kareem abdul jabbar girs lena dunham

Did you ever think you could write a pretty good media critique about Lena Dunham’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning HBO show Girls if only you had the time and desire and florid prose? Well, today (or should I saw last Friday) was your lucky day. Your dad’s favorite former Los Angeles Laker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it for you.

For those unaware, Abdul-Jabbar is an intelligent and immensely talented guy. He’s written books AND fought Bruce Lee. Part of me would still kind of like to be him whenever I grow up. But there was a bit of a “Huh?” sounding, cognitive dissonance when reading his critique. Not because you wouldn’t expect Abdul-Jabbar to be so smart and thoughtful (he most certainly is) but that you have to believe that when he’s not being a sports ambassador and inspirational speaker he’s watching old episodes of My So-Called Life and Wonderfalls.

Still though, the points he made!

On Girls and that two-episode-stand with a sexual Black Republican token played by Donald Glover!

This season that white ghetto was breached by a black character who is introduced as some jungle fever lover, with just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less.

On the arrogance (or privilege) of thinking it’s cool to be an insufferable asshole because your insufferableness makes you “adorable” and “endearing,” rather than “self-involved” and “ignorant.

We’re supposed to find these girls somehow charming because of their flawed characters. Their intense self-involvement is meant to be cute and it can be … at times. But not enough to overcome our impatience with their inability to have any personal insight. They’re all educated but fatally ignorant.

On how diversity only counts if it makes sense, and tokenism is lazy writing:

I don’t believe that people of color, sexual preference, or gender need to be shaken indiscriminately into every series like some sort of exotic seasoning. If the story calls for a black character, great. A story about a black neighborhood doesn’t necessarily need white characters just to balance the racial profile. But this really seemed like an effort was made to add some color — and it came across as forced.

And (my favorite part) on the lofty expectations people have put on a sitcom:

It’s unfair to put so much of a burden on what is basically a standard sitcom. Some of the fault lies with the audience’s desperation for a generational voice that they turn to a sitcom to express it rather than great literature.

Oooooo. Burn, America. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just told you to go read a book.

What did you think of a basketball great taking a turn at dissecting Dunham’s singular voice of a particular generation living in Williamsburg? Does he have a point or are you still stuck on “Wait? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar watches ‘Girls?’”

  • Sasha

    KAREEM FTW!!!!

  • Chelley5483

    Wow Kareem. That was serious and spot on. I also thought the token black guy in the first two episodes was so overwhelmingly forced I almost couldn’t take it, except the truth is I’m in love with this show. Lena evidently gave in to the pressure of her critics who lambasted her and her “vanilla world” she created on the show. At least that though was authentic.

    I did find the discord between Lena and “the token black guy” when they’d called it off funny as hell though.

  • Rue

    Kareem, can we be BFFs? Please?

  • leelah

    lol at ‘Oooooo. Burn, America. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just told you to go read a book.’

    Unfortunately, I’m reading about 4 books right now and I have the library fines to prove it. I love the fact that a black man said it. When the obvious comes from a woman, the brothers get defensive and start throwing around words like bitter and jealous. Ignoring the fact that this show was going to portray black people like intellectually confused sex toys. Thank You, Kareem for pointing it out because as a culture we need to stop accepting every single bone thats thrown our way.

  • AM

    He sho’ dissected the hell out of Dunham to irrelevancy and utter basicness. Jesus! *brother franklin dance*!!

    I love his candidness.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    go kareem, go kareem…***waves hands in the air***

  • Sasha

    Haha I don’t know why this comment was so cute to me but it made me smile. So there’s a softer side to the man ‘frm’ Philly I see :)

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    And this is how you read people folks…lol he said it all! I have no problem with the lack of diversity (I love plenty of shows that doesn’t have a diverse cast) but the core of this show is basic and the characters are pretentious and VERY immature and clueless. Shameless is much better show than this show and doesn’t even receive half of the praise as Girls… I was mad when they were saying “its a voice of a generation” um..whose and if so then this generation really do need to start reading as he said.

  • Dave

    Spot on. ‘Girls’ did a good job in the first season of painting a picture of young, white, 21st century Brooklyn. It was actually very surprisingly accurate in some sense. I feel as if the second season has lost the point and is starting to play like a series of moments that exposes everything that is wrong with Lena Dunham’s (or Hannah’s) perception of the world.

  • Anthony

    Kareem made a great point when he noted that 22% of Girls’ viewers over 50 and 56% are male. When he suggests that lots of old men like it for the sex and nudity, Girls seems a whole lot less progressive, and more like typical HBO programming.

    As far as I know, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is still battling leukemia. If you are so inclined, pray for this gifted and literate man.

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    we olde cats got to hang together….

  • GlowBelle

    Kareem DUG IN!!! …and he is so right. He pretty much said everything that I couldn’t find words/articulate what rubs me so wrong about this show and Lena Dunham. “Voice of a generation” it is NOT.

    “Some of the fault lies with the audience’s desperation for a generational voice that they turn to a sitcom to express it rather than great literature.” <—- This is the diamond quote right there and I'm glad he said it.

    …and he's watching 'Wonderfalls'? Shoooot…I loved that show!

  • sankofa

    I want this embroidered on a pillow or something. I feel as though I brought this on myself with the whole ‘quest for representation’ thing. It just would have been nice if it were considered initially not as a result of backlash. However, I think I will follow Mr Kareem’s advice and create the perfect imaginary cast in my head or seek them out in books.

  • Mm

    He went in. This was brilliantly written! By far the best analysis I’ve read about Girls.

  • http://tontonmichel.tumblr.com/ Tonton Michel

    “ith just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less.”

    Damn I wish I wrote that.

  • Salmon

    “I don’t believe that people of color, sexual preference, or gender need to be shaken indiscriminately into every series like some sort of exotic seasoning.” YES!

    Kareem Abdul Jabbar is THE man! For all my Los Angeles folks out there– he guest lectures from time to time at UCLA and hosts a few events. He majored in History there and has published a book on African American achievements. Just fyi *ends pro-bono advertising*

  • Chillyroad

    Black men accepted not being apart of the show. They weren’t kicking up a fuss. And that’s something or at least one thing black men do better than black women. Black men have long understood Americas rejection. Black women now how to come to terms with it.

  • Chillyroad

    My fellow Bruin. Yes!

  • Treece

    Go Mr. Abdul-Jabbar! Great analysis and my sentiments exactly. This is why I havent bothered to tune in to that rubbish more than 10 min. And that was for the pilot…

  • http://theblackparacosmistmind.wordpress.com theblackparacosmistmind

    Does he have a blog or twitter or SOMETHIN I can follow?! Droppin knowledge!

  • DownSouth Transplant

    Nothing does it the same as serving just a dribble of eloquent educated Kickomeass from Kareem Abdul Jabbar

  • leelah

    please read the original post on Girls and their black addition to the show. On your way over there, think about that american idol lawsuit and the two brothers who sued The Bachelor.

  • rhea

    It sucks that a show like Girls can be touted as voicing my generation while shows that I actually relate to, like Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, get marginal attention. I know that I’m not having a discussion which has never been had before. It just sucks that, once again, I’m struggling to find reflections of myself while I’m being told that I should give this white person a standing ovation for speaking for me. Just because she’s a woman like me doesn’t make her my peer. The lily-white cast of the show proves that.

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