Last week I asked if you would be tuning into HBO’s new series Girls, which some have hailed as the best show of the year. While some of you said you would be tuning in to watch, the majority seemed to reject the depiction of four twenty-something white women struggling to make it in New York City.

One commenter, Connie, summed up the thoughts of many, writing, “i am so tired of these all white shows speaking for the lot of us, there are girls of all color going through the same things couldn’t a little of that been put on displayed on this show. As a NY’er I am beyond pissed that they are not doing my city justice, NY is more diverse than this culturally.”

It seems like Clutchettes weren’t the only ones critical of the lack of diversity on Girls. Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart wrote that although could totally relate to the show’s content as a young woman who grew up in New York and struggled to make it as a writer, she couldn’t relate to the show’s intentional lack of diversity.

She explains: “I, too am a black woman who grew up in New York. I went to both public and prep schools. I, too, have been a struggling twentysomething writer. And yet. The world in which Hannah and her friends inhabit seems familiar, except for its complete lack of diversity.”

Kendra James of Racialicious takes it a but further, noting she went to college with the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham and knows that her world was much more diverse than its on-camera depiction.

James writes:

We’re both graduates of Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where we were separated by two years. Dunham majored in creative writing, while I majored in cinema studies and anthropology. We weren’t friends at Oberlin, and we weren’t acquaintances, but it’s a tiny school; I could have picked her out of a crowd by her tattoos alone. Like the character Dunham plays on Girls, Hannah, I spent almost two years after graduating toiling in a thankless, underpaid internship in my desired industry.

Here came the confusion: If Lena Dunham and I come from similar educational backgrounds, honed our writing and narrative skills at the same school (and likely with some of the same professors), and grew up spending time in the same city (she’s from Tribeca, and I was a bridge-and-tunnel kid from a nice New Jersey suburb about 30 minutes away), then how could we conceive such radically different images of New York City? Why would I feel so ill-at-ease with her critics essentially declaring her as my voice?

Girls falls into the trap of aiming to speak for “all,” young, wananabe creatives trying to make it in the big city, but what happens when that depiction leaves out a huge portion of the demographic?

In their world, Asians are only good for computer-related help (the lone Asian on the first episode was good with Photoshop), and black and Latina women are only fit to fall into tired old stereotypes (Racialicious uncovered the show’s casting documents requesting a loud, bossy Latina and a Jamaican Nanny). But this doesn’t mirror real life.

After criticism of the lack of diversity came to light, some felt the need to push back, wondering why people of color need to be included in “stories about thin white girls.” But as Stewart points out, this rationale–that white women should be able to share their stories sans diversity (despite living in a diverse city) simply because blacks and people of color have (very few) outlets to share their stories–sets up a separate but equal situation. And as we know, the glut of “white” shows far outweighs whatever Tyler Perry or BET could ever create.

So now what?

While it remains to be seen if Girls will become more diverse, this is just another reason for people of color to support those who care about sharing our stories and how we are incorporated them into the glorious fabric of our country.

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  1. Tiffany

    I guess I am in the minority (wouldn’t be the first time), but I thought the show was great. I went to school with girls like this, and they did run around in pasty packs whining about their privileged existences. I also love how all of the actresses on the show have benefited from nepotism, this is another authentic characteristic of this ilk that the show champions. Face it people, life isn’t a college recruitment brochure cover: you aren’t going to always see every race and demographic represented in everything. That is real life. We don’t have to bash this show to have a real dialogue about why there aren’t more shows with POC on them.

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  2. StopWhinningChrist

    Whooo, wait a second everyone, jeeze. No one was complaining when “The Cosby Show” ran and when “A Different World” – just (2) quick and easy examples – many, many more just like that over the years (“Family Matters” – Urkel anyone!?). Why? Because dummy, the cast was 100% Black and White folks were like, who cares, those are great shows. Dang black people just can’t stop complaining, on just about ANYTHING! Black kid gets shot by anyone besides a Black and all hell breaks loose with y’all, but if it’s Black on Black – f* it who cares right? Isn’t that y’alls absolute mentality??? Raise hell b/c you all are still being brought down by the man. If it’s a white that fits, but if it’s a black-on-black, what’s there to complain about right? There SHOULD be, a person lost their life!!!! What about all the material Tyler Perry puts out (TV shows, Movies, etc) – he casts ALL Blacks and you’ll be hard pressed to find blogs like this bitching about it. Why? Because dummy, the cast is 100% Black and White folks just don’t whine about dumb sh&t like you all do. Someone on here stated that she went through all what the characters are going through and she’s Black, so why not include some of that in the show? Well, the easy answer is: “Because they don’t have to.”, see the story is about these particular girls and they happen to all be White – deal with it. It’s the same explanation as to why Tyler Perry can’t see any other color than Black and so he casts his characters as such. Here’s something else to chew on, Blacks only make up 12.3% of the total population in the US (via the 2010 census – that includes children as well). So being such a LOW percentage, you all think you should be included in EVERYTHING huh? Yeah that’s makes complete f’ing sense to me – Nope, no it doesn’t. Another tid bit to leave you with, start watching commercials and most ALL TV shows and tell me there are more shows that have 100% white casts than 100% black casts. There aren’t – so I’m calling BULL SH*T on all of you complainers and whiners. If you don’t like the demographic of the show – do like me – look down at your remote. There’s a button called: “Channel Up/Down” – push it, you’ll be amazed at what it does. Racism goes both ways people and you’re only helping PROVE that!

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