26/08/2012

On HBO's Girls

1 comment
A sickening amount has been written about HBO's new show Girls to the extent that you may be sick of the hype and its creator Lena Dunham before it's even aired in the U.K; if you fall into the category of people that are tired of hearing about this show, then I apologise but I feel the need to vent about some of the failings of Girls' staff along with some of the mainstream feminist community's response to it.

The show has been criticised for the lack of diversity in the cast; in the show's pilot, the only POC were the minor, passing characters of a black homeless man, a black taxi driver, and an Asian girl who was good with technology. For a while, I was naively willing to give Dunham the benefit of the doubt when she said she wants to "address" the lack of women of colour if the show has a second series, but you know what? The constant repeated instances of ignorance from the show's writing cast in conjunction with the whitewashing of New York shows that it's highly unlikely Dunham is ACTUALLY assessing her own privilege after each instance that she or the show is called out.

For instance, Lesley Arfin, one of the show's writers, is the one who said "what really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME" and said something ridiculously absurd about using the N-word. So by the time that Lena Dunham wrapped a scarf around her head and tweeted "I had a real goth/fundamentalist attitude when I woke up from my nap", I really wasn't surprised when I found myself rolling my eyes at something that's a ridiculous comment to make all year round but stings particularly after the Mosque bombing in Misouri and the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin. As Racialicious said so excellently about her "apology":
By “bad time,” she referred to the assault on the gurudwara in Oak Creek last week. So it only took people getting shot and killed by an apparent white supremacist–and using a pretext similar to Ashton Kutcher’s defense for those pro-Penn State tweets, if you’ll recall–for her to issue a non-apology. It wasn’t that the joke itself was lazy; it’s that she didn’t pick the right day to foist it upon us.

As for the rest of her argument, if she hasn’t learned about “boundaries” after being critiqued regarding her show’s casting calls–what, Donald Glover is supposed to be a salve?–or her staff’s stabs at hipster racism, then it’s not hard to imagine anybody holding their breath to start showing more sensitivity now.
But you know what insulted me as much as the ignorance behind a show that is supposed to be "all about real women"? Articles like the one published by Feministing that ask: "Does Lena Dunham’s “casual racism” matter?" Well, yes. DUH. The author says "I wouldn’t say this tweet and pic is obviously racist, as much as it is annoying and ignorant (and Islamophobic)" but in Western society, racism and Islamophobia are linked as in our public consciousness, we need to be wary of the "scary brown evil Muslims". “But, I’m fascinated by how much people are focused on her political representations since she’s essentially a comedy writer and comedians say racially offensive things all the time" - oh, okay! So by that logic, as many comedians say sexist or cissexist or heterosexist things, we should never call anyone out on it, right? Well, no. That's obviously not a sound argument to make.

Oh, and let's not forget the part that makes me rage: "I think the outrage ends up scrutinizing her personal behavior instead of looking at the real problem–the lack of diverse representations of women in popular culture." Seriously? I don't see how criticising Dunham's insensitive and ignorant tweet has anything to do with the lack of representation of women in popular culture. Calling Dunham out doesn't equal anything like "girl hate" or being unsupportive of women in the media, especially when she's had such an influential opportunity to do something powerful in the media. People defending her talk about the lack of racial awareness in other New York based shows (2 Broke Girls, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, etc). I mean, Gossip Girl is pretty much about Rich White People Problems but it's marketed as such and forgive me for hoping that a show about the lives of young women written by a FEMINIST wouldn't totally suck at intersectionality and inclusiveness, or wishing that feminist circles wouldn't equate calling racism out as being unsupportive to other women.

I fairly enjoyed the first season but I really don't know if I'm going to have the patience to watch the second, and I feel so uncomfortable thinking about Girls airing here in the U.K. this autumn and having everyone laud it as being SO GREAT FOR FEMINISM when all these issues exist. I think that Lena Dunham should watch this and maybe learn a thing or two: