girls

“Girls” received considerable flack for the first season’s treatment of race. Although the HBO series takes place in Brooklyn, New York, one of the most diverse boroughs in the most ethnically diverse city in the country, the characters are all lily-white.

Lena Dunham, the show’s star, executive producer, writer and creator, told the crowd at Fortune Magazine’s annual Most Powerful Women event that she felt “heartbreak at the idea that the show would make anyone feel isolated” despite the show’s popular and critical success.

She pledged to incorporate more characters “of color” in the second season so people “of color [can] see themselves reflected on-screen” and she’s making good on her word by casting Donald Glover (who raps under the moniker Childish Gambino).

Glover will play Dunham’s protagonist’s (Hannah’s) handsome Republican boyfriend Sandy. A review on The Hollywood Reporter reveals Dunham and Glover’s characters will directly tackle issues of race:

When Sandy calls out Hannah’s knowledge of race and its ramifications, she goes on a self-righteous, defensive rant, and Sandy says, “You just said a Missy Elliot lyric.” There are attacks on fixie bikes, rich white girls dating black men, gay iPad-using DJs, what constitutes a “pretty person’s job,” and the smug cynicism of youthful people who haven’t earned the right to it.

Though “Sandy”‘s political affiliation was revealed, perhaps in an effort to characterize him, it’s unclear if the show will address politics (it’s been apolitical thus far). Critics can at least say Dunham heard their cries about diversity by writing an interracial relationship into the plot.

  • Gina

    East Coast provincialism happening here! Seattle has many people of color, but most of them aren’t black. Most of them are Asian, in addition to a longstanding black community. White guilt about Asian people hasn’t produced as many tokens as white guilt about slavery. The underrepresentation of Asian people on TV is sad, but having lots of tokens isn’t really better.

  • Gina

    Ms Denham, nice try. Let’s see if some women of color can join your BFFs. Women of color with our own backstories and plotlines independent of your doppelganger. Alright? Lots and lots of them. Maybe hire some women of color as writers and producers, too, in case you’re worried we’ll be misrepresented. We may not be able to represent all women who look like us, but we each know our own story and the stories of our mothers, sisters, aunts and friends. See if you can go an entire episode without pasty people prattling on about gefilte fish and bagels. Most of Brooklyn does.

  • steff

    i love Girls! For me (and i mean just me) the lack of black women on the show doesnt bother me in the slightest, The show is about “girls” and last time i checked i was one, i find it extremely relatable and have found it really funny! Excited to watch the new season :)

  • Chococat

    Uh, spoiler alert :/

  • Ashur

    Though I do check out most HBO shows, I’ve never seen Girls. It came on after I went to college and my school doesn’t have HBO (meaning I’m helping to make Game of Thrones the most pirated show in the US!).

    Lena Dunham’s response to criticisms of her show’s lack of diversity have shown that she has no understanding or respect of black people. Her good friend, Leslie Arfin, who writes for the show, has written about her love of the N word and, in response to the controversy, tweeted such vapid and ignorant statements as “What really bothered me about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” The last thing I would trust these two with is a black character.

    We should undoubtedly continue to complain about the lack of representation of black and POC characters on television, but we should also be realistic about where we’re going to get good representation. A better complaint might well have been lodged at Game of Thrones — as much as I love it — for turning a prominent black female character from the books into a redheaded white woman, and making a canon Middle Eastern kingdom European like all the others.

    We should also support shows that do represent us fully, and which don’t relegate us to black channels and black shows. Reach out for shows from afar that do, try to get them on TV in America. A ton of British youth shows represent POC well. A retelling of the King Arthur matter featured a black Guinevere (this show got broadcast on Syfy thanks to American interest). Some Girls, a high school level Girls, stars a black girl whose friends include two white girls and an Indian girl. The biggest romantic interest and male character on the show is a black boy.

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