Monday, January 14, 2013

TV TOPIC: Lena Dunham's Season 2 Response to the "Race Issue" on HBO's "Girls"

There were a million things going on last night. On NBC, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were skewering Taylor Swift and James Cameron, schmoozing with Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and giving the side-eye to Lena Dunham. On CBS, Eli ingeniously recruited the ginger-Rambo Elsbeth Tascioni to clear his name, and Lisbon finally nailed her smug tycoon with Jane's meddling techniques. On ABC, Rumplestilskin got one step closer to being with his son and a hundred steps further from being with Belle. And I can't even tell you what happened on "Revenge," "Happy Endings," "Downton Abbey," "Shameless," or "House of Lies" because there weren't enough hours in the night to consume it all. But there was one show I made time for after the Globes: the second season premiere of HBO's "Girls." I feared a sophomore slump and I've gotta be honest...

...they're a little more annoying than last season. Now that last year's sheer shock of how they portray this generation's women—as indecisive, damaged, and flawed—wore off, I realize just how annoying most of these characters are. But I put aside Jessa's insistance to stay married to a complete stranger, Shoshanna's weakness for the verbally-abusive Ray, and Marnie's random hookup with the briefly-bi Elijah, because I was too busy wondering why the opening scene was of Dunham having sex with Donald Glover ("Community").
Last year, Dunham, the creator of the series, got a lot of shit for portraying New York as this vanilla hipster wonderland where minorities barely grazed the corners of the screen. So she vowed to mix it up a bit and stop making excuses for having such an insular view of the world—or at least the city. Soon, she announced the casting of comedian slash rapper Donald Glover. Not too extreme. He's basically a bipster anyway. Not too incongruous with their environment. It's not like she hired Idris Elba— one would complain if she did. But there were still whispers about who she cast him as and if he'd stick out like a sore thumb—a sore, token minority thumb. Then the episode started, and there they were, humping away happily like they'd been doing it for weeks.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it kind of felt like the inclusion of that scene—specifically its placement at the beginning of the episode—was her way of saying, "Oh you want black people? This is how I feel about what you want." It sort of makes a mockery of what was asked of her. She wasn't asked to have sex with more minorities. She was asked to give them a voice too. (Personally, I don't agree. Writers write what they know and well, being white is what she knows.)

There's also an underlying unspoken controversy that most people wouldn't dare even mention: the unspoken disdain that some black women have towards any non-black female who would dare "poach" their "good men." I'm sure Dunham is oblivious that this bias even exists, but she probably doesn't realize that she inadvertently offended an entire faction of women who don't necessarily disapprove of interracial couples, but do disapprove of not getting first dibs on the dwindling population of "good black men." So jumping one of the funniest and most talented up-and-coming black entertainers in Hollywood as a response to a request for more diversity on her series is kind of like shoving their faces in an eat-shit pie.

But again, maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe his inclusion was thoroughly appreciated by last year's haters, and all is officially right in the world.

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