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.

36 Comments

  1. I won’t be tuning in. I’ve lost interest in HBO, which is one of the whitest networks on TV (not to mention white-male dominated). I’m still pissed that they didn’t continue the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (not enough whiteness I suppose). Once TrueBlood ends (and believe me, I almost stopped watching that show last season and the season before), I’m probably done with HBO. They don’t even try to be diverse and representative of this country on that network. Smh.

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  2. Dreaming

    No, this show doesn’t expose TV’s race problem because we knew about it BEFORE this show was ever thought of.

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  3. I take girls for what it is. I watched this show, and I thought it was okay or 3.5 stars out of 5. The lead actress, Lena looks like the average white woman you see you walking the streets(outside of Manhattan). This in itself is very refreshing as we usually see very thin cute or pretty women on TV or the movies. Larger White women are in movies for comedic relief.

    We Blks, can develop our own shows. Awkward Blk grl and the other blk casted web shows are a testament to this. We don’t need to look to others to for us what we can do for ourselves. We’ve got to stop begging other people to love and accept us and do everything for us. It’s makes us look like a race of beggers and it’s not a healthy thing for young blk children to see.

    Furthermore, I rather Girls not cast any blks in major roles if the blk characters would follow the usual stereotypical blk types like “sassy blk friend”.

    BTW, you guys should check out Medicine for Melancholy.

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    • Nope aka Thatstlphoenix

      Okay I agree completely with you that we need to support shows like awkward black girl but my problem is this (and this is a general comment for all), while we are supporting our own, our own’s voices are still relegated to being placed in this moniker of invisibility.

      The reality here is, many of us watch cable TV and when we are not watching TVOne or BET we are watching the same channels as every day America is watching which are NBC, FOX, ABC, then HBO etc. Why must our voices be relegated to that of BET and TVOne only? Why must we accept being placed in token roles as the sassy black friend, for the black guy and white guy buddy role? We have the same stories such as Girls, or Gossip Girl, we are not all monolithic in our tales (we are not only The Game or Girlfriends). Why can we not have shows on these networks or be casted predominantly in shows like Supernatural or Modern Family? Why must we accept our stories being told via webblogs?

      That’s my annoyance with American TV. I’m immersing myself in everything BBCAmerica. I love it, but though they too have similar issues such as we do with color and television, I must give it to BBC they seem more diverse then we are in their images of color. I find that interesting and problematic for a country such as ours.

      Anyhoo. Still not watching that show and that is just my generalizing opinion. Glad I’m not the only one who felt slighted and I do not need to be vindicated by others, but I do deserve to see our stories be respected and depicted in ALL forms of media.

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    • Sankofa

      I saw it. I expected more. I wanted to see a group of Liz Lemon-y characters for the 20 something set. I thought it was gonna feature women from all different walks of life trying to make it. What I got was a 30 minute whine-fest. Complaining about having to grow up. Expensive restaurants, trendy apartments, treating people like shit and constant nagging. I didn’t see much of myself or many of the women I know at all. I’ll watch the next few episodes before I completely dismiss it. Lena is really talented and the writing has so much potential, but they just need to do (alot) more…

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  4. chanela

    Okay but they DID add a few more minorities then people would complain about tokenism -_-

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  5. apple

    i almost related to this show when i lived in nyc as an intern except there was tons of more diversity and every had more stories than being privileged white people who parents pay for their life, but i will admit there was much more of “Girls” like this in nyc i was around (i interned at a fashion magazine)

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    • Apple for myself and African Mami, please start a blog. You’ve got me so curious as I can imagine you have some exciting stories to tell. Just make the blog an anonymous blog and don’t include any real name but do start writing ASAP.

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    • apple

      @chicnoir i have several blogs but i never write about my life/experience/me..i dont think anyone would want to read it if i did!

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