Dear Lena Dunham: I Exist

By Guest Contributor Kendra James

Lena Dunham (third from left) and cast of Girls. Courtesy: Rolling Stone.

The advertisements for the new HBO series Girls presented us with main character Hannah referring to herself (while on drugs) as “The Voice of a Generation.” Salon calls the show a “generational event,” and other reviewers rave over the series’ realism and call it “spot on,” and the characters’ feature by Emily Nassbaum in New York Magazine refers to it as “FUBU: For Us, By Us.”

But which “us” are you talking about? And how is this a realistic? I asked myself, as I struggled to figure out exactly what I had in common with these four white girls.

I only became more confused when I remembered what Dunham and I actually do share.

We’re both the products of independent high schools. She went to St Ann’s in Brooklyn Heights, while I boarded at The Taft School in Connecticut. We’re both graduates of Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, where we were separated by two years. Dunham majored in creative writing, while I majored in cinema studies and anthropology. We weren’t friends at Oberlin, and we weren’t acquaintances, but it’s a tiny school; I could have picked her out of a crowd by her tattoos alone. Like the character Dunham plays on Girls, Hannah, I spent almost two years after graduating toiling in a thankless, underpaid internship in my desired industry.

Here came the confusion: If Lena Dunham and I come from similar educational backgrounds, honed our writing and narrative skills at the same school (and likely with some of the same professors), and grew up spending time in the same city (she’s from Tribeca, and I was a bridge-and-tunnel kid from a nice New Jersey suburb about 30 minutes away), then how could we conceive such radically different images of New York City? Why would I feel so ill-at-ease with her critics essentially declaring her as my voice?

We have our differences. She has famous parents, and sure, there’s race. She’s white. I’m Black. But Oberlin’s a fairly diverse campus and, despite ridiculous tuition costs, those independent high schools are becoming a lot less white than they were. At Oberlin you could try and make your life and circle of friends look like the Girls poster or a scene from Friends or Sex and the City, but you’d have to make a concentrated effort. (And if you did that, then…well. We have other issues to discuss.)

Curricula, on the other hand, are distinctively less diverse.

Of the 20 or so courses offered within the Cinema department (not including private readings and one-on-one seminars), there are zero offered on African-American film, Latino film, LGBTQ Film, African film, and East Asian film. There are, however, seven classes you can take on the European film tradition, and one on framing the Israeli/Palestinian conflict via film. To find classes on African-American, Japanese, and Chinese film tradition you have to leave the department. The classes count towards a Cinema Studies major, but fall under East Asian or African American studies, as if they somehow don’t fully qualify in their otherness. Most importantly, students are not required to take any of these classes that deviate from the White Hollywood arc.

Nevermind the fact that the Nigerian and Indian Film Industries have both at times surpassed Hollywood in output and returns in revenue. The same goes for the Creative Writing department: while classes from the English department count towards a Creative Writing major, students aren’t required to take classes that focus on non-white or European writers and narratives. “There was no non-European requirement, and it was so white,” said a Korean-American friend who happened to be a creative writing major along with Dunham (and also attended an NYC independent school). “I would have to stop in the middle of class readings to explain to everyone what things like kimchi were.”

There’s something to be said about Girls and the state of diversity in education. Dunham is a recent college graduate; one of the first in a new generation of young writer/directors who will–whether we like it or not–be helping to shape the pop culture we’re going to consume over the next decade. If these course requirements represent the average college graduate requirements, then pop culture might be in trouble. I don’t claim to know what Dunham’s course schedule was while she attended Oberlin, but the fact that there’s a chance that she–and the other writers and directors who will come after her–has never had to read a Langston Hughes play, watch anything by Chen Kaige or Oscar Micheaux, or study any type of non-white/European media narrative is troubling, and it’s unsurprising that it would lead to the creation of a show that highlights (I would even go so far as to say rehashes) the lives of four white girls in New York City.

Despite our similarities in background, our views of life in New York city seem to be radically different. An article in The New Yorker tells me that our circles of friends come from the same pools: Oberlin Students and high school friends that more often than not come from the same group of New York City day schools and New England boarding schools. Not only do I work with a WOC who attended high school with her, I have friends who went to high school with both her and her younger sister and, because my friends consist of Latin@s, Asians, Blacks, and whites, I know her life couldn’t possibly have looked as white as the posters for Girls (which is semi-true to life; she calls her character Hannah “another version of herself”) would have you believe.

Yet Girls, set in Brooklyn, where only one-third of the population is white, somehow exists in a New York where minorities are only called to cast for one liners and nanny roles. “Pleasantly plump” Latinas may also inquire within.

These are casting calls from April and May of 2011–when the show was still filming its first season–pulled from Breakdowns Express. There may have been (and probably were) more that have since disappeared from the site.

When asked about the lack of diversity, The Voice of Our Generation didn’t have much of an answer.

“When I get a tweet from a girl who’s like, ‘I’d love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color,’” Dunham told the Huffington Post. “You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I’ll address that.”

But Dunham is the showrunner, writer, director, and star of Girls. I have the feeling that if she’d honestly wished for some diversity she’d have gotten some diversity.

Though perhaps with a Black homeless man catcalling Hannah on the street, an Asian girl with about fifteen seconds of dialogue taking the job Hannah believes she’s entitled to, mentioning Nigeria as a segue to a joke about the evils of working at McDonalds, and her boyfriend telling her emphatically not be a slave to anyone, Dunham thought she’d incorporated a perfunctory amount of color into the New York she’s created for Hannah. So far to be non-white in Hannah’s New York is something to subconsciously vilified.

Consider these statements from Dunham’s HuffPo interview and Nussbaum’s piece in NY Magazine:

“Our generation is not just white girls. It’s guys. Women of color. Gay people. The idea that I could speak for everyone is so absurd. But what is nice is if I could speak for me and it’s resonant for people, then that’s about as much as I could hope for.” – Dunham

“Still, like SATC, Dunham’s show takes as its subject women who are quite demographically specific—cosseted white New Yorkers from educated backgrounds—then mines their lives for the universal.”- Nussbaum

But why are the only lives that can be mined for “universal experiences” the lives of white women? Dunham’s statement on the other hand, makes me question her overall skill as a writer (you can’t write about anyone besides yourself?), while also implying that there’s some special way to write people who aren’t straight and white. That the problems she presents in Girls couldn’t be happen to anyone who doesn’t look like her.

Perhaps it would help if she were to hire a staff writer of color or a consultant for her writing team, because I’m not sure her staff gets it, either:

Courtesy: Girls staff writer Lesley Arfin, via Twitter

I can’t say if being mandated to take classes focused on a non-white experience have fixed Girls and Lena Dunham. I also wouldn’t argue that that’s the only thing wrong with her attitude (Dunham says in her profile in The New Yorker, “Let’s call a spade a spade—a lot of times when you are a vegetarian it is a just not very effective eating disorder.”) or with the show, but I genuinely wonder if it would have helped. Or at least given her some perspective if she really had spent her time growing up in NYC completely oblivious to the brown folk walking past her on a daily basis.

I refuse to believe that you can sit through a Spike Lee film, study his work, read his screenplays, and then believe that this is the proper way to cast a show set in Brooklyn– even the wealthier areas of Brooklyn (I can’t wait to see what Blue Ivy Carter’s circle of high school friends looks like). Media studies programs–especially my alma mater’s–should take note of the work their students produce and the attitudes they display and seriously consider if that’s the legacy they’ve intended to release into the world.

Lena Dunham and I may have a bit in common, but regardless of what Emily Nussbaum says, I do not consider Girls to be For Us or By Us. Nussbaum’s “Us” and Dunham’s show eliminate not only the other two-thirds of Brooklyn that exist, the reality of a minority-majority NYC population, but also the reality that my friends and I are currently living. Once again, we’ve been erased from a narrative.

Is a change in curriculum going to fix that overnight? No, not overnight. But I’d feel a whole lot better knowing that those who are going to speak for and represent the “Millennial Generation” (as NY Magazine claims Girls does) have studied and learned something about people that don’t fit the show’s mold. Maybe that’s when erasure begins to fade.

  • Pingback: Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Azealia Banks | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • Pingback: ‘Girls’ Talk | ArtSTALK - Dangerously obsessed with pop culture

  • Pingback: Flavorwire » Revisiting Lena Dunham, ‘Girls,’ and Race

  • Anonymous

    Great piece. I would love to see a part 2 by Kendra since in the weeks since she wrote this Dunham rolled out some deeply problematic depictions of people of color, namely in the episode that aired May 6.   

    It’s a shame to see the Jezebel and Mammy caricatures still getting play. And that writer from Vice has got some REAL issues.  That Precious tweet is beyond comprehension. Glad there’s a discourse on “hipster racism” these….cause it’s lame and totally unironic. Lest we forget the privilege that comes along with those ripped up tights and mangy facial hair….

  • Pingback: Cynthia Hawkins | The Trouble with Girls | The Nervous Breakdown

  • Pingback: On Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta | The Daily Chicana

  • Lo.

     ”Um, white women have way more than two ways they are portrayed on TV”

    Really ?  I think it’s pretty onedimensional.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sundiata-Conde/1083351752 Sundiata Conde

       Veep, Sookie (True Blood), Madame Stark (Game of Thrones), Girls, and that’s just Sunday on 1 channel

  • Pingback: Lena Dunham Addresses The Racial Backlash To Girls

  • Pingback: HBO’s Girls: The Story of a Multi-Coloured Girl | Discrimination | 8Asians.com

  • Anonymous

    Good point. My problem isn’t that once again a show focuses on wealthy white people, but that when they bother to show non-white people they are done as just quirky foils for the main white characters.

  • Anonymous

    I want to add that my main problem with all white cast is that when they finally add a non-white character they are just stock characters, but I have not problem with all white cast since it presents a reality of self segregation.

  • Pingback: まだ分からへん

  • Pingback: Meet the new boss | joelfrominwood

  • Anonymous

    When I first moved to SF from Philadelphia I was taken aback by how white the city is. Yes, there is a large Asian population, but it was weird coming from an environment where many of my friends, coworkers, classmates were Black to this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sothdra Sothdra J. Nguon-Devereaux

    The majority of casting calls on Breakdown that I see shout “PLEASE SUBMIT ALL ETHNICITIES.” This is really race-controlled. These are facts.

  • Pingback: buzz on the internet this week syncs up to class discussion today – racism + tv | J412: TV Criticism

  • Pingback: Why the “QueenS” Video is as Beautiful as it is Important | Clutch Magazine

  • Gnarianna

    As a current oberlin student I’d like to thank you for writing this piece. However your claim that it’s diversity would have prevented her from having a homogenous group of friends is inaccurate. For the most part white kids here only hang out with white kids.

  • Pingback: Girls HBO: Arfin Gate & Asian Female Characters

  • Pingback: “Guys”. « Kissing Contest

  • Pingback: Black Man’s Take on HBO’s “Girls” « Dr. Jason Johnson

  • Pingback: A Black Man's Take on HBO's "Girls" | Political News and Opinion from a Multicultural Point of View

  • js

    You’ve read Ellison I’m sure. White people don’t see us until they need someone to blame or something to fear.

  • Anonymous

      I am looking right at that promo photo up there and I am not seeing the  “different body types” in that picture.  And yes, I Googled for other pics of LD.

  • Pingback: What I’m Reading… « Feminist Conscience

  • Pingback: Girl talk: live chat about HBO’s Girls | Old News

  • Pingback: ‘Girls’ Talk « One Unique Token

  • Jay

    Good heavens, in what universe is Lena Dunham “plump”?

  • Pingback: Weekly Feminist Reader

  • Pingback: Influence Film – movies news » What Are We Mad At Lena Dunham About Today?

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    With all of backlash over this show’s seeming lack of diversity, I’m pretty much expecting them to throw in a lone POC friend/lover into the mix soon (ala Friends) just to calm the fury down!

    • Mickey

      I remember that ! They threw in a black woman who dated two of the characters simultaneously and then Aisha Tyler was in the show for a few episodes. I call that the “Throw-them-*******-a-bone-to-shut-them-the-hell-up” card.

      • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

        Exactly LOL!

  • Jay

    I’m also from San Francisco, and I agree with this post. I had several jobs where the workplace was quite diverse, yet the people who became friends outside of work were always of the same race. I think the bay area is more about ignoring POC and racial issues than about diversity. POC are there, sure, but they may as well live in another dimension from whites, for all the attention that whites pay to them. Also many supposedly “liberal” whites there turn out to be quite racist if they think no POC are listening.

  • Jay

    Whenever someone tells me I’m thinking too much, I generally conclude that they are thinking too little.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1130483506 Cleo Hines

    LMAO @ black lady hair! Yeah, I’ve started noticing this disturbing trend where when people want to claim the diversity of a place, they’re quick to point out that the Asian (and sometimes to a lesser degree S. Asian) population is large in that particular area, that’s what the Bay Area suffers from. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when this started happening, but it seems as if blacks and Latin@’s have ceased to be minorities worth noticing, mentioning or included in the “Minorities We Care About” category and we’ve become some mythical creatures inhabiting Narnia or somewhere equally as fantastical.

    • Anonymous

      A city that is 30% Asian, 15% Latino, and 6% black sounds ethnically diverse to me. (Especially when “Asian” is a catchall for Korean-American, Japanese-American, Chinese-American, Indian-American, Indonesian-American, etc.) It doesn’t sound all that black. But it certainly sounds diverse. Call me crazy.

      (And yeah, SF has some class issues which produces its own obnoxiously smug homogenity even as it contains ethnic diversity.)

      I love my peoples, but the flip side of what you describe is the “well they’re not the kind of brown people I’m talking about” trap. That’s problematic too.

  • Pingback: Life is “Hard” for Rich White “Girls” | Modern Primate | The Manhood Manual

  • Keith

    Compared to Queens where I grew up, Brooklyn has always been more integrated and multicultural.  Maybe her take is more of a wish fulfillment that gentrification might bring. 

    • http://twitter.com/EAlcantara Edward Alcantara

      Where  and when in Queens did you grow up? Because I’ve lived in Elmhurst all my life and it’s plenty diverse. It’s the most diverse county in the US as of 2000 at least.

      • Keith

        I am from Jamaica Queens, and I grew up their during the late 80′s early 90′s.  And I wouldn’t call Elmhurst diverse.  It’s pretty much lacked black folks. While Asians and small groups of Latinos might seem to indicate diversity, the legions of blacks that have had to leave NYC for better opportunities says otherwise.

        http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2006/1/20060105-archive83.html

        • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

          I grew up in Queens too (Astoria and Woodside to be exact) and I also currently write about family issues in Western Queens for Examiner.com. Having said that, if by diversity you mean that Queens is less white, I can say for a fact that the Woodside/Elmhurst/Jackson Heights areas fit the bill. Astoria less so due to gentrification right now. But if by diversity you mean that it isn’t as diverse as it could be, with many more ethnic/racial groups living side by side, then yes these neighborhoods aren’t as diverse as they have the potential to be. 

        • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

          I grew up in Queens too (Astoria and Woodside to be exact) and I also currently write about family issues in Western Queens for Examiner.com. Having said that, if by diversity you mean that Queens is less white, I can say for a fact that the Woodside/Elmhurst/Jackson Heights areas fit the bill. Astoria less so due to gentrification right now. But if by diversity you mean that it isn’t as diverse as it could be, with many more ethnic/racial groups living side by side, then yes these neighborhoods aren’t as diverse as they have the potential to be. 

  • Pingback: HBO’s Girls: Black and White in the Media | Citizen of the Month

  • http://aljean.wordpress.com/ alexj

    Kendra: I’m a Cinema Studies Prof in a similar sort of college (Pitzer), and I’m happy to admit their our curriculum looks much like the one you seem to call for (our emphasis is on social justice, integrated production and theory, and a commitment in our teaching and scholarship to queer, non-white/US, activist/artistic media theory and production), However, even so, I do take some issue with imagining that Dunham’s problem is a primarily a curricular one, and not first a cultural or generational one. Which is to agree that taking a larger range of classes, and seeing more diverse films, would certainly have opened her up to ideas, but her “generational” malaise seems to be shared by many of your age-cohort (though not all), a critique I made recently about Pariah (I produced the first African-American lesbian feature, “The Watermelon Woman.”) I feel there is a great deal at stake in our conversations, across generations, about how we understand, share and represent agency, history, politics, and theory (which does get us back to college, I suppose, which is why I am a professor), and also why I am writing here. My post on Girls wants to think it through Grrrls. Hope you’ll take a look.

    Alexj

  • strangeday

    I also just want to point out that to a non-racialized gaze, movies like “The Notebook” and “Love & Basketball” are the exact same movie and that’s how it should be.

  • strangeday

    “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”" – opening lines of The Great Gatsby, the whitest, wealthiest and most privileged novel of them all.

    My fundamental problem with the show is not that it stars or tries to describe the lives of white, priviliged, wealthy women. That would not make it fundamentally unrelatable. After all, white, priviliged and wealthy people are still human and capable of connecting to anyone. Just look at Princess Diana. Or Hamlet. Or Home Alone.

    There are thousands of examples of work written by the WPW that transcends its demographic make-up and speaks to the hearts of many. The entire Western Canon of literature is written from that point of view, and no one but completely immature and militant crusaders of the Identity Politics Police would suggest that the entire Western Canon is worthless and does not deserve out attention. Should we all stop reading Jane Austen, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf because they were white, priviliged, wealthy women? That would be silly and impossible, because anyone (who is not fundamentally reverse-racist themselves) can relate to the gender dynamics in those novels. Virginia Woolf wrote about wealthy repressed English housewives yearning for other women, for pete’s sake.

    The problem with Lena Dunham’s work, for me, is not that she excludes people of other races and classes (although a white Brooklyn looks stupid), but precisely because she INCLUDES them as the most obvious, rehashed, gross stereotypes. She uses them as empty ciphers whose sole purpose it is to contrast, and therefore, construct a very specific white privileged female identity. Thus, we get Annoying Nerdy Asian girl who steals her job. And Magic Homeless Black person who inspires her at the end with some nonsense she makes him yell. She defines herself against these types as their opposite. That’s what makes it racist for me, not the accident of birth that made her the daughter of wealthy white people.

  • Juliet Jeske

    I am from a blue collar background, so although I am white I don’t understand the characters at all.  I can’t help but think of all of the other 25 year old artists that have accomplished more than one indie film who will never get an opportunity like this.  She got this break because she is from wealth and famous parents.  I don’t think it was wise of HBO to give this sort of responsibility to anyone age 25, but having been in the arts myself my entire life there has to be other artists her age, that would bring so much more to the table.   The show was like a half baked Sex in the City.  But where Sex in the City was a cotton candy farce full of fantasy and whimsy this is just navel gazing.   And even in Sex in the City the show mocked itself with characters openly admitting their shortcomings and insecurities.  Not boldly proclaiming themselves as the “Voice of their generation”.  If these characters are supposed to be so unlikeable that we find them funny, they missed the mark.   This is no “Absolutely Fabulous”.  This is exactly what you get when you let a privileged kid get their own show.  They make it likeable to only people like themselves, and they are so dim as to not include half of New York’s population.   

  • Anonymous

    I have trouble understand how yet another show that shows the lives of privileged white women who manage to avoid all minorities in a city as diverse as NYC is seen as groundbreaking.

    Nothing about this show is groundbreaking except perhaps the fact that the girls who star in the show are more average to below average looking.

    At any rate, the most annoying thing is that they are attempting to turn valid criticism of yet another white-washed portrayal of Manhattan as being misogyny and sexism.  And younger “feminists” are acting as if there has never been another show about white women (um, seriously?  White women have headlined shows and had their own shows since TV started).  But it’s really just another great example, of shut-up Black/Asian/Native/etc. women which is kind of par for the course.  It definitely illustrates how self-proclaimed “feminists” are not interested in telling any story or featuring any experience that does not put them front and center.  And it’s another reason why I’ll identify with feminism. 

    What ridiculous is that as annoying as these girls are, it’s not as if I don’t see cliques like this that have non-white members…there are non-White hipsters, writers, artsy types, etc. who could have easily been slipped into one of these four roles.  But that would require acknowledging that we aren’t all the same and we don’t all have the same minority experience.  

  • Anonymous

    @9599bc0a14a350d694ef7463244e767f:disqus
    , amazing writing.  Wow.  I really loved the article.  If the MSM had any brains it would call you, and the other writers here to write for them.  This was really a great article.  And thanks for helping avoid wasting my time watching this show.  Umm, I am always looking for suggestions of good TV programs.  I try to download the good stuff to share with my students.  But I need help. 

    On the downside, if this is the best the next generation of colonial masters, oops, I mean white plantation owners, damn, no, I mean the liberal bourgeoisie can do, then it is definitely time to consign them (and me) to the garbage heap of history!!  Viva la revolucion!  The good news is that the Internet is slowly (too slowly) opening real possibilities.

  • tvillinger1977

    Let’s just be real here. It’s not simply problematic that the cast is all white girls; it’s problematic that the cast and characters are all white girls who grew up with very successful artist/rock star/playwright parents. To be honest, it is not only racist, but it is economically elitist. Dunham grew up in a Tribeca loft with famous and successful artist parents. A co-star is the daughter of NBC newscaster Brian Williams. Another is the daughter of the Bad Company drummer (not that they don’t suck, but still). And finally, there is David Mamet’s daughter. Not only is the supposedly universal 20-something experience relegated to highly educated, white girls, it’s even more narrowed down to highly educated, wealthy, white girls with famous parents. To pretend to “transcend” and appeal to a universal experience is absurd. 

    • http://twitter.com/Lindsaka Lindsey Appell

      Thank you thank you thank you.  The lack of racial diversity is annoying and disturbing enough as it is, without even touching the class issues surrounding the critical response to the show. As a white, female college senior from a rural area who barely scrapes by via scholarships at a public university, seeing people describe these women’s issues as “universal” just makes me want to puke.

  • Elisa

    Wait, can someone please tell me more about these white girls and their tribulations?!? I think we have a really undertold story here.

  • strangeday

    I think it’s really funny that Lena obviously wants to be some sort of cool young hip person, but now has hundreds of her peers calling her racist and ignorant all over the internet. BUT I’M WEARING ALL AMERICAN APPAREL.

  • Rayuela

    This is an amazing article. And, yes, cosigning all of those above who have expressed disgust at the casting calls.

  • Africameleon

    simi-random thought…. What was that movie a couple years ago, based in Baltimore with no black characters in it and one Puerto Rican? 

    This happens in Hollywood. It’s not surprising – it’s rediculous – it gets old, it’s been old.

    • Shara Maheswaran

       He’s Just Not That Into You,. a (2009) Rom-Com. In fairness, it was an interesting take on the gentrification going on in Baltimore right now. Reminds me of You’ve Got Mail in early-mid 90′s New York.

  • http://xceptionaladventure.blogspot.com/2012/04/white-girls.html Another Obie

    I think this essay hits some of my point in a more astute way than I
    could have but in the end, the problems I see related to the production
    of Girls are structural and
    relate to more than any one person’s stories. Lena Dunham has a right to
    her vision and her stories.  Any writer
    could be called out for
    the absences in their stories. I don’t have any friends with physical
    disabilities; people with physical disabilities are render invisible
    through my work.  Does that mean that I should shut my mouth
    and keep my stories to myself?  Perhaps.  Or perhaps, if we make space
    for the stories of people with disabilities and mine, we all get a
    voice.

    Thus, I feel duty bound to call out the people who make decisions about
    whose stories get told the loudest. At the end of the day, that’s not
    Lena Dunham’s call. The real ire should be directed at HBO
    and a television industry that literally banks on getting a pass on the
    erasure of “the other”, the presupposition
    that we are okay with not seeing our lives represented.  Additionally, I
    think it’s too easy to pile on a 23 year-old writer.  Lena Dunham is a beneficiary of privilege.  The television
    industry is yet another
    institution that recognizes her voice as valuable (commercializing her
    stories) and ignores/represses lots of others.  It would be great if
    Dunham
    could call that out and critique it from her position despite the fact
    that it
    could end her career.  I’m not 23 years old and starting a career as a
    writer, so I absolutely will. 
     

    • Anonymous

      Well, it’s certainly true that Issa Rae would not get a show on HBO without some major casting changes.  Funny how average looking white women can be on TV but pretty black women who don’t have the right hair or skin tone cannot.

  • http://twitter.com/alexmac84 Alexandra MacArthur

    I’m a white woman and I don’t feel represented by this show. WOC have had a huge impact in my life and have been some of my closest friends. Not including them in something like this is like hacking a chunk out of my reality. And that quote about Precious….it’s just disturbing. Thank you for your point of view. It’s sad to think about all the people’s stories and perspectives we don’t learn about in school, but it is our choice whether to remain ignorant on these subjects. Especially when we’re making movies. 

  • Racialicious Reader

    As a real Brooklynite–one who grew up in Brooklyn and attended public schools there–this show embarrasses me. This is what the world will think of our wonderful, diverse city. As if “Sex and the City” didn’t do enough harm! Not to tar all New York transplants with a brush, but the show represents an attitude I see in many recent residents of the city, and it makes me sick and sad. REAL NEW YORKERS AGAINST “GIRLS”! 

  • ash

    I don’t sing and I don’t dance, but I feel as though Glee represents my generation more so than this show.  

  • Janet

    I hate to admit this but you can go to any big city and you can find a group of tight friends who are all the same race.  I live in SF and I am a person of color and I can go to the Mission neighborhood (which is suppose to be a diverse neighborhood) and see a big group of white people hanging out with their BFFs.  I think we are afraid to admit that even in the most diverse cities, people may not have a diverse group of close friends.

    • Anonymous

      Sadly I have to agree.  I haven’t seen the episode because watching a show about entitled 20-somethings that are supposed to represent my generation doesn’t appeal to me.  But, I live in Brooklyn and I do have close-knit groups of white friends where, when we hang out, I am the only person remotely of color and I’m half-white.  (I also find this city to be very self-segregating, but that’s just my limited experience after 5.5 years here).  That being said, that’s not the kind of demographic I want to see on TV or in movies, not only because it doesn’t represent my world, but also because I think the point of storytelling is to imagine worlds that are bigger and more idealistic than what real life can sometimes be.  I don’t need to watch “reality”, I live it. I want a good story, preferably with some diverse characters.

      • baddely

        I think you’re right.  That’s why I’m more into shows about people brought together by their school or workplace, as opposed to shows about tight-knit groups of friends. It gives the writers the opportunity to include characters of different backgrounds without making it feel forced.

    • Anonymous

      Sadly I have to agree.  I haven’t seen the episode because watching a show about entitled 20-somethings that are supposed to represent my generation doesn’t appeal to me.  But, I live in Brooklyn and I do have close-knit groups of white friends where, when we hang out, I am the only person remotely of color and I’m half-white.  (I also find this city to be very self-segregating, but that’s just my limited experience after 5.5 years here).  That being said, that’s not the kind of demographic I want to see on TV or in movies, not only because it doesn’t represent my world, but also because I think the point of storytelling is to imagine worlds that are bigger and more idealistic than what real life can sometimes be.  I don’t need to watch “reality”, I live it. I want a good story, preferably with some diverse characters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1130483506 Cleo Hines

       I’ve never found San Francisco to be very diverse, I think when people say San Francisco is diverse they mean that it’s not Caucasian American dominant, or they ascribe a meaning to diverse that reads as “not white”. The thing about NYC is, you have to try really really REALLY hard to have nothing but the most superficial encounters/interactions with POC. As someone that grew up in Brooklyn and has lived everywhere from Canarsie to Kensington, during the 24hrs in a day I’ve seen at least two people from any ethnic group you can think of. Even in high school when all my friends were West Indian like me (and West Indians are a pretty ethnically diverse group), my only two boyfriends were Puerto Rican.  I never really noticed (growing up there and all) how truly diverse the city was until I moved to the Jersey Shore a couple of years ago and realised that I could go days without seeing another brown person, hell, most days when I frequent my local coffee shop where I usually sit for at least three hours, I. Am. The. ONLY. Brown. Face. For hours. Everyday. For weeks at a time. This, would NOT happen in NYC. So the point I’m trying to make is this, to keep POC out of the narratives in the show in any meaningful way, is most likely a very deliberate action on Dunham’s part.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FIN6IQP2R5QWALHVUDALMTLXAM MST2010

        I agree with you about San Francisco.  I didn’t find it diverse it all.  The black community is marginalized there, and it seems that unless you’re a wealthy Caucasian or to a lesser extent, Asian yuppie, you don’t count.  Besides, its too frickin’ cold!

        Where

  • Anonymous

    Include me in the growing number of women  that have almost the same background  as Lena’s autobiographical characters on “Girls” but are non-white (Latina) and find the show irritatingly separatist. 

    I’m born and raised in Manhattan with the identical small, independent education background. Greenpoint and my current Brooklyn neighborhood  are nearly identical in income, diversity and gentrification. We both share’d the same insecurities and self-sabotaging behavior that every NYC twenty-something experiences their first few years out of college. Same interests, same social life, same ridiculous clothing. Yet, the world of  ”Girls” is almost exclusively white. Frighteningly white. Writers and creative directors have a blank canvas to create whatever world they please when making art. If the world of “Girls” is as autobiographical and realistic as Lena and the critics claim it to be, I am truly frightened at how fast my story, my culture, my friendships or my relationships could be erased from my Caucasian counterparts’  imagination. 

    As a Brooklynite, I find it near impossible to exclude the existence of non-white people from my daily life. Why is it such a breezy, brushed aside “mistake” (as she states in an HBO chat) to exclude it from hers? Did she NOT remain friends with one of the many students of color at St. Ann’s and Oberlin? Are NONE of them in her social or networking circle? Does she NOT socially interact with the ridiculously large black/latino filmmaker community in Brooklyn? Has she NOT had an impacting conversation with a non-white person at the myriad of art/underground/dinner/house/bar/band/restaurant parties that most “hip” Brooklynites attend as part of their social lives? Has she NOT had a professional relationship with a Black/Latino colleague that was non-threatening , non-pitying y or unadmonishing? Does she have NO  friends that are in serious, long-term relationships with someone outside their race?  Has she NOT come across or spoken to any of her Greenpoint “neighbors” that are 20% Hispanic (mostly Puerto Rican)? As a New Yorker,  it’s impossible to answer yes to any of these questions, less so as a Brooklyn resident. Since Lena and the writing staff STILL managed to erase a whole wealth of cultures and populations from their creative universe, than I am truly frightened if she is believed to be “the voice of my generation”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.solow Joel Solow

    As a fellow Oberlin anthropology grad who observed this attitude all over the place at Oberlin, thanks so much for this commentary.  Once again we have a demonstration of the ease with which those of us who are white can live in completely un-challenged, privileged worlds.  We do it by moving to the suburbs, by taking our kids out of public schools.  And even in the city, we do it by associating only with folks who look like us, and only noticing and treating as human the folks who look like us.  Even at Oberlin, it is shockingly easy for us to never have to face perspectives different than our own.

  • http://twitter.com/lilysea Shannon LC Cate

    I would argue that at least it’s realistic that they have no Black friends because what Black person would want to be friends with these appalling people, but then it occurred to me that I’m white and I don’t want to be friends with them either. Huh.

  • Rebecca Amadi

    I read the times article on this show. IT sounded interesting and different but I can’t get behind something that erases POC from their narrative.  

  • joy

     
    I’ve read a lot about this show and haven’t watched it yet.  All the stories make me sad that “How to Make it in America” wasn’t renewed.  That show was way more realistic as far as diversity. 

  • Kenzo

    The backlash to this show is, so far, way more interesting then the show itself. It’s as if there is a collective “not passing the sniff test” that the general interent public is getting that the critics didn’t. Probably because the mainstream critics are by and large the same kind of people as those depicted in the show. 

  • miga

    As a fellow Obie alumna I wanna say YES!!!  X10000

  • miga

    As a fellow Obie alumna I wanna say YES!!!  X10000

  • v.dot

    Really makes me annoyed when fellow white girls do this. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t claim you “get it” and understand problems with representation (ie that there’s not enough LGBTQ and POC representation out there), and then clearly not have given enough thought to it to make your principal cast white. It means you are essentially just making the same kind of gross misrepresentation of New York as lily-white, like in Friends and so many other shows. That’s a sign you don’t get it, you just like to think you get it.

    I only read about this show today, and was curious for a while but bleh, whatever. 

  • v.dot

    Really makes me annoyed when fellow white girls do this. You can’t have it both ways – you can’t claim you “get it” and understand problems with representation (ie that there’s not enough LGBTQ and POC representation out there), and then clearly not have given enough thought to it to make your principal cast white. It means you are essentially just making the same kind of gross misrepresentation of New York as lily-white, like in Friends and so many other shows. That’s a sign you don’t get it, you just like to think you get it.

    I only read about this show today, and was curious for a while but bleh, whatever. 

  • InvisibleAdult

    Show’s writer / story editor Lesley Arfin, the brainiac behind that Precious tweet, wrote once comparing defecating to Obama in the White House. I wish I were making this up.

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/04/girls-writer-learning-theres-no-such-thing-ironic-racism/51338/

  • InvisibleAdult

    Show’s writer / story editor Lesley Arfin, the brainiac behind that Precious tweet, wrote once comparing defecating to Obama in the White House. I wish I were making this up.

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/04/girls-writer-learning-theres-no-such-thing-ironic-racism/51338/

  • Jay

    This post seems naive. It is far from guaranteed that a school’s web site is accurate, up to
    date, and tells the full story of what it is like to study there.

    I also wonder why your first response to hearing about Kendra’s lived experience would be to search online for evidence that disproves what she says. Is that always how you react to people telling you about their experiences, or was there something about Kendra’s story that seemed particularly unbelievable to you?

  • Kendra

    So first off, I want to reiterate again that no, I DON’T claim to know what classes Lena Dunham took when she was at school. That said, a few points…

    - The students in my year (there were about 14 of us) always referred to it as the cinema ‘department’. Our profs were often hooked up in other departments as well, yes, but not all of us were double majors like I was, and thus my classmates considered it to be a department. That said, program or department, it doesn’t matter. That doesn’t excuse the requirements for not having non-white/European classes included. 

    - The core classes are electives, yes.  But you still have to take a certain number to graduate. And if you want to take four classes on American and French film while ignoring the African-American film classess, you can do that– Which I think is a downfall of a program looking to educate people in media.  I don’t claim to be a master of world cinema and I don’t think that you should know EVERYTHING by the time you’ve graduated college.  I do, however, think that you should be required to think outside the white Hollywood narrative. I wish I was at my personal computer because I still have some of the sylabi for my film classes.  Where did I watch Cabin In The Sky? In my Afro-American Film class, NOT my Hollywood Musicals class. Where did I watch Daughters of the Dust? My Afro-American Film class, NOT my Cinematic Traditions class (I can’t remember the exact name of the course). The lowest attended screenings in my melodrama course? Our back to back viewings of  an Imitation of Life. The lowest attended viewing in one of my best friend’s Cinematic Traditions class? Sweet Sweet Back’s Baad Asssss Song. 

    No one is requiring students to think outside the box of Hollywood and no one is chastising them when they are asked (usually once per semester) to consider something from another gaze.  A cinema studies student should have a fully formed film vocabulary. I’m going to question you never having seen Star Wars in the same way I would if you’ve never seen an Ang Lee film. 

    - To further hit that point home, terms like ‘the African American/Black gaze’ and ‘African-American Diaspora’ were never used in my other course. If I hadn’t chosen to take an African-American film class I would have never read Bogle or Hooks because though they’re film scholars, they’re not presented in other classes. 

    - ALL media studies students should HAVE to challenge themselves to think about Spike Lee’s Brooklyn (or ANY director’s non-white/Euro perspective) in the same way they should have to challenge themselves to think about Griffith’s America, Spielberg’s view on families, ect.  If a school isn’t EXPECTING that out of the students then, for me, that’s a failure within the department.

    • Anne Coburn

      I graduated a few years prior to Lena Dunham and Kendra James, the year before the school decided to create a cinema studies major. Curses! You really did have to seek out the classes about African-American cinema, world cinema, and other perspectives. But it was worth it; most filmmaking courses–and I’ve studied in Prague and at American University–DON’T include other perspectives. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Stagecoach dissected (wait. I can. Six.).  I loved Caroline Jackson Smith’s classes. I learned a hell of a lot from her.  Oberlin the college can be obtuse and self-congratulatory (much like many of its alums and I am totally looking at myself here too). But on the whole, I believe that it tries to get it right, just like a lot of us. I’m white and a filmmaker. I know I fail frequently, but everyday I hope to do better. 

      • Anonymous

         American University <– the one in DC? So nice to randomly come across another Eagle :-)

  • A Footnote

    Are you serious right now? As a recent graduate of Oberlin (Class of 2011) I can attest that Kendra is spot on. And you did what? Google it? 

  • Mickey

    Co-sign. I have given up trying to see if people like this understand anything related to POC. In Hollyweird, they either whitewash everything were POC virtually do not exist or, if they do exist, they are only present in a stereotypical fashion and for the mere reason of appearing post-racial.

    But, this may be a blessing in disguise. Do we really want a white person who probably knows nothing about POC writing about POC via a stereotypical lens if there were more characters of color present?

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone remember that “My one Black friend” article from a few years back? I believe from GQ? I watched “Girls” and my first question was- statistically, how many friends of color (okay, that sounds silly, but non-White friends sounds worse in my mind) does the ‘average’ privileged upper middle class hipster White college graduate have in major American cities? Is this realistic? The second question I kept pondering: Should a show be aspirational in what it shows? (as in: Should it show Lena’s character as having PoC friends although Lena herself does not have them?) The answer I gave to myself was: No, but she should at least be conscious enough to have characters address their lack of PoC friends on screen. And then the scene with the Asian colleague who gets the job came up… And then my pondering turned into “just-annoyed-at-this-shit”: The Asian colleague spoke faux broken English. argh!

  • Charlotte A Brooks

    I also think it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple lenses through which we can view Brooklyn. Girls reflects ONE of those lenses—as Brooklyn becomes increasing gentrified, we can use Girls as a jumping off point to understand how traditional spaces of color are so often co-opted by upper class white people with an inflated sense of their plight. This is a reality! Indeed Spike Lee’s conceptions of Brooklyn differ from Lena Dunhams! Think about their varying identity. Comparing these two divergent perspectives is important and can give us a better understanding of the multitudes of experiences that exist within a shared city. 

    I also really don’t think it’s a rational argument to correlate Lena Dunham’s major at Oberlin with her lack of understanding of racial diversity or to insinuate that she doesn’t understand/can’t appreciate the perpetuation of racism through cinema. I mean, c’mon, you have NO idea what courses she took at Oberlin. I went to Oberlin, majored in African American Studies, am white, and also understand that while yes, the bulk of her people of color from her casting call represent underlying stereotypes of people of color, Nussbaums’ mistake is in her labeling: it’s important to see Girls for what it is–not the voice of a generation, but the voice of privileged white people who don’t understand their privilege. This narrative cannot possibly resonate with everyone. We can use it as a jumping off point, to learn about the ways in which mass media aim to paint universal white hegemonic images of life, and at the same time, produce responses to this piece, which depict other perspectives of Brooklyn etc. 

    • Jenny Islander

      But the show as a chronicle of four self-absorbed white girls unaware of their privilege only works if the plots show a smidgen of awareness of their privilege and blindness.  Has one of them, say, mistaken somebody’s nonwhite grandmother for the nanny?  Addressed a nonwhite doctor in scrubs as a nurse without looking at the badge first?  Crossed the street to avoid being catcalled by the black teenager on the stoop, who is busy reading and doesn’t notice her?  Treated a nonthin, nonwhite boss as a friendly, funny maternal figure when the boss is gritting her teeth and trying to teach her something?

      • TM

        There’s only been one episode so I think we’ll have to see how it develops.  However, I think the characters certainly seem unaware of their privilege (especially their economic privilege).  I think they are unlikeable enough that viewers should be able to get that we’re supposed to laugh at them, rather than with them in many instances.

        • Ginger212

          I also grew up not in Manhattan, not all that far from Lena Dunham, but 15 years earlier. We have very similar socio-economic and educational experiences. But my parents weren’t artists and they were definitely not particularly open-minded. Yet my first boyfriend (in 2nd grade) was Dominican, my prom date was Jamaican, and my pediatrician was African-American. My best friend in junior high was a recent transplant from El Slavador, and my mom and I spent afternoons in our kitchen helping her with her English while she did the same for us with Spanish. All of which leads me to ask, who is this woman? She is nothing like any native NYer that I know, so who exactly is she supposed to represent? I don’t know that I can even remember a single day here that I didn’t have some kind of non-superficial experience with a POC. How is her life, as depicted, even possible? She has absolutely zero credibility as far as I’m concerned. To act as though her exclusion of significant characters of color is not on some level completely purposeful is just ridiculous.

  • Loislane

    As an sightly older woman of color, I find it hard to watch this kind of programming. Having worked for the parent company that owns, the WE channel, and IFC among other’s you come to understand how programming is selected. As someone who at time has been the ONLY person of color at these meetings the cultural divide is still an issue. For the most part there is this whole misconception that “the power’s” at be somehow know and understand “Hip- Hop/Urban Culture( make no mistake this show is an off set to of this). Despite what the creator of the show may say other wise. The problem is not so much the show, it’s the constant mindset that the ”
    Millennial Generation ” actually knows or understands the contributions made and is entitled  to reap rewards they have not earned.

    When you don’t have ANY majorities in this process, this is the programming you will continue to receive.  The problem is not really the show, it’s the fact that somehow there is this false need to engage in conversation that says “Where are the minorities”  Frankly, this is a rewrapped BADLY done version of “Sex In The City” that has a lost less cultural value. 

    • Anonymous

      It’s amazing how much the media and even big corporations want to bend towards the will of Millenials. I’m a 30 something Gen Xer and I remember of course all of the fuss about us in the 90′s when we were 20 somethings.  

      But companies want to change their workplaces and workspaces and the ways that we communicate all for people who haven’t paid their dues and who frankly are still immature and fickle.  But I work for a company that has Gen Xers(in a pretty sweet spot of being young enough to get re-hired but old enough to have unique skills)  running for the door and they don’t seem to care at all.

  • guest

    Unfortunately this show seems to be fairly representative. These types of ambitious, educated urbanites who consider themselves to be sort of hip and smart often are casually racist. They can be otherwise intelligent, perceptive people but have a major blind spot when it comes to issues of privilege and prejudice, no doubt because maintaining the attitudes that buttress that privilege is a matter of self-interest. They do tend to choose to socialize with those who resemble themselves and have the sort of unexamined racism that would result in the issues on display in the show. The Asian and black one-line characters definitely confirmed that the show has a problem.  But this is the case in most TV shows. Tina Fey’s humour, for example, often relies on negative stereotypes (racist, sexist, classist, etc.) and does nothing to question them, yet she seems to get a free pass by ‘progressives’.  I’m curious to see how (if) this show deals with class prejudice, which seems to be getting worse over the last few decades and is often quite overt in Dunham’s demographic. That Leslie Arfin has a ‘Vice’ background is no surprise since that rag has done a lot to encourage the ‘casual racism is hip’ mentality.

    • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

       ”Tina Fey’s humour, for example, often relies on negative stereotypes
      (racist, sexist, classist, etc.) and does nothing to question them, yet
      she seems to get a free pass by ‘progressives’.”

      Oh my, you have no idea I much I agree with this! I have know idea how so many progressive people, POC included, who seem to so easily overlook the astoundingly overt, and backward, racism of Tina Fey.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JVANDZ6YP3FXZSHKIA24GQTCEU ShelleyB

         Thanks for bringing up racist comedy. I just had an argument with my parents on why people shouldn’t get a pass for comedy acts based on racism “But they were just being funny” and “its all in good fun” are not excuses.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JVANDZ6YP3FXZSHKIA24GQTCEU ShelleyB

         Thanks for bringing up racist comedy. I just had an argument with my parents on why people shouldn’t get a pass for comedy acts based on racism “But they were just being funny” and “its all in good fun” are not excuses.

    • Anonymous

      Highly insightful and of course,I completely agree.

  • Rachey

    BRAVO Kendra. YOU HAVE SAID IT ALL.  I can’t wait to NOT watch this ‘post-racial’ American trash.

  • http://www.facebook.com/biatchpack Bitc H Pack

    Effie T. Brown pointed out on Facebook that the only African American character in Ep. 1 is a custodian. On Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23, the Asian woman is “obsessed” with the main white woman? Really?

    • Alaa Abouarab

      The manager at the coffee shop is a poc and James Van Der Beeks assistant/stylist/tailor appears to be a gay poc

  • http://twitter.com/callmepartario Osama Larara

    Yeah… you don’t get to be the voice of a generation by proclaiming you are the voice of a generation.

  • CONTACTProject.net

    Well said. 

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    Amazingly,  as I’m reading this post guess who’s on CBS This Morning, yep it’s Lena Dunham and she’s being interviewed by Gayle King. Ms. King talks to her about the sex on the show and a few other things but the subject of diversity did not come up. Also there was a lot of gushing by Gayle King and how much she loves the show. Interesting how so many journalists/ MSM interviewers of Color never touch the topic of race/ ethnicity or lack of diversity even when it would be such an obvious subject to talk about as in this interview.

    • Mildred Lewis

      I would argue that it’s not interesting. It is how they get and keep their gigs.

      • Anonymous

        but in this case, it is interesting (to me at least). nonetheless the lack of diversity has stirred all kinds of discussion, so it seems odd that Gayle didn’t bring it up. 

    • Anonymous

      I don’t think it’s interesting b/c if you confront white women about white privilege and narcissism, you get accused of sexism and misogyny, even if you are a woman and especially if you are a non-white woman.

      I’d say that a black interviewer would get fired for being the cause of white woman tears, and would definitely receive a lot of backlash that could result in job loss.

  • thebibliophile

    Did Nassbaum in quoting a source intentionally mean to reference the Black clothing line FUBU – “For Us, By Us”: 
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FUBU - as in the Black clothing line started for Black people b/c fashion ignored our style circa 1990s? Because if so, then I feel that’s an extra little smug smile of indifference and appropriation in the direction of womyn of color. Fail, fail, fail.

    Now that said, yes the show is problematic…and yet. Yet, there are white womyn who do in fact live like the ones in Girls: have access to diversity and select all white friends and communities, who make jokes about Nigeria but don’t know any actual Nigerian people…it’s ethnographic research, into the lives of an “encroached upon” demographic…right, yeah, that’s what I’ll go with ;-D

    And back to watching ABG.

    • Emilynussbaum

      Hi Bibliophile. Just to clarify, in my feature for New York Magazine, I was quoting a younger (white) colleague of mine using the FUBU comment—she was saying it was a show by a young women, about and for young women. (As opposed to me: I’m 20 years older than Lena.)

      I had heard of the FUBU line, but I’d also heard the phrase used by gay people, Indian people, and other cultures as well. That said, I definitely do get what you’re saying about clueless appropriation; I’ve been reading the coverage, including the essays on Racialicious and other discussion forums, and thinking about these questions. Just to give the history, I did talk at the time about the phrase’s racial resonance with my editor (who is herself not white) because a Google search had reminded me of the fashion line. But the choice to include it in the article has clearly bothered many readers, and I can see why, because there’s no doubt that it plugs directly into the question of “who is ‘us.’” If I wrote the piece now, I think I would address these questions more directly.

      As it happens, that FUBU sentence was written late in the edit, and I was using it to replace the original sentence I’d written, which described Girls as “Slutwalk in sitcom form.” Given the racial politics of Slutwalk, I’m certain that would have rankled readers in similar ways. Thanks for the feedback.

  • Elton

    I’ve never seen or heard of this show before.  But based on this article, I think it must be “spot on” in portraying my generation, because we are indeed obsessively self-centered and narrow-minded, unable to see the world through any point of view but our own.  My generation’s greatest achievement is Facebook, a monument to self-obsession mirroring the shallow social boundaries and cliques which exist in the real world.  We go online, not to discover truth and open our minds, but to reaffirm our prejudices by surrounding ourselves with like-minded people.  We’re only interested in two opinions–our own opinion and the popular opinion–and we do our best to make sure the two conform, lest we lose friends and popularity.

    By and large, my generation has nothing we want to fight for, except that little thrill, the tingle of self-indulgent pleasure when our existence is acknowledged in tiny pixellated lights on a computer screen–that all-important “representation of ME.”

    • Anonymous

      Speak for yourself. If you and I grew up a similar age, we’re supposed to belong to the same generation. But I don’t fit in your patronizing, pseudo cynical view of the alienated American young middle classes, so you must be wrong :S

      Keep trying.

  • Anonymous

    Let me get this straight:

    You are challenging Kendra’s experience of being a student at Oberlin, based on…your visit to their website?

  • STAYLOR in AUSTIN

    I googled lesley arfin to see if anyone else on the web was offended by her remarks and found this article from the atlantic wire…TRIGGER WARNING: one of her defenders may cause what I believe is known I Want To Punch That Idiot In the Face -itis 

    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/04/girls-writer-responds-critique-girls-horrible-joke/51314/

    Also, no offense to anyone named Shanice, but why does the black nurse explicitly have to be named Shanice and not Mary or Betty? The black man ( with one scene) gets to be Oliver. It seems the show has a stereotypical box it wants to put the few women of color it has in

    • Anonymous

      There’s nothing wrong with a black nurse named Shanice, just like there’s nothing wrong with white girls named Apple. Not all people wanted to name their kids Mary or Betty. The names themselves are not wrong – it is the connotations that are influenced by racism and classism.

      (And you may want to be a bit more conscious railing against black names on a site run by a woman named Latoya, especially when you are attacking the name of my younger sister.)

      • STAYLOR in AUSTIN

        You’re 100 percent correct and I apologize to everyone ( not just the one’s I justifiably offended).

         I shouldn’t have typed that ( or thought that). I was trying to make a very poor point about their stereotyping and I did exactly the same thing

        Sorry again for my ignorance and insensitivity ( like a lot of people I’m here to stop ”thinking stupid” but more than that to learn the reasons why I “do stupid”)

        Thank you for addressing this to me and anyone else you has a similar predjudice

      • Jersey girl

         My name is Khadijah and my siblings share similar names – but I do think there’s a valid point here.  Naming is meaningful in our society — and there’s something there in regards to “Shanice” vs. “Oliver” in terms of casting by non-POC. Still thinking it over, but I don’t think that it can be so easily dismissed.

  • http://twitter.com/otncooper cooper

    I caught 15 minutes of it and groaned. She should be embarrassed. Not watching is the best way to address this. 

  • http://twitter.com/allie_sei Allie Takabroccoli

    thanks Kendra!!!

  • http://www.redlightpolitics.info/ Flavia Dzodan

    The blogger behind the site Mark Reads used to work with this woman and last night he chimed in on Tumblr about his experience with her. (The post can be found here: http://panasonicyouth.tumblr.com/post/21341995481/itsinthetrees-redlightpolitics-lesley-arfin ). He commented that she used to compare Obama to shit all the time in a breathtaking display of racism (read the post for the details, I feel uncomfortable pasting them here to be honest). And lo and behold, she also has a post in her own blog where she euphemistically calls pooping “taking Obama to the White House”. 

    What I am trying to say is that obviously, this is part of a much larger pattern of racism and a general hurtful attitude where she doesn’t seem to measure the consequence of her words.

  • http://bmichael.me/ bmichael

    Wow, powerful stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/lifepostepic Cade DeBois

    The “funny” and “plump”  Latina co-worker who “helps”. A “funny” ( read “sassy”) Jamaican nanny. A “grandmotherly” (think “old world wisdom”) Asian nanny. A black nurse. An Asian nurse. The “very sexy” black guy who is a romantic interest but only has one scene, so not to upset anyone who’s bothered by interracial couples. And a young black guy who sits on a stoop and is “funny.”  Just like in real life. Oh you non-whites, what would we white people do without you to provide us services, make us not look so racist and make us laugh as we walk down a NYC street?

    Frustrating thing is, this is HARDLY isolated to this one show.

    • Davi Patell

      Wow, they almost cast a POC on equal footing with a white lady, but they made sure to make sure she’s ‘pleasantly plump’ (who wrote this? Cartman’s mom?) just so we, the audience, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this Latina (who puts strangers in their place on the subway) could be mistaken for a desirable woman. Nope, she’s just a fat, sassy Latina, along with the other Magical Negros, Magical Asians, and slutty Latina maids to help Lena Dunham become a Better Person.

      How long, oh Lord, how long.

      • Anonymous

         And one of her dislikes is “meager portions!”  Because we fat ladies, we just love to eat!

        • strangeday

          Obviously, this show is not true to life. But I also feel like it’s not really true to even Lena’s life.
           
          I keep getting the feeling when I watch her work that Lena Dunham is constantly making a vanity project, where she is some sort of whimsical paragon of Every White Girl Trying To Make It On Her Own in the history of film. So she quits jobs heroically, gets inspired by magical homeless people, makes loveably bad decisions, and as I can predict from that casting call, is constantly surrounded by other bad sitcom stereotypes.

          As the article points out, it seems obvious that Lena has grown up consuming a lot of bland mainstream art and film, and is now re-imagining her life in the same terms.

          I propose a nation-wide campaign called “The Education of Lena Dunham” where she must watch and read interesting artistic material and present a 30 minute report of what she’s learned every Sunday night.

          • Pechdaniph

            “The Education of Lena Dunham” sounds like a great name for a TV show (and everything suggested by the title)!

      • alina nguyen

        A
        -MEN.

      • kristen

         actually, I’m glad that this show is trying to cast women who don’t all have perfect bodies. It’s refreshing. And um, @elusis:disqus , most people love to eat. Including fat people. I love to eat. I’m pleasantly plump. I prefer seeing chubby women onscreen, because it’s an accurate reflection of reality, and also, it makes me feel like less of a weirdo for enjoying cupcakes.

        @26b28ab01f319a9f479ca9333d412a67:disqus You complain that she’s cast as ‘pleasantly plump’, but the other latina stereotype you mentioned is “slutty maid”. Either she can’t “be mistaken for a desirable woman”, or she is too sexy. Where is the okay ground here, then?

        • Leslie

          Kristen, 

          According to mainstream (read: white) media, there is no okay ground. That’s the whole point. US media and pop culture create caricatures of POC, and especially women of color as if they are not complex human beings with a whole spectrum of emotions and experiences. They are only there to entertain and somehow serve the white majority.

        • Leslie

          Kristen, 

          According to mainstream (read: white) media, there is no okay ground. That’s the whole point. US media and pop culture create caricatures of POC, and especially women of color as if they are not complex human beings with a whole spectrum of emotions and experiences. They are only there to entertain and somehow serve the white majority.

    • Davi Patell

      Wow, they almost cast a POC on equal footing with a white lady, but they made sure to make sure she’s ‘pleasantly plump’ (who wrote this? Cartman’s mom?) just so we, the audience, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this Latina (who puts strangers in their place on the subway) could be mistaken for a desirable woman. Nope, she’s just a fat, sassy Latina, along with the other Magical Negros, Magical Asians, and slutty Latina maids to help Lena Dunham become a Better Person.

      How long, oh Lord, how long.

    • Jenny Islander

      Good grief, I’m from the boonies and I can tell this thing stinks.  I get the feeling that my three or four days in Manhattan and the Bronx brought me into contact with more nonwhites than this writer has noticed in her entire life.  And I was a self-absorbed teenager.

    • Jenny Islander

      Good grief, I’m from the boonies and I can tell this thing stinks.  I get the feeling that my three or four days in Manhattan and the Bronx brought me into contact with more nonwhites than this writer has noticed in her entire life.  And I was a self-absorbed teenager.

  • eatmyshorts

    i am sick to death of this show. already.