My Problem with Lena Dunham and Girls

A television show about 20-something women, a few years removed from college, trying to “make it” in the real world? Sounds like a show that was made for me, expect it wasn’t. Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls is not a representation of me.

During a casual conversation at work, the show was brought up and co-worker asked why I didn’t watch it and mentioned how good it was. I’m not a fan of Lena Dunham, I said and skirted by the topic after she mentioned how relatable Dunham is. Without wanting to start a deep discussion which would probably make everyone uncomfortable, I kept quiet.  There is so much I could have said, but decided to keep it to myself (well, to my blog, because here you are reading this).

In that sense, I was going along with the show’s choice to ignore any person of a different race (until the second season premiere, in which they tackled it – but one scene and one episode does not make it a diverse show).

Girls is television show set in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the world, yet it does not feature one person of another race as a central character. Are there no narcissistic kids of affluent  young people of a different race that can be included in this show set in Brooklyn, of all places?
As Jenna Wortham pointed out in a well thought out piece that I generally agree with on Hairpin, [T]hese girls on Girls are like us, they are like me and they are like you, they are beautiful, they are ballsy, they are trying to figure it out. They have their entire lives ahead of them and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I just wish I saw a little more of myself on screen, right alongside them.

I couldn’t agree more. The problem with the show isn’t that it has an all white cast (as did Sex and the City, Friends, Seinfeld and countless other shows). As Wortham goes on to state, But the problem with Girls is that while the show reaches — and succeeds, in many ways — to show female characters that are not caricatures, it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that. And that is a huge fucking disappointment.

The problem with Girls is that it’s supposed to be a for the people, by the people show. Lena and the other actresses are all very much in the place that their characters are (well before the whole being on television and making tons of money thing). The story lines and dialogue are all things that many 20-somethings go through.

It’s that coupled with Dunham’s sort of I know better, but I don’t care, attitude that I can’t fathom. While, she may not be an overt racist, there are definitely things outside of her show that she gets so wrong. Including the tweet of her wearing a shawl wrapped around her head with the message, ‘I had a real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap,’ among other things.

Max Read wrote a great piece on Gawker in which he states, Dunham, for her part, is not a “hipster racist.” When asked about her show’s lack of diversity, she’s been contrite and open to criticism. But her answers are still awkward, and reveal the other way that the kind of people depicted in Girls — should we say upper-middle-class urban millenials? — deal with race: by rendering the nonwhite members of their community — their “generation” — invisible.

That is really the key. I’ll admit I got sucked into watching shows like Friends and Sex and the City. That is a major, major problem, however, the difference is that those shows weren’t touted to be the shows representing a generation. One was a sitcom and the other was at times racy but a fluff show. Similarly, I’m not saying every show has to be culturally diverse, (having a black pilot on the now canceled Pan Am wouldn’t have made sense) however, those shows aren’t Girls, and don’t have lofty promises that Dunham’s show has.

Like Max Read says, It really is the voice of a generation: a generation of white people who suck at talking about race.

Girls is not the show of a generation as so many people want to tout it to be. It is not the insightful reflection of the Millennial Generation that people want it to be. Dunham doesn’t speak for me, and she shouldn’t. It’s quite obvious that she doesn’t even want to try.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s