Lena Dunham confronts the Girls racism controversy: Is she convincing?

The writer and star of HBO's breakout series says it primarily features white characters because that's the only experience she knows. Critics are split on her rationale

Lena Dunham
(Image credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

After debuting to hyperbolic praise, the new HBO series Girls faced its first backlash from critics decrying its caucasian-centric depiction of New York City. The startlingly honest comedy — which 25-year-old Lena Dunham created, directs, writes, and stars in — follows four twenty-something white friends navigating post-grad life in New York City. But with non-white characters unrealistically absent from early episodes, critics complained that a series packaged as "the twenty-something experience" had "a serious problem when it comes to race." Dunham directly addressed those critiques in an interview with NPR, arguing that she based the show on her own experiences as a "half-Jew, half-WASP." She felt she couldn't write truthfully about an African American girl living in New York, and wanted to avoid tokenism when casting the show. Should her defense satisfy critics?

The response is perfect: Dunham's NPR interview shows just how smart she is, says Amos Barshad at Grantland. She's completely aware, and also apologetic, that she wasn't able to provide viewers with a "truly all-encompassing rendition of young girls in New York right now." More importantly, she realizes that her show gives her a massive platform, acknowledges her "responsibility to be fair with that platform" and promises that people of color will be more prominent in season two. So we'll have to wait until next year to see if she and her co-writers pull it off. "But at least she's listening."

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for The Daily Beast. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and a writer and producer for TheAtlantic.com's entertainment vertical. He is only mildly embarrassed by the fact that he still watches Glee.