Lena Dunham's buzzy new HBO series Girls — about four twentysomething friends living, loving, and learning in New York City — debuted to rhapsodic acclaim last weekend. And then the griping began: Some commentators seized on the fact that only two non-white characters appeared, briefly, in its premiere — an Asian coworker notable for her computer savvy and a black man who appeared to be homeless. For a show that's being packaged as "the twentysomething experience," says Phoebe Robinson at The Huffington Post, lily-white "Girls doesn't represent me nor the women I know who have matured in NYC." Does Girls have a race problem?
Yes. The show should be called White Girls: "Girls has a serious problem when it comes to race," says Dodai Stewart at Jezebel. To put it charitably, Dunham's "version of New York is a bit peculiar" to most bright young things finding their way in the hugely multiracial Big Apple. It isn't the first series to whitewash NYC, but this was supposed to be "a kind of more realistic Sex and The City." Instead, it reminds black people "that no one cares about us." Seriously, "even The Office (set in Scranton), and Parks and Recreation (set in Indiana) offer more diversity."
"Why we need to keep talking about the white girls on Girls"
No. The show is just reflecting reality: Look, "most wealthy white girls in America are surrounded by other wealthy white girls," pop-culture writer Jenn Hoffman tells Fox News. That's just life, and pretending otherwise is "an idealistic liberal media band-aid at best." I hope we're not so "immature that we need to throw in a token African-American or Asian to make us feel better about the fact that some white people have zero exposure to diversity."
"Criticism of HBO's Girls for being about 'white girls, money, whining' justified?'
We should let Girls be Girls: I love the show, but "there's no answer to the charges that Girls is extremely white," says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. The truth is, part of the reason the show works is that "the whiteness of Girls is a manifestation of how cloistered the characters' lives are." And nobody would criticize Girls if we lived in a less "arid media landscape," where every "tight, insular" demographic had its own cultural oasis. Isn't the ideal solution building more oases for other ethnic groups "rather than burdening one show with the obligation to satisfy everyone's thirst"?
"The other Girls and diversity goals for pop culture"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The Obama administration's nonstop incoherence on ISIS
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 6 super-helpful iOS8 tricks you probably don't know about
- Why Japan is turning to high-tech floating islands to solve its energy needs
- Why so many Christians won't back down on gay marriage
Subscribe to the Week