Girls and the Absence of Color

Been noticing all the hype about the new HBO series Girls, most notably the “controversy” about the all-white casting. Have to admit I’ve only seen one episode, the first one, and I found it remarkably tedious, although this is part of an aesthetic that has been referred to as mumblecore in the past. One good thing I guess is the fact that the lead actor and creator is not classically beautiful or thin, and will not inspire suicidal anxiety among legions of young women once driven to Magnolia cupcakes for subsistence at the dawn of the millennium.

While it’s true that while some of the themes in the episode I watched, such as the Great Recession, cranky baby boomer parents, shallow sex, and the terrible conservatism enforced on young people that don’t deserve it are not wholly outside the experience of many working- and middle-class people of color, this is an awfully white show. But should we be issuing a clarion call for the inclusion of more of “us” in these kind of sordid scenarios?

Lena Dunham seems like an earnest sort, someone who has a healthy distancing from the nightmare world she inhabits while at the same time having some compassion for the depressing people she shares a generational bond with. But I can’t blame her for not writing in people of color into this show anymore than not featuring one of those Dirty Dozens skits from In Living Color back in the “day.”

The spatial deconcentration project, now in its final stages, and the vast wealth re-distribution agenda of the Republican Party has made American urban life so segregated that we can hardly expect someone like Lena Dunham to have many friends of color. As a matter of fact if she did, they would probably exhibit exactly the same kind of detached, over-educated and under-insigtful personas as her co-stars in Girls. 

Aside from this, the media industry, whether it’s the production of entertainments like this, or the most significantly funded media (print, web, or broadcast) that covers entertainments like this, are also highly segregated. There’s an incredible irony to pieces like these, published in the somewhat liberal Huffington Post, which in some ways argues the same thing I am here. I mean check out this piece that appeared in HuffPost just two weeks ago, and scroll down to the slideshow that features high school prom photos from various staff members of that site.  I mean, not only are all the editors white, EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEIR FRIENDS IS WHITE!

Okay maybe one of these prom-sters is Hispanic. But she might be, as one the one in slide 9 seems loathe to admit, Italian. The filter through which we experience media is very much like this picture. So then, how can we expect anything to appear on a major television network to be anything very different from Girls?

UPDATE, 5/14:

I must confess I missed quite a lot of stuff about Girls and the post-racial fallout, most notably this nausea-inducing post about one of the writers for the show. Gawker has a lot to say about Girls for some reason, like this post about the episode that aired the first week of May. Then there’s the latest recap, posted today, which has this amazing paragraph:

“Episode Five of Girls was directed by Jesse Peretz, the son of racist pamphleteer Martin Peretz and sewing machine heiress Anne Labouisse Farnsworth Peretz. For those keeping score at home: Add Peretz to artist Laurie Simmons, playwright and filmmaker David Mamet, Bad Company drummer Simon Frederick St. George Kirke, newsman and Gawker correspondent Brian Williams, and former CBS News president Andrew Heyward as members of that elite club of proud wealthy powerful parents whose adorable children are enjoying creative play in the HBO sandbox.”

Makes you wonder if there’s a personal vendetta here, but it’s pretty funny stuff.


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