Okay, so I know this post is coming a tad late. It’s not because I live under a rock and just discovered the show, but because I started this draft and then got so caught up in reading article after article that I stopped writing my own thinking the topic has been mulled over plenty. However, recent talk about race and women (see The Hollywood Reporter’s Annual actress roundtable this year) reminded me of the conversations that were happening around “Girls” and I realize that my voice is just as valid.
The reaction to HBOs new show “Girls” was two fold: one, incredible hype and praise and two, incredible disappointment and scrutiny on the issue of race. So, basically, it went like this…. “Oh my god a show about women written by a woman that doesn’t involve excessive amounts of shopping and bitching is actually really good!”… “Wait a minute, they’re all white. That is so unrealistic. They’re just a bunch of privileged white girls. Don’t watch this show.”
On the one hand I’m glad the conversation of race and TV has gotten so loud across online media outlets and in Hollywood. However, I am a little…suspicious…that this conversation got particularly loud over the show “Girls.” Lack of strong female leads or three-dimensional female characters and lack of of ethnic diversity on TV (and film for that matter) are not new issues. This has been an ongoing problem, so why cry out about the issue of race now regarding this particular show (why not on Two and a Half Men or Entourage or Dexter or Sherlock– I could go on– that all feature white casts)? It seemed to me that critics needed an excuse not to like her series- “See, women can’t carry a show.” Attacking Lena Dunham’s show on this issue of race furthers the problem. It is just another way of undermining her achievement and the story she’s trying to tell, and once again bringing women’s voices down. She is not the sole person responsible for solving all issues regarding minority representation in entertainment. The fact that this show even got made (and is doing so well) is a huge feat in and of itself that we should be supporting her and the show. The more shows like hers succeed the more likely that other shows that feature minority voices will get made. The more (good) parts for women, women of color, and the more opportunities for women writers, directors, and producers.
Why am I causing such a raucous over a little HBO comedy? It’s just entertainment, you might say. This is true. I don’t think Lena is necessarily out trying to change the world with a group of girlfriends talking about sex, ex boyfriends, jobs and rent. But “just entertainment” has a profound effect on our perspectives– especially those of young minds. If you only show commercials of boys playing with Legos and trucks and girls playing with peeing dolls and easy bake ovens— what does that tell our children about acceptable gender roles? If we have the majority of shows with all white casts what does that say about the diversity of our nation? If we only make movies with male action heroes what does that say about what roles are available for women? These repeated images over time are dangerous. Media and pop culture is a part of our society and often helps shape it. It’s about time we shape it in a positive way and stop creating the same old models. Yes, some girls take care of babies and some girls can write killer comedy. Can’t wait for Season 2.