Lena Dunham Of Girls Addresses Show’s Racial Criticism, But Not Really
Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO’s Girls, has become quite a polarizing figure in young Hollywood — many admire the show that seems to speak to young women in a way Sex And The City spoke to 30-something singles in the big city, but a seemingly equal number of detractors have rightly critiqued the show as depicting a New York available only to young white women born into privilege and allowed to find themselves at the expense of their parents while most of their contemporaries are too busy finding rent money to navel gaze at such a staggering level.
As a native New Yorker myself, Lena Dunham’s experiences brought to the big screen echoed mine in college in Manhattan only slightly, and indeed, even for middle-class white girls, the show is basically a fiction. Sure, the awkward hookups and Brooklyn party drama is stock-standard post-collegiate NYC experience, but much of the show is just not reflective of average young women navigating the city.
But at the forefront of criticism lobbed at Lena Dunham, race is always a biggie — being as the show only tended to show characters of any other description than white rarely, and even then in a very one-dimensional way. The fire was fueled when it came to light that a Girls writer, Lesley Arfin, had made a tremendously racially insensitive joke about the President a while back on her site, and Arfin returned fire at critics of the show’s whitewashed nature that the film Precious hadn’t made her feel very included either.
(Footnote: appreciate the differences between a woman who is raped and abused severely to those of women whose rent is paid by their parents crying over parties.)
Recently, Dunham commented upon the criticism of the show — starting first with its depiction of privilege and nepotism in general allowing such a venture to make it to air. Lena says:
“The criticism that disappointed me was the privilege and nepotism of things. It’s upsetting and confusing … I have plenty of counterarguments to that but it’s not elegant to share them … I’ve had summer jobs since I was 12 but I can’t come out and say that.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, during the Sunday night talk, Lena Dunham diffused racial criticism of the show by saying that it was not fair to extrapolate that merely because Girls had no minority characters that the show itself was racist in nature:
“It was the elephant in the corner of the room … I felt like people were scared to talk about it [because] they’d get my racist juice all over them … The argument there are not enough minority characters to represent New York–that I couldn’t argue against. What I didn’t like was the angle that ‘therefore you are a racist, you are raised by racists, you come from a world of class and privilege.’”