You're right, and I hope so! The show's perspective just struck me as being firmly in that mindset. It pokes fun at the privilege of its characters but is so sympathetic to them that I don't know if they can really touch how odious it gets.

It's possibly I'm just touchy because I am a child of money in NYC just like the show's characters, but I grew up in an economically diverse community and learned early on that trust fundie problems aren't real problems, and you don't ever complain about that shit (also, you always buy the drinks).

crawdad

and I must admit that I thought Tiny Furniture was an utter failure, so I did not have high hopes for this show anyway

RK Fire

Does anyone else find it a little reductive and insulting to white people to just chalk this up as another instance of "[they] are only writing about what they know?" People have mentioned Shonda Rimes as a writer who is able to somehow manage writing and casting a diverse show, and the writers of the Harold and Kumar movies began the scripts partly in reaction to the fact that the portrayals of Asian Americans in Hollywood did not match up at all to their college friendships with Asian Americans. I wish I could find the blog entry and news articles easily to back up the latter, but I do remember that being part of the coverage back in 2002.

discocammata

@RK Fire

The only I ask of the stuff I watch is that they are "reductive and insulting to white people".

RK Fire

@discocammata: Reality TV is good to you then, no?

Emma Peel

@RK Fire Yes! Usually I stay out of these threads because I feel like I learn more from listening than talking, but hearing "but this represents reality for 24-year-old white girls!" is grinding my gears.

I'm pretty damn white, and this doesn't resemble my reality in the slightest. There was a point post-college when I could name more interracial relationships (including my own) than same-race relationships among my friends. (And most of us work in pretty white career fields, didn't go to particularly diverse colleges or grow up in diverse areas -- ie there's no reason to believe we're more diverse than the usual random city-dwelling 20-somethings.) We don't sit around and have Big Talks about Race or anything -- in fact, it almost never comes up -- but while college admissions brochures are still an idealized picture of racial harmony, our generation resembles those more than yearbooks from the 1950s, overall.

Emma Peel

@M. A. Peel At least, that's my excuse for writing a bunch of comments that essentially boil down to "BUT I HAVE BLACK FRIENDS." #embarrassing

Danzig!

They've got a British character! That's diverse, right?

It was pretty weird when I watched the pilot and realized that the first minority character on the series is an older black man who may or may not be homeless, accosting the main character on the street with an invitation to smile.*

The not-quite-oblivious callousness of the dude that the main character's sleeping with was a nice touch. They're probably going in the direction of the protag realizing he's a dick and dumping him but it felt pretty true to the casual relationships that I've witnessed. Sometimes people can't bring themselves to care about whether or not the person they're sleeping with is a total superstar.

*Actually I just remembered the Asian intern who knows photoshop. So that's 2 minority characters with as many lines between them in half an hour.

Danzig!

So I guess we can all agree that this is better than I Just Want My Pants Back?

WaityKatie

@Danzig! I can't even explain the white-hot rage that show inspires in me, and I've never even watched an entire episode. Every time I see anything relating to it, I immediately start yelling.

Danzig!

@WaityKatie We gotta get tickets to the ~~Wavves show~~!

Kelly McClure@facebook

I understand, but I don't agree. If I were to watch a show that so perfectly represented every culture, race, and religion, it would seem so forced deliberate that it would take away from any good intention it was going for. You can't have a show that's about everyone in the world. It would be like watching Mad Men and thinking "there are no interior designers or veterinarians ANYWHERE in this show!" Because the show isn't about interior designers or veterinarians, it's about ad men. MEN. Which is infuriating to think about, a show all about white, wealthy men who cheat on their spouses. But Mad Men is the most popular show on TV. It's just a show. And Girls is just another one.

null

@Kelly McClure@facebook @Kelly McClure@facebook Mad Men is not just about ad men though, they regularly delve into issues of misogyny and racism and some of the most popular characters are in fact women. Given the era the show is set in, they could certainly get away with avoiding those topics if they wanted to, but it wouldn't be a very interesting or realistic show and I doubt it would be nearly as popular. With this in mind, it further begs the question why a show set in modern day New York can't find a way to fit a POC in their cast, rich and privileged or not. Maybe they will!

(I'll start being concerned about the under representation of interior designers / veterinarians in the media when they make up 36% of our population.)

Hiroine Protagonist

@Kelly McClure@facebook You've constructed a straw man argument. No one is reacting to the fact that the show isn't perfectly representing the world. They're reacting to YET ANOTHER show that whitewashes reality. In friggin Brooklyn! And I'm just going to spam the comment section with Moff's Law, for everyone who bothers enough to post about why no one should be bothered enough to post about this.

http://www.racialicious.com/2009/12/21/and-we-shall-call-this-moffs-law/

Kelly McClure@facebook

@klaus You *almost* got what I was trying to say, but not quite. Thanks for your thoughtful response though.

charlo

@Danzig! yes. this. I just watched the first episode, and Lena Dunham's character was so grating to me I had difficulty watching the whole thing. Even if there IS supposed to be satire, I feel like it's being done pretty hamhandedly (is that a word?) and I basically just cringed for an entire hour, with brief moments of missing living in the city (like when the guy yells at her at the end).
And yeah, as everyone has said...how someone can live in NYC and only have white people in their lives seems a bit strange. (or at least unlikely).

Lenora Jane

@charlo Hamfistedly!

Lemonnier

Okay, so it's definitely waaaay too white. But I'm 12 minutes into it, and amazingly, I kind of like it (in terms of dialogue, characters, etc). But ... that's because it's making fun of the characters, right? You're supposed to be kind of disgusted with the main character (parents still supporting her, entitled, working on a memoir at 24, over-inflated sense of self), and feel like she deserves to be taken down a few pegs, right?

And it's got Joyce the photographer (from Mad Men) and Chris Eigeman in it! It's just not a movie about aimless, privileged youth without Chris Eigeman! (Seriously though, love him.)

Lemonnier

@Lemonnier Finished it. Yeah, I think you're supposed to be majorly grossed out by Hannah. She threw a tantrum and stole $20 from a hotel housekeeper. Ugh.

Amphora

@Lemonnier I agree with you - I spent the whole time laughing at how much Hannah reminds me of some of the overprivileged girls I've known from going to a tiny liberal arts college and living near NYC (okay I lived in jersey, but it was only an hour away...)

Tallulah B

A cupcake in the bathtub?! Come on...

RK Fire

@Tallulah B: This mostly confuses me because I think that a wet cupcake is a sad and non-delicious cupcake.

/won't someone think of the cupcakes?

atipofthehat

@RK Fire

Hang them from edible threads before the bath?

Can one be pistachio and another coconut?

Danzig!

@Tallulah B When you're living in NYC you just don't have time to separate dessert and baths

RK Fire

@Danzig!: I eagerly await the cupcake martini & shower combo then. Why not combine alcohol, dessert, and personal hygiene?

Danzig!

@RK Fire I shower, eat dessert, drink, wash dishes, brush my teeth, and walk my dog all at the same time. Harlem's just got its own pace

Stefani Shock@facebook

I have lived in NYC for ten years and I think I've seen a group of white and black girls together zero times. Maybe what bothers people about the fact that there aren't any black girls in this white posse is because realistically, that's just the way it is. I used to watch the show Girlfriends and I don't recall white people being injected into the story in order to appeal to the white race so what's the deal here? As a side note, I have read all the reviews on this show and seen the show and frankly, I think everyone is over thinking it. It's cute. It reminds me of my early twenties but as far as it being the voice of a generation, the buck pretty much stopped during the unrealistic anal sex scene on the couch. This isn't a deep thinking show.

Emma Peel

@Stefani Shock@facebook That may be what you've seen (although it genuinely surprises me), but this thread is filled with people saying a more diverse group ISN'T less realistic, so why not add characters that represent more than just white people? There are privileged Brooklyn kids who are black and Hispanic and Asian (East and South) and mixed-race and all of the above. Do you think one of her friends being a different skin color would really cause that many people to say "Oh, come on, this is unrealistic?"

To argue by anecdote right back: I am exactly Dunham's age. I am from a white high school in a super white state, went to a private Midwestern college with an eh track record on diversity, didn't get involved with diversity-themed groups, and still graduated with a group of friends that -- while not exactly a rainbow coalition, and certainly far from socioeconomically diverse -- isn't homogeneous either. From college and internships, I ended up with a group of friends that is probably about 70% white, but the rest are representative of pretty much all races/religions.

And my non-white friends are far more likely to be girls -- which isn't surprising if you know about demographic trends in college attendance, and which would make a more diverse group even less out of place on this show.

Also, some of my non-white friends started out as random roommates (from Craigslist or university housing), so there's that -- even if they managed to seek out a white bubble on purpose, part of city living is colliding with people who are different (in skin color and in other ways) from you.

carbonation

@Stefani Shock@facebook "I used to watch the show Girlfriends and I don't recall white people being injected into the story in order to appeal to the white race so what's the deal here?"

...Seriously?

connie

@Stefani Shock@facebook

As a white NY'er for the past 23 years which is all my life I have no idea where you reside or where you roam to even claim that you have never seen a racially mixed group of girls hanging out in NYC. You don't have to have close friends of another race but to say that the two groups never interact is just nonsense.

carolita

@connie but there are plenty of women who don't interact with other racial groups. You have to admit that's true, too. So this show is not that unrealistic. Maybe Dunham never hung around with anyone but white girls, herself, just because that's all she had around her for some reason. It happens.

han
han

Why are there no good Hannahs in pop culture? I thought Hannah Montana was going to be the end of it, but nooo...

josefinastrummer

@han There are very few Alicias in pop culture and usually they are mean girls. I can only think of Glenn Close in The Paper and the mean friend in Drive Me Crazy played by Susan May Pratt. It's a hard life, isn't it?

Emma Peel

@josefinastrummer The Good Wife has an Alicia who's probably one of my favorite characters on TV!

_questingbeast

@josefinastrummer Alicia in the Malory Towers books; she's the best one (in an admittedly uncompetitive field). Not sure that's pop culture though.

heb
heb

This show made me understand The Billfold.

Maryaed

If I hadn't read one million comments claiming this show was about stupid elitist boring girl stuff no one could possibly care about (and one million essays claiming fiction about sexually greedy narcissistic aspiring artist/writer guys stumbling through life was Important and Universal) I might be more inclined to sympathize with the criticism that this particular fiction is not ethnically/racially representative, but alas, we're pretty lacking in female bildungsromans that aren't really about having great shoes and marrying the right guy, so I am obliged to cut Lena Dunham some slack. I bet she'll get around to acknowledging the race bubble problem.

Carolina A. Miranda@twitter

Thank you thank you yes yes yes yes.

atipofthehat

My review would be:

So far, uneven. But some of the framing and shooting and (interior, not exterior) mise-en-scène are excitingly new to TV, and I hope the bubble bursts in interesting ways.

Miss Maszkerádi

I kind of feel like, in a well-written book or TV show or play or whatever, it shouldn't matter what race or gender or socioeconomic background the characters/protagonists are IN TERMS OF a reader/viewer's being able to relate to them? I'm white, female, straight and middle class, but in my years of reading and watching things I've identified strongly with (well-written) characters male, female, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, old, young, Human, Klingon or otherwise. I feel like that's one of the points of narrative art, is being able to get inside another person's head no matter how *externally* different they might appear? And one of the great powers of art is to see past externals into the content of a human being's character...?

I mean, please understand that I'm ALL FOR diverse cultures and backgrounds being represented in pop culture. Among other reasons, it's simply BORING when everything is a carbon copy of a handful of stereotypes from only one culture. I saw a billboard for "Girls" today and it's not even the fact that they're all white that bothered me so much as that they literally all look EXACTLY the SAME, down to the hairstyles and style of dress and giant perky grins--ugh, they're the popular girls from middle school all grown up--(I say this as a still socially awkward sufferer of Acute Chronic Pensive Face, often mistaken for Chronic Bitchface) and I mean, it's not as if there aren't cultural (and personal!) differences among the many ethnic backgrounds in America that count as white, either. (side-note: they seriously set this thing in Greenpoint? And not even so much as a half-hearted Polish joke in sight?)

I just feel like sometimes these conversations have a double-edged sword built in--the perhaps implicit assumption that people can only "identify with" those of their exact same kind? The assumption that a show featuring a bunch of white girls is only "for" white people, or that a show about a black family would be "for" black people, a movie about a gay love story is only "for" LGBTQ folks and on and on...I always end up feeling icky. Because to me it feels like we're building up more walls than we're tearing down, and that instead of uniting the Human Race we're just packaging everybody off into ever-smaller subgroups of identity and assuming, however unconsciously, that they are by definition each other's antagonists.

Provocative statement time: I don't want to see a black character added to the cast of "Girls", IF her function and the reason for her being added to the story would be simply TO BE BLACK. Like, if the outcry over the white-cheerleader cast leads directly to a black character being added, I'd end up sighing in frustration that the new character would obviously be meant to be seen first as the color of her skin and second as whatever human being the writers made out of her. Ugh, I'm having a really hard time articulating my points here, but I swear I'm not trolling and I'm really not just a snotty middle class bitch blinded by the glare of her own whiteness. At least I hope I'm not.

Maybe the way to articulate what I was trying to go for in that last paragraph is the difference, in my mind, between "Casting call: Seeking Black actress" and "Casting call: auditions for new character, all ethnicities welcome." The first one, the add-a-black-girl-because-we-need-diversity one, still reduces individual human beings to the color of their skin. The second, at least in my opinion, is what we as a culture should aspire to....where diversity just HAPPENS because that's the way the world is, instead of needing to be forced.

TheMongreloid

@CountessMaritza Siiigh, if only diversity did just happen. The (racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, etc.) identity of the author does matter. Privileged (by skin color, gender, citizenship, class, etc.) people are often not surrounded by diversity. And therefore their identity(s) does inform the art they make and how people perceive it. I don't think that diversity in this show should be "forced" either, but the lack of it needs to be addressed in some way, and soon.

Miss Maszkerádi

@excitablegirl I know diversity doesn't just happen (yet), I'm not *completely* stuck in the ivory tower.

But, just playing devil's advocate again (because I am a horrible person and that's what I do when I'm procrastinating), isn't the entire dichotomy of "Privileged People" (meaning straight non-poor whites) VERSUS "Diversity" othering in itself? Aren't we, in our earnest attempts to be better, actually just perpetuating the mindset that there's white people and then there's everybody else?

Another perhaps tangential point: I live in New York also, and am a college (well, music conservatory) student--and my social circle does predominantly consist of people with pale skin. But it's a very culturally diverse group. Even among those that would be all lumped in as simply "white" on a census form (discounting for the moment the Asians and Asian-Americans who are an extremely large portion of my field's demographic) there are Midwestern Americans, Scandinavians, Russians, Israelis, Italians, various sorts of ex-Yugoslavians, Greeks, Brits, and Spaniards, fresh off the boat or several generations in the US--all flavors of Christians, secular and Orthodox Jews, atheists, agnostics, New Age types, rich and poor, liberal and conservative and apathetic. We've all got more or less the same basic shade of skin but yikes, does anybody really want to say that that alone means we're not a diverse group?

TheMongreloid

@CountessMaritza Nooo, no one wants to say that's not a diverse group, and that's why I included all sorts of identifiers in my parentheses. And I want to hang out with you and your friends.

Megasus

THEADJACK! GAME OF THRONES!!
http://blog404.org/2012/04/16/game-of-thrones-discussion-post-s02-ep03-what-is-dead-will-never-die/
I still haven't gotten to Girls yet. At this rate, it will probably be about Wednesday before I do.

anachronistique

@Megan Patterson@facebook My dad texted me at 9:19 on Sunday going "BRIENNE!!!" and that is now my Tumblr tag for her, because BRIENNE!!!

mkpatter@twitter

@anachronistique BRIENNE! I loved her. I love show Margaery so much too. That was kind of the awesome ladies being awesome episode, so of course I was all for it. Also I DID squeeze in Girls last night, and it was alright. Yes, it's white as hell, but it was promising, and I love that Lena Dunham doesn't have a so-called "perfect" body but is naked all the time. That sex scene was...way too familiar to me, lol.

summering

Pretty sure I can relate more to Golden Girls...

isavedlatin

The first Twitter comment sums it up for me perfectly.

regina dentata

It's a little upsetting to me that so much of the criticism of this show revolves around how it didn't get every little thing right. The diversity point is a VERY salient one, but here's the thing: THEY CAN FIX IT by adding in characters who are POC. We've seen one episode, and the whole season isn't in the can yet, I'm assuming. The question is, is the content of the show good? Is it worth our time? What's it saying? Many commenters seem to be really glossing over that point to quickly put it out there that this show isn't representative of everyone's experience. And, while I get that...

I'm a little worried that the people who could support this show and see it as (an albeit imperfect) step in the right direction (in that it presents a cast of female characters who are allowed to be flawed, messy, immature, imperfect, written and helmed by a young, imperfect female writer) are going to write it off because it's not ALL THE STEPS in the right direction. Is it because this show was supposed to belong to all of us, as women, and instead it belongs to all of... her?

discocammata

@regina dentata "THEY CAN FIX IT by adding in characters who are POC."

2 Broke Girls tried to do this in response to the criticism levied on them for their HIGHLY RACIST depiction of the Chinese diner owner. They're looking for an "attractive, Asian male" for one of the characters to date. I think it's equally problematic to arbitrarily add non-white characters just to pander to the critics. Not that Girls would necessarily go about it in such a ham-fisted manner, though! And I totally agree with you about people overlooking the actual content of the show in favor of pointing out all the ways in which it doesn't match up to their own experiences. (Although...all the bathroom hangouts? Is that a thing now? Am I missing out on heart-to-heart talks with my lady friends on the loo?)

(Edit to add: what this show REALLY needs is writers of color, not white writers trying to write non-white characters!)

Diana

God help me, I just can't bring myself to watch another goddamn show about life for 20somethings in New York City or Los Angeles. I just don't give a shit. I live in the Bay Area so it isn't even as though I'm in some reclusive area far removed from urban life, but even I find this kind of solipsistic focus on the Big Two baffling and boring. Even if it were a bunch of black women hauling yoga mats from one one night stand to the next, I'd give them an appreciative nod for the casting and still never watch because I don't caaaaaaare.

(HIMYM is the single exception to this rule and that's only because it reminds me so much of a grownup Boy Meets World.)

Slutface

@Diana HIMYM is about people in their 30s so both you and I are safe in our watching.

roadtrips

I know that I am really late to this discussion but I felt moved to simply add a point that may have been made but I didn't see it in my skimming of the comments, which is:

Criticism is not the same thing as dismissal. Criticism is not the same thing as making a binary argument and it is not the same thing as slander or insult. Most of the criticisms I've read of this show in the comments and in the article are presented in a relatively thoughtful way and generally point out that the overwhelming lack of diversity on the show is a social problem that is being exemplified.

When it comes to representation of diverse identities in mainstream media, it is always appropriate to criticize bias, misrepresentation, and exclusion. No, obviously it's not possible or appropriate for a show to literally be all things to all people. However, what gets put out in the mainstream media is political and it is absolutely necessary to have a critical conversation about that.

It might be OK to write what you know and exclude large groups of people, but it's also OK to problematize that exclusion. It's a conversation and it needs to be a much more public one.

Lenora Jane

@roadtrips Just...everything you said. This is a point that I feel gets lost SO quickly in SO MANY discussions of this ilk. And it's not just a missing point in the discussion--it's a point that causes the discussion to continue to function.

Brittabot

Are any of you guys still reading this? I watched the first episode again and have some more thoughts if anyone cares.
--minor spoilers for episode 1--
First of all, if this was advertised as The Show For All Us Ladies, the ladies that don't see themselves in it have a right to be angry because that clearly was some false advertising on Hbo's part and we all know a white lady shouldn't stand for Everylady, although it clearly does in some parts and that's sad.
I didn't see any adverts except for the trailer (I live in Europe) and after seeing the first episode I thought the pushing of the whole "voice of my generation" thing was pretty stupid, considering that a)Dunham's character is stoned out of her mind and begging her parents for money when she says it and b)it's clearly meant to be ridiculous and we're expected to laugh at her for it.
The uber-whiteness of it all seems weird when you know it's supposed to be Brooklyn, but we only see a close group of her friends in the first episode and they stay inside for 95% of it so I'm willing to let it slide this time. But I'm glad people are talking about it and if the whole season stays whitewashed like that we should give her crap for it and she should be able to learn from that and do better next time, if she gets a "next time".
Now for the whole "she writes what she knows" part. If you saw Tiny Furniture (I did and I didn't really care that much for it), you know that that's what she does (her family plays themselves there and so on) and that that clearly is what she was hired to do here. I'm not saying every 20-something should write about themselves and we should all care, but that kinda is her trademark now and that's what Hbo pays her for.
Apart from that, I though it was very well written (much, much better than TF for example) and very well directed and I think people should check it out (if you don't care to watch white 20-somethings that's cool; but if you can stand it, it's probably the best of its sort on the air right now).
I do think she is shaping up to be a good writer and it would be a shame if cluelessness or self-absorbtion (or even racism? - I hope not) of the creator prevented Girls from becoming a truly great show because I really think it has a potential of beeing something like My So-Called Life or Freaks And Geeks (then again - lots of white people in those shows as well, right?).
What I'm saying is, don't judge it before you see it if you have any interest in it at all - see it, then judge it, then let's watch the whole season and talk about it and maybe complain to Hbo if they continue to think a couple of loser-ish white ladies is all they need if they want to be called "edgy" or "progressive" or "inclusive" or whatever.

Brittabot

Also, I realize how priviledged I am in that I get to see ladies like myself on screen. I don't think an all-white cast would be much of a problem in the world where the executives and advertisers didn't think that everyone loves to watch white poeple on tv, but only minorities like to watch themselves. That is a load of bullshit if I ever saw one and a seriously backwards way of thinking. (Also, we had some extremely succesful shows with no major white characters in the 80s and 90s and pretty much everyone watched them. Did the people in power forget that?)
I'm pretty sure we would all love to watch shows by and about people of different backgrounds - isn't that what tv should be about-immersing ourselves in the lives of other interesting people? - so mainstream media should really get on that before it's too late and everyone stops watching.

young preeezy

"it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that."

Exactly. I really wanted to like this show, and was so looking forward to it. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I feel like while it did hit a lot of relatable points, it missed the mark on so many things. I was sadly, a little disappointed, and kept thinking throughout "this has so much potential!" But it's only the first episode, and there's definitely space for movement, so we'll seeee...

Alexandra MacArthur@facebook

Jenna, this is such an important point of view. I'm so glad that you wrote this. Even though I am white and a major fan of Lena Dunham, I can't help but feel like we could've done better with this. You really captured the ambivalence one feels when watching it. It does so much for us, but falls short in other areas.

littlegirlblue

Jenna is entirely right, and I feel her 100 percent. But how much better would it have made the show to put a Token Black Girl in there? A Dionne to balance out a world of Chers? I'm not so convinced it wouldn't have made it more annoying.

Lenora Jane

@littlegirlblue I think the hope is that in the hands of someone who is putting together a show a lot of us are calling interesting and well-written, she wouldn't be an insufferable Token Black Girl so much as a character who could represent the part of "real Brooklyn" that isn't, y'know, white. The "pure artistic vision of white girls" vs. "artificial, grating Token Black Character" thing is a false dichotomy.

CasualElegance

This article got me all hot under the collar because I watched the first episode last night and LOVED LOVED LOVED it, but at the same time I can't deny that there was stark lack of people of color. I think that we are being a bit harsh on GIRLS because I don't think it set out to be representative of all women's experiences in NYC. In fact, the scene where Lena's parents cut her off lets the viewer know that (and pokes fun at) her character has led a life of privilege and that she is seriously disconnected with reality. This shows us that we are dealing with a small subset of the population and that the show is about the particular experiences of four specific women (Lena and her friends).

I think that this discussion about race in television is incredibly important, and I tip my hat (once again) to the hairpinner's for bringing it up here. I just also feel icky about crucifying a show that is smart, funny, and portrays women as multi-faceted as opposed to the one dimensional portrayals we so often see.

discocammata

@Darcy I agree! If anything, we should be skewering the clueless tv critics who have proclaimed this show as the second coming of Christ and called Girls representative of the experience of every 20-something female in New York/rest of America. This is not Lena Dunham's fault (I have my issues with her, and the lack of non-white characters in her stories is not really one of them, and I'm a POC.) The show has its problems (but also its strengths!) and while I am also dismayed at the lack of color, I would also be equally annoyed if they brought on last-minute non-white characters to appease the critics (Hello, 2 Broke Girls?)

Killerpants

After reading all this I decided to watch the first ep on youtube. I don't understand anyone in or anything about this show. There's my super-valuable comment for the day.

carolita

Maybe someone else said this already, but I couldn't read all nearly 400 comments to check: while it would be great to see at least one other race or culture in "Girls" represented, when I think about my own multi-ethnic family, I kind of think that this kind of young woman (over-coddled, oversupported, and therefore clueless) doesn't happen to families like, well, mine. I mean, my parents would NEVER have paid my rent, my cell phone bill, etc, not ever, and certainly not two years past graduation, no matter WHAT the economy looked like. I WOULD have worked in McDonald's if necessary. I HAVE resorted to very "lowly" jobs when I had to. My parents were first generation immigrants, and this would just never occur to them. It also would never occur to me to ask them to support me. (Except once, when I went back to university, and supporting me for a year in France was way cheaper than helping me with tuition in the US. Plus, they only ever believed in financial support for education, not for my "groovy lifestyle," ha ha). And so, this kind of child would never happen to them. Know what I'm saying? I'm saying these kids MOSTLY exist in a certain demographic. I suppose in Ecuador there are plenty of kids like this, born to the homologous kind of parents. But that would be another show. This is a show about this particular kind of annoying girl belonging to this particular demographic.

carolita

Having perused some of the comments before mine, I now totally admit that being from old style immigrant-raised hispanic heritage, I, too, could find it hard to see hispanic girls in this show because of simple working-class prejudice. I admit, it looks to me a bit like some "white people problems" skit from SNL to me. Please someone comment after me, so my ignorance isn't the last thing on this thread!

Jolly Farton

@carolita Hi
(just helping a sister out, even though I think your comment was far from ignorant!)

atipofthehat

@carolita

I agree with what you say, and yet, this show does not seem at all realistic, despite its toilet scenes and bad sex.

One thing I haven't seen raised above is how B-R-O-A-D the show is in terms of writing, acting, and so on. Close to farce. In some ways, it's practically commedia dell'arte.

Unfortunately, it's been sold or heralded as a reflection of real experiences and representative of a generation (a stance made fun of by the show itself). I would have to see more episodes, but so far it seems as representative of its generation as Ralph Kramden was of bus drivers, or I Love Lucy was of marriages. It's a light show, being asked (from the outside) to carry too heavy a burden.

slutberry

@carolita I did not see the show.

However, as a broke-ass white girl from a highly educated but broke-ass white family, I do get exasperated when every white girl on TV is super wealthy because of Daddy's credit card. I've been financially independent since I was 18 (my mum can now help me out with a little stipend from my Dad's life insurance, but like, yeah, that sucks) and I'm paying my own way through university and I sure as hell don't have an iPhone. Or any spending money. Also I live on lentils.

So it makes me ragey when I see other women (regardless of race, in real life or on TV) whining about how their parents won't give them a big enough allowance. And I would like to see some broke-ass white people on TV (or hell, broke-ass any-people) who still, y'know, go to school and hold jobs and have social lives and don't just sit out on the stoop waiting for welfare checks

Maryaed

@atipofthehat But y'know, everything a woman does is always about Women and not either individuals or Humans (see also, Women are a special interest group). It's an eternal double bind.

thebestjasmine

@carolita Oh don't worry, now there's crazy ignorance that's the last thing on this thread now!

carolita

@sniffadee well, rest assured, it seems like the episodes to follow are about the character being forced to work, so it's not just about being a slacker. I think it's about a slacker being forced to face life. Perhaps that's the point -- we get to laugh at her because we despise her cushy life, and then we get to watch her struggle haplessly while she tries to figure it out?

carolita

@lilly pilgrim :)p

Julia Guthrie@facebook

Diversity? It's a show, not an answer to all of our f'd up social mores. Get over it. I love all people and promote diversity in every part of my life. But I don't want the shows that I pay $17 DOLLARS A MONTH to watch to be rigged with novelties like diversity that have nothing to do with the show just for the sake of being politically correct.

It's a show. It's HBO. They can do what they want. Leave diversity to politics and schools.

Korblex

Jenna, I must respectfully disagree with your analysis.

For one, you noted that you were only three episodes into the series. It seems a little early to write the show off on these grounds, not knowing where it will go by the end of the series (or even the first season). I understand that blogs (including the Hairpin) typically rush to review a series upon its debut, but you might be getting ahead of yourself here. Let’s wait to see how the story unfolds.

Second, I think your argument that “these girls are like me...and not like me” makes the mistake of reflecting the media’s response on the intentions of the author. As you pointed out earlier in your post, people on Twitter and in the media said things like “Absolutely perfect portrayal of living in NYC.” It seemed that a lot of people have read the series as some sort of complete description of life in the hipsterized world of NYC, which I don’t think is the case.

I would recommend you watch Tiny Furniture. When you take that together with the first few episodes of Girls, you’ll notice that Lena Dunham’s style of storytelling isn’t about trying to “nail” certain types of hipster personalities, or the lives of 20-something women in general. What you have instead is an extremely personalized narrative. For instance, most of the characters in Tiny Furniture are played by Dunham’s real-life family members, with their roles and occupations reflecting their real lives. As one commenter pointed out, you see this in Girls as well, with Dunham’s personal friends playing the character Hannah’s friends.

Girls may not have any significant minority characters in it simply because Dunham may not have had any significant friendships with minorities. I find that to be an unfortunate fact in itself, but I don’t think inserting a minority character into the mix remedies the problem. If she did, it’s possible that it would work, but she also runs the risk of pretending to understand the unique experience of women of color in this particular bubble of affluence and privilege. I could understand her not being comfortable with that, since she might end up presenting the sort of “magical negro” characters you see throughout white American storytelling.

All that said, I really don’t think Girls is meant to be a sweeping history of “our lives,” be we women, 20-somethings, hipsters, or New Yorkers. It’s a story from one person’s perspective in a particular time and place that happens to highlight what’s going on in a larger society that we might identify with in some ways. Can we really fault Dunham for trying to tell her story in a way that is more or less accurate, according to her own experiences? We should be careful not to let our own biases or those of the media enter an author’s storytelling, as uncomfortable or exclusive as that story might be.

AnnieGetYerFun

Hey, hey. Battlestar Galactica can't rightly be considered a white person's show, can it? How come my nerdy Asian friends liked it?

Matt Hoffman@twitter

A slightly different take: http://frustratedhypocrite.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-truer-truth-about-girls-and-race/

Merredith@twitter

Well said: "The argument has been made that smart women on screen are already enough of a minority to make up for the lack of women of color. Nope. Not good enough."

Exactly/Amen/Thank you. Every time I see one of these shows, I find myself searching for people who aren't white. I ask myself, "is it just that they think other people won't notice? Do they think white people won't care?" But it just seems weird to me. And especially if it's about NYC. Shame. #notwatchinggirls

Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter

Honestly, you want to see yourself on screen? Really? That's what you want from art, or culture, or even TV? Then stop whining about it and get talent and write it and get it sold. Easier said than done, eh? Here's the easy way to see yourself: stay home, write shit like the above and look in a mirror; there you are you whiny talentless ass! And really if all of us just watched our own ethnic, race, gender reflections, the world would be a very dull place, kinda like the crushingly banal article you wrote. Open up your horizons, you stinky bore! Also: this bullshit is racist.

TullyMMills

@Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter Racist against who?

Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter

I don't know TullyMMills, did you not pick up on a few things in the article? Some excerpts follow, CAPS mine, and just substitute BLACK for white, and see how it feels. It's stupid "tribalism" of the worst kind: If I am not represented, then it has failed. Not a valid aesthetic judgement; reason for whiny gripes, yes.

"I paused at the base of the poster and looked up — it covered the entire side of the building. My eyes traveled up their phosphorescent legs to their faces and back down again. My heart dropped and I swallowed once, hard. Girls. WHITE girls.
I pulled out my phone and texted my friend Willa.

"So Girls is like indie SATC," I wrote. "Yeah" she replied. "And everyone on the show is WHITE," I responded. "Yea,” she typed back. “Lots of WHITE."

AND it's also dishonest: "My chief beef is not simply that the girls in Girls are WHITE." Yes, it is your "chief beef"; just admit it.

ALSO, THIS WHOPPER: " Plus, back then it was pre-internet, so we didn't really know what the world did and didn't look like beyond our window." ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS? No You are not serious, and therefore do not matter; that anyone could come up with this "pre-internet" concept in their mind, never mind write for the world to see and not dies of embarrassment, is absurd.

This kind of starting point for judging cultural artifacts would lead to:

•I do not see myself in Picasso paintings, or Matisse, or Van Gogh paintings, because I am not a bunch of sloppy faces with the eyes in the wrong place, or a nude woman, or a red-headed guy with an ear missing, or a starry night for that matter, respectively, and therefore cannot appreciate them.

•I am not French, so I cannot appreciate French films, or any foreign films for that matter.

•I am not a Moor, or a Scottish mass murderer, or a Danish Prince, so I cannot appreciate Shakespeare.

This kind of article is so stupidly divisive I can't even begin to see straight.

So in short whitey with a vagina is letting our girl Jenna Wortham down. : (

Do you see now?

TullyMMills

@Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter What I see is you using an argument predicated on the false assumption that reverse racism is a real thing. What I see is a kind of cultural relativism at play that some people, whether intentionally or unintentionally racist, employ when it becomes uncomfortable for them to talk or think about issues of race and privilege. When you have to go so far out with hyperbole, chances are the position you’re defending is wrong.

Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter

@TullyMMills No Tully, it isn't. It is racial/ethnic scolding, literally using race to shame someone into "doing something", or making them feel ashamed for the "privilege" of the cosmic crap-shoot that is skin color, but that really wasn't my point: looking for yourself in culture is folly is my point. And it's nice that you use hackneyed, fatigued, terms like "cultural relativism", and know my discomfort and leave me the options of being "intentionally or unintentionally racist", as if those are my only two options, as someone who does not agree with you, and have spurious axioms such as "When you have to go so far out with hyperbole, chances are the position you’re defending is wrong";(hyperbole is a fine rhetorical device: widen your reach, although I was being "provocative" tee hee ;) that just shows you plug in your "multicultural" template epithets, rather than think about anything in a complex way. I am a product of centuries of miscegenation via the raping, by "occupiers", of my people and homeland, but read Caucasian, speak Spanish fluently, have been called anti-Latino , homophobic epithets too for that matter, plenty, and always pity the caller, except when they're coming at me, then I yell for help. I'm not gay, but love musicals, have male genitalia but love "The Women" (vintage edition, not remake), I am an adult "boy", but 'Girls' spoke to me...what does that say? That I'm a "girl" on the inside? Well then, so be it. I see myself, and where I come from, daily, all the time, so I want to know about not-myself...dig? All that being said, are people of color underrepresented in our cultural artifacts? YOUBETTERMOTHERFUCKINGBELIEVEIT! Are cultural, ethnic, racist stereotypes rampant in our cultural artifacts? YOUBETTERMOTHERFUCKINGBELIEVEIT! But the premise of the original article—I didn't see myself in it—is pathetic; I was just hoping for something a little more complex, and this shit was tired...Let's build bridges man, not walls, ok? And I think of this as a spirited debate, not an attack. Seriously: peace love and understanding, always to all. Kisses, yo!

Matt Hoffman@twitter

@Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter I appreciate the way you think. You might like the recent piece I linked to above .. http://frustratedhypocrite.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-truer-truth-about-girls-and-race/

Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter

@Matt Hoffman@twitter Thanks Matt! Fun article!

wee_ramekin

@Chalecos Salvavidas@twitter Just...so you know: Jenna Wortham is about as far from a "whiny, talentless ass" as you can get.

You can disagree with her point without calling into question her talent. And telling someone that unless they are able to write a show they want to see and get it produced they aren't entitled to an opinion? Not a very convincing argument.

Jan Sequitor

Probably been said before, but I have to get it out:

Why can't you see yourself in someone who isn't like you in every dimension?

I see a lot of myself in Abed (Community, for those of you who suck), but Oh Gee! I'm white, so how can I possibly relate?

And what if the creators did try to add diversity? Do you think they'd do a good job, or would it come out poorly? You should be taking aim at whatever keeps people from relating to differently-colored people, because that's the reason Girls is so white/unrelatable.

And this article is symptomatic of that; obviously Girls can't represent you because you're black, and they're not. Sister Sister sucked, but hey, at least the stars were black women, right? That's a shit attitude, because while there are cultural differences that overlap with skin color, they're not the end-all of human experience.

Are you more like the girls in Girls, or the ladies of Living Single?

Judging by your job, the way you write, and where you live, it's the former.

What I'm trying to get at is this: if you want entertainments that capture every facet of your life, write them yourself, because no one else can or will. But more than that, get over seeing race as this binary thing, as if 'black' is you and 'not-black' is somehow unrelatable. If you want to see race as binary, then you're going to have to use the average experiences of a person of that race as your standard for judging what is an isn't 'White' or 'Hispanic' or whatever. And based on some of your other relevant demographic information, you're more a middle-aged white guy than a 30-something black woman, and there's some asian guys a lot 'blacker' than you.

Laura Butler@twitter

I completely disagree. You shouldn't just like a show because the characters are "like you" or dislike it because they're "not enough like you." I think the fact that the characters are a specific type of girl in Brooklyn makes it all the more realistic and gives it that voyeuristic feel that makes it so interesting. This girl has written about herself because that's what she knows - she probably doesn't or didn't have an interracial group of friends so she didn't write about it - and that's what makes it so good. Because it's real. Painstakingly real at times. I think you totally missed the point.

If you want a show about girls who aren't white, write one - I'd love to watch it if it's real and honest and smart. And I wouldn't criticize it because the characters are not like me. I'm a white girl and the characters are absolutely nothing like me. Nothing. But that's partly why I liked it.

Roteln & Baljan@twitter

The girls are me. I'm 23, black and a Swede. Despite the difference in origin, the show captures a lot of who I am today, even the prevalent ironic racism in my world. I mean the show even captures my exclusion from the white version of me. It's so to the point, I almost think it's on purpose. Which is, in a way, reassuring. I mean, at least the nice ladies had us in mind.

/A sister all the way from Stockholm :)

Terrell Henry@twitter

Just my two cents. I watched the first episode and I was entertained. I'll probably find myself tuning in again every now and then. After watching it though, I did notice the lack of color, which bothered me, and at the same time didn't. It bothered me because I was thinking, "Here we go again." Another show with some young white people, who don't know crap about life, and this life includes zero minorities. And then I laughed because I have had white people ask me, "How come you guys have BET, but we don't have a White Entertainment Television?" This is why genius.

At the same time I wasn't all that mad. Just because New York is a pretty mixed city, that doesn't mean that every white person in the city has a black, hispanic or asian friend. In fact, the lack of color in that group of friends can lead to some really good comedy, and funny situations, coming from their life inexperience, if they choose to add some, and if the show gets renewed.

Quinoat

Before I would add a POC to the show, I would add a POC to the writing staff.

Divine Waters@facebook

I'm about to become the most hated person on this board but honestly I feel like the addition of a black character is forced and unrealistic much in the same way I would feel if you added a token white character on something like a different world, it would just feel like you're trying way too hard to make everyone happy in the most transparent way possible. Personally, I found girls to be very take it or leave it just in the fact that I live my life I don't necessarily need it played out for me on my television and, in that sense, the show can become rather tedious. I was honestly a bit bored. Maybe I'm just not appreciating the wonders of minimalism but personal opinion aside, there's no way every market demographic going to be represented in every show. To put it crudely, while you're sitting here bitching there's no black girls on the show, there's an Asian graphic art student in Williamsburg miffed that the closest she has to a relatable character in prime time television is that one guy on Hawaii 5-0. I wouldn't put that kind of expectation on one little show is al.

Siafa Alvin@twitter

@Divine Waters@facebook If Hawaii 5-0 claimed to be "the voice of a generation," they'd probably catch heat as well. Girls brought the heat on themselves via their advertising.

And indeed, I agree that people are trying to see way too much of real life through a fictional television show, of all things. It's *strange*, frankly; if the show was called "Brooklyn GIrls," for example, then okay - attack this crazy writer, game-on. Even then, I'd still be weirded out by people's desires to see absolute realism in a fictional show. SATC wasn't the real NYC. Friends wasn't the real NYC. Seinfeld wasn't real NYC.

Hell, even The Real World: New York wasn't the real NYC.

That said, people can't help but *want* to see themselves in these shows. That's why many of my female friends suffered from what I call SATC Stockholm Syndrome; it's why I see people of color religiously watching Mad Men, to the point of hosting viewing parties (which is mind-boggling on a whole 'nother level).

Selin Serencan

After reading your post, I can understand your point, however, despite "races " (a word I HATE because it makes a really unexistant biological difference eternal in our minds), I prefer identify myself with a PERSONALITY, with a CHARACTER, than with the way someone looks... I loved the shows that portrayed afrodescendent diversity in characters, because THAT is the kind of show that go against stereotypes, but I don't feel a show has to include "ethnic diversity" for it to portray me... in other words: I would expect to be identified with a character despite her looks... if we still feel the NEED to see someone looking like us, we are perpetuating the difference in our minds and in everyone else's minds...

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adiwocko

I think that Girls is kinda great show folks!!!
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