Girls That Television Will Never Know

I tried to watch HBO’s much-lauded Girls.

I received absolutely nothing for my trouble, except 30 minutes with full-on screw face. Kendra and Jenna Worthham have already handled the diversity questions that arise with the pilot, but I have to admit that I really don’t care about diversity on this show. If they didn’t get the message by now, it’s not going to happen. And, on the real, is this what we really want? Diversifying that show is the pop culture version of integrating into a burning house.

My personal rule (being an urbanite) is that if someone can’t diversify their social circle in areas like Brooklyn or DC, they are not people I want to know. So whatever, the show isn’t for me. A lot of them aren’t–I don’t watch Two and a Half Men, nor do I watch Rules of Engagement, and that’s just fine. I’m not the core audience, and that was made abundantly clear.

After I turned off Girls, I tried to make sense of why I was so deeply pissed off. And for me, what stood out the most wasn’t anything to do with the monochrome cast. Nor was it the wink-wink nudge-nudge entitlement of the privileged class, though that’s fully there as well. (Pro Tip: Being aware of racism, classism, or ignorance is not the same as actually doing something about it.)

But more than anything, I was annoyed because the usual accolades, denials, misrepresentations that follow after a show like this airs. There’s the usual conversation from gender-focused outlets that these shows are for ALL women and we all need to go support or else we won’t ever get another shiny new toy. Then comes the idea that, even though this show is totally for ALL women, that we shouldn’t be attacking them for things like a total lack of diversity because it’s not fair to expect one show to be all things to all people. Then we start hearing the usual idiotic arguments about television being a meritocracy where, if you create good programming, you will automatically be served with a deal, or that it’s so unfair that this one show is getting so much negative attention when whatever new show of the year is one of dozens that fits the same basic theme of exclusion.

So for the purposes of this piece, I want to talk about why there is such a diversity gap in television, and in most pop culture, more broadly.

Let’s start with what is considered watchable.

A lot of folks seem to be under the mistaken assumption that people of color are not creating interesting things to get noticed. Actually, the issues in Hollywood are well documented, particularly with insiders sharing stories like this:

Screenwriter: [...] People are comfortable with their own stories. For example, I’m comfortable with a story about a black person, and a black hero, and a black family, and whites are comfortable with stories about themselves. Unfortunately, in their world, there’s not any room for stories about anyone else. They can read a good story about someone else and go, ‘That’s wonderful! But is there an audience for it?’ Because it’s not about them. And that is where they sell the American public short. I do think that whites outside of our industry are curious about other people. They go to zoos. So wouldn’t they go to see a movie about somebody else? It’s cold, but is that not true? They’re not closing up zoos because they’re not about white people. Why wouldn’t we think that whites would go see a movie about a culture different than theirs? Why do you keep making the same movie about yourself over and over again? Your love angst, or whatever your feelings, and what’s happening to you this year, over and over again? That’s why I have my own little thing about certain movies I won’t go see. There’s not a room that you go into when there’s a movie about black people or about any ethnic group where you don’t hear, ‘That’s a hard movie to sell.’ ‘That’s going to be tough.’

And even when all the indicators for success are there in mainstream channels, it doesn’t mean these projects will actually come to fruition.

Angela Nissel is a multi-talented author and TV writer. (She’s also the co-founder of Okay Player.) Back in 2001, Nissel penned “The Broke Diaries,” focusing on the lifestyles of college students and those post-graduation. Her book was sidesplitting and memorable, presenting stories that should be familiar to anyone who is broke–like finding herself counting out 33 pennies for a pack of ramen noodels and then not being able to pay the tax or making value judgements about food or lights. Or as she writes on the Broke Diaries site:

You’re broke? Learn to laugh about it. Being broke sucks, but being a broke miserable ass sucks even more. When you’re broke all you have is your sanity and that expired can of tuna. Don’t give away your sanity (but return that can of expired tuna for a new one. Express outrage at the store for selling outdated product even if you bought it a year ago. If you’re truly hungry, I believe you will be forgiven for this sin.)

Chris Rock provided a blurb for the book; it got a coveted Oprah shoutout in 2002. Aaron MacGruder, of The Boondocks fame, did all the illustrations. It was popular and well-received. Nissel started writing for the popular show Scrubs in 2002, so she was at least a player in television circles and a known quantity. And to top it all off, Halle Berry bought the options to BOTH The Broke Diaries and her memoir Mixed! So where’s the show/movie on either book? Nissel explains:

Is Mixed going to be on TV? I heard you’re working with Halle Berry.

Wow, how’d you hear that? I just said it was a super-secret television project. Hmmm, okay…Halle Berry and her manager, Vincent Cirrincione have optioned both of my books. We are combining our powers and executive producing a show. Will it ever actually make it onto television? We’ll see. Television is a weird and fickle chick. But, of course, if it doesn’t make it on the air, I’ll erase this paragraph and act like it never happened.

That’s just one story. But for the sake of argument, one could convincingly chalk Nissel’s experience up to the time before YouTube was huge and people get deals these days from their web series.

Dunham and friends created Delusional Downtown Divas back in 2010, which aspires to be an NYC art world version of Portlandia. Watching the series just made me nostalgic for this Liquid Television relic:

But my own feelings aside, then a web series should be the key to big time, right?

Tell that to Issa Rae, creator of the popular and award-winning series Awkward Black Girl. Even by the standards of the new playbook, Issa Rae did everything right. She built her own following, with each webisode averaging from 300,000 – 500,000+ viewers on YouTube. (I would compare this to the viewership for Delusional Downtown Divas but the first season has been removed, and the second is hosted on Vimeo where the stats trend lower than YouTube.) She went outside of the usual framework for a heroine and boldly presented a different vision of black womanhood. She got tons of online accolades and buzz from blogs as well as mainstream media outlets.

The first episode has 900,000+ views on YouTube.

Contrast this to YouTuber Stevie Ryan, who’s “Little Loca” persona (yes, she’s playing a Latina stereotype) trended lower initially–many of the videos went from 20,000+ – 200,000+ views, with a few that got major play. Here’s Loca, the video that got 717,000+ views:

Stevie Ryan received a 10-episode order for a pop culture show currently airing on VH1. So, clearly, Awkward Black Girl should have at least been fielding pilot offers, right? Not quite, as Rae explains in an interview with Vulture:

Will you turn Awkward Black Girl into a full-length show?

After meeting with a couple different executives in television, and seeing our visions don’t really align, I don’t want to sell my life to it now. In one meeting, during the first ten seconds, this guy said, “The show is pretty funny. This is about a typical black woman with her black women problems.” And then said big names were necessary to make it to television. Everything we were against, he was for. It was just one meeting, but for me, that was all I needed to realize we’re in the right space, and I realized I’m not ready to hear those things just yet. For season two, we’re working to build our audience and leverage our audience to networks to say, “We’re successful showrunners, give us a chance to have creative control.” I would love Awkward Black Girl to be on television, with the right team of people who understand and get it. If Awkward Black Girl could make it to HBO starring a dark-skinned black girl, that would be revolutionary.

Dunham has full creative control over her series. Why shouldn’t Issa Rae?

And to add insult to injury, Rae’s work caught the attention of the Shorty Awards, who named Awkward Black Girl Best Web Show. For that honor, she was treated to racist hate mail and twitter campaigns. As she writes in “People on the Internet Can Be Hella Racist:”

It was bad enough that fans had traveled all this way and lost, but to lose to a “black show” that they had “never even heard of?!” The NERVE! The Shorty Awards “are bullshit,” they cried. Completely unfair.

I can only imagine their confused anger at the fact that their “envelope-pushing,” irreverently racist comedy shows lost to something called, “Awkward Black Girl” — it not only makes me laugh, but it reminds me of why I wanted to create ABG in the first place.

And the tweets have it:

Issa Rae Tweets
We could review stories like this all day long–there are many talented people who are creating great work and yet are still toiling away in the margins. There are so many issues I haven’t touched as of yet. Kickstarter is full of ideas for web series and films and books and games from people of color looking to fund their own projects and worlds. Aymar Jean maintains an industry chronicle, listing black web series, gay and lesbian web series, Latin@ web series, and his analysis on the market.

But ultimately, if people choose not to see that one of the roots of this problem is racism, they won’t.

Why is Girls considered more “universal”, or more defining of a generation, than this monologue from Romance Of The Three Kitchens?

There is room in our world for all of these stories. And if people stopped denying the problem, and actually looked at the disparities between what is created and what is presented and funded, we would be that much closer to a solution.

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  • Lorigibson29

    The way you frame your argument leads one to believe that you think only black people watch Tyler Perry and BBWives and other such shows. Truth is, yes, black people do make up a significant fan base of those shows but so do other groups.  Those shows are not successful because only black people view them. 

    Also white people have a fair share of successful crap television.  Bravo Real Housewives of every other city except ATL have plenty of white women showing their arses, and those shows have a very broad fanbase.  

    Black people like trash tv and excellent drama, comedy series as well.  I know people who happen to love Curb, The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men as well as trash reality tv.  

    The questions is: who else besides black people will watch a show like Awkward Black Girl?  Will white people watch it and try to relate to a character who does not look like them but possibly share similar experiences?  Trust me, us black people who like it and support it on the web will indeed watch.  And there are many people who enjoy the show because it manages to depict real characters from diverse backgrounds.  And that is something that not many shows care to tackle, unfortunately.

  • Lorigibson29

    The way you frame your argument leads one to believe that you think only black people watch Tyler Perry and BBWives and other such shows. Truth is, yes, black people do make up a significant fan base of those shows but so do other groups.  Those shows are not successful because only black people view them. 

    Also white people have a fair share of successful crap television.  Bravo Real Housewives of every other city except ATL have plenty of white women showing their arses, and those shows have a very broad fanbase.  

    Black people like trash tv and excellent drama, comedy series as well.  I know people who happen to love Curb, The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men as well as trash reality tv.  

    The questions is: who else besides black people will watch a show like Awkward Black Girl?  Will white people watch it and try to relate to a character who does not look like them but possibly share similar experiences?  Trust me, us black people who like it and support it on the web will indeed watch.  And there are many people who enjoy the show because it manages to depict real characters from diverse backgrounds.  And that is something that not many shows care to tackle, unfortunately.

  • http://twitter.com/maryvannotes Mary Van Note

    Really interesting article.  I feel though that the Loca and ABG comparison wasn’t the best fit.  Mostly because I believe Loca’s success is due to her starting at an earlier time when there was less competition on YouTube.  That video you posted is from 2008, whereas the ABG vid you posted is from 2011.  That’s quite a time gap and those who got big hits first, got the deals first for sure.  It’s still early for ABG and I believe it’s possible for her series to get a deal eventually much like how Loca did.  However the industry is really changing in that as well.  People aren’t handing out deals for web series like they were in the Loca days of 2008 or so.  So I think the time ABG came out contributes to the lack of success along with the obvious racism in Hollywood.

  • http://twitter.com/maryvannotes Mary Van Note

    Really interesting article.  I feel though that the Loca and ABG comparison wasn’t the best fit.  Mostly because I believe Loca’s success is due to her starting at an earlier time when there was less competition on YouTube.  That video you posted is from 2008, whereas the ABG vid you posted is from 2011.  That’s quite a time gap and those who got big hits first, got the deals first for sure.  It’s still early for ABG and I believe it’s possible for her series to get a deal eventually much like how Loca did.  However the industry is really changing in that as well.  People aren’t handing out deals for web series like they were in the Loca days of 2008 or so.  So I think the time ABG came out contributes to the lack of success along with the obvious racism in Hollywood.

  • Walk It Good

    Oh LaToya  – thank you for this, it sums up my feelings about the show exactly.  

  • http://twitter.com/Ellington3 Rhonda Yearwood

    I did not watch this show and to be honest I do not wish to watch it.
    The subject matter, four white women trying to find themselves, does not interest me.
    If I want that I will re-watch Sex in the City, which I liked and had fun fashion.

    This is being discussed all over though and I have seen a discussion thread and article, being positive for the show, on the blog Hello Giggles.

    Here is the link if anyone wishes to scope it out, it is interesting because most of the posters on that blog are white and female.

    http://hellogiggles.com/the-girls-backlash-addresses-nothing-new-to-hollywood-but-it-sure-was-quick-to-hate-on-women

  • Aksel Westlund

    HIMYM is fairly repellant politically, god knows. There is one token black character, who also happens to be gay – the show lampshades the characters token status, but there is still no other gay / poc characters.  There’s also a lot of smug, pseudo-ironic reinforcement of the status quo, like the episode where two of the characters decide to raise their coming baby in a non-gender-specific way – this plot of course being resolved by the same characters realizing how silly and unnatural they’re acting. Shudder. 

  • Sol_dier

    and you know this, how?

    *sick of sanctimonious posturing*. People are watching ABG, and they are watching bball wives, they read Ellison as well as Eric Jerome D… 

     

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  • http://twitter.com/SonofBaldwin Son of Baldwin

    The problem, really, is in you expecting that Hollywood is the slightest
    bit interested in accurate representations of you. The entire point of
    Hollywood is to act as the propaganda arm of white supremacist
    capitalist heteropatriarchy, which means that the distorted images of
    the Other (or the complete ABSENCE of the Other) are integral to its
    operation. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi. I just want to add my two cents:

    If we are going to criticise an industry that runs on institutionalized racism and sexism, we need to address the system that gives rise to such an industry. This system is called neoliberal capitalism.
    More OPEN structural critique of neoliberalism would help anti-racists, anti-classists and anti-sexists to actually frame their discussions in a way that show where privilege actually comes from, and how it is actually perpetuated.

    I really think it’s time for the Left to wake up in this sense. We can talk for years about tropes, stereotypes, audiences, symbols and representations. And I agree, these things are extremely important to understand the world around us, and we cannot fight the status quo without knowing about them.

    But if we actually want to root out the causes and build a better society, we’re gonna have to start about capitalist moguls, bourgeois management and audiences, and the working classes with their different racial identifications. Why do we self-identify racially, especially the white working classes and the white middle classes? Couldn’t it be all part of the aspirational, faux-meritocratic game? Couldn’t it be that neocons exploit racism and racial identity to gain the support of white working classes, thus dividing the class they themselves exploit?

    And isn’t media just a tool in the hands of the ruling classes?Unless we start talking about instrumentalism, we are doomed in changing anything. Discourse is a tool. But we need to talk about a tool for WHAT.

    That said, Racialicious is one of the most openly critical blogs about race and the system that I have encountered. You guys do a great job, this is not personal criticism but an attempt at a wake-up call for all of us.

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

      Great point!

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  • http://psychologyandpolicy.wordpress.com geekaygee

    what bothers me is the whitewashing of HBO. HBO initially had several shows with people of color, which helped them gain a reputation of airing groundbreaking and unconventional shows. Within the last few years as the golden age of HBO passes, the new shows are increasingly white not only in the racial make-up in the cast, but also in the culture it depicts. It is disappointing to see, although not atypical or shocking.

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

    Great post Latoya and thanks for the heads up over who is getting “noticed” by Hollywood and who isn’t, despite them playing by the rules. Speaking of which, I just read recently that the two white guys behind the “S*** Girls Say” video are apparently getting a book deal…no mention as of yet of whether or not the maker of the awesomely better “S*** White Girls Say…To Black Girls” video is also eligible for a deal like that too. And ugh at those twitter comments! It seems like internet anonymity just brings out the worst in people.

  • TashaD

    This is such a great article. As an African American actress creating her own web series, this was a very inspirational piece. Thanks again! 

  • Mademoiselle2

    Yes–I agree, totally. Online is the future that we should be looking at. Network TV may seem to be impenetrable, but it is not, and it CAN and WILL be brought to naught. Its racist platforms have lorded over us much too long. It has been their game, their rules–it is time to put a stop to it. Advertisers are fickle and will put their money and product where the viewers are. Right now, TV is the most supported medium for that dollar. More people have to be reached with the excellence of programming of such shows as “ABG” ON THE INTERNET. Today was the first day I watched this show, and man, was I pleased with it. It was also my first day with Racialicious. I am hooked and dragged my husband in to view it with me and read some of the awesome comments here. I will plug it to everyone with a ear. This site makes me feel welcome and understood. That’s how you do it!

  • Jcat80

    This is the best write-up of this entire scenario I have read. Latoya, that was great!

  • Jcat80

    This is the best write-up of this entire scenario I have read. Latoya, that was great!

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  • AC

     I think you are missing the overall point of the article. The criticism is the continued whitewashing of these shows does not represent the true demographic of our society. We are in a nation that is increasingly becoming non white majority and yet we can’t get one show on a major network staring a p.o.c or p.o.c/lgbt cast. Hollywood continues to show us a white fantasy that has no room for us. And if we are in the shows we are stereotypes. Now you may think that people can not possibly believe what they see on television as truth but that is not the case. People believe the stereotypes that they see on t.v.  That in turn takes away the full range of who we are. We are always stereotypes and not fully realized human beings.  There are people who can not believe that I do not enjoy hip hop because I am Black. Where did they get the idea that Black people just like hip hop? Through the media. And keep in mind that media is Americas biggest export so these images are being shown throughout the world.

  • Anonymous

    You must be new here. If you like Girls, fine – but this is a site dedicated to critiquing race and pop culture. We have called out Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, and thousands more. If you want to go on a more mainstream site and complain that people are singling out Dunham, knock yourself out. But your criticism doesn’t work here, with six years of archives covering why Hollywood gives people of color the shaft time and time again.

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  • Mickey

    Here is a negative review of “Girls” that people on Racialicious who have viewed the show would agree with, I’m sure.

    “John Cook of Gawker.com described the show in a negative review as “a television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.”

  • Anonymous

    I don’t agree with the dichotomy you present. One can be a fan of both Awkward Black Girl and Basketball Wives, and if those shows don’t air in the same time slot, there’s no reason that both can’t draw from the same audience. I agree that there is a sore need for greater diversity in the media’s representation of black people. But I take issue with the prescriptive notion of what shows are “good” for black people to watch.

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

    I heard about this show from my sister who is a blerd (a black nerd).  I admit that I am something of a blerd myself, so I would definitely watch it.

  • Anonymous

    First of all, seeing the tweets above reminds of one of the reasons I hate Twitter and Facebook and all other alleged “social” networks. Much of what I’ve seen is very anti-social (to say the least).

    I got to this site through a link from ColorLines (a great and important organisation), and was frankly not surprised that there would be a racist aspect to “Girls” simply because Lena Dunham (and her work)  is so exceedingly white in a whitebread way, although being proclaimed as the new hipster goddess. As a white male who knows many hipster types, I’m always wary about these things as they almost always come from a level of privilege (money, education, etc.). The white hipsters that make this kind of drivel will bend over backwards to say they are not racist, and in a way they are not. Many will certainly not disparage black people, since some of their hipster friends may actually be black. But they will not go out of their way to find out about real black life experiences in America today outside of DUMBO. So they are basically in many ways just ignoring most black people. Of course Lesley Arfin (I like to think of her now as Lesley Arsehole) is an obvious exception. She certainly knows how to be a hipster racist. In fact I nominate her as the first winner of  America’s Top Hipster Racist (TV version coming from Fox any day now).

    Latoya, you made a great point when you said “My personal rule (being an urbanite) is that if someone can’t diversify their social circle in areas like Brooklyn or DC, they are not people I want to know.” Amen. I don’t live in a big urban area but I’ve been to many places that are, and the variety of people and ideas and well, everything is really what it IS all about today in America. And it’s really sad when these allegedy anti-racist hipster types like Dunham and her ilk, who are usually from urban areas, ignore all these things they’ve seen all around them all their lives. Well, maybe they didn’t see it so much at Dalton, but they certainly saw it outside on the streets in front of said school.

    The one postitive thing that may happen is that many viewers will soon realise that Dunham is a supremely untalented hack, and the show will ultimatley not be renewed.

  • Anonymous

    Why hasn’t Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit tried to work with Issa Rae? I’d much rather watch ABG on TV than ‘Single Ladies’.

  • Anonymous

    Why hasn’t Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit tried to work with Issa Rae? I’d much rather watch ABG on TV than ‘Single Ladies’.

  • Anonymous

    To attest to the universality, I’m a white dude and have been caught lip syncing in the car.

    I think the elephant in the room is that Lena Dunham (hell, the entire cast of Girls) is ridiculously well-connected.

    I agree that most people are more open to other people’s cultures than the media thinks.

  • Anonymous

    I’m probably one of the few black women on here who might admit that, though I didn’t necessarily “like” the show, I found the storyline intriguing enough to might want to see where it goes.  I watched the show on HBO Go with my brother on his Xbox 360.  Unfortunately, from all the behind-the-scenes stupidity I keep hearing about, it increasingly seems like attempting to watch any more of this show might be like being a gay person eating at Chick-Fil-A.  I don’t want to support a show that upkeeps the status quo of normalizing white 20-somethings pretending like, after high school, that they have no racial minorities in their lives or that, plainly, they’ve never been around black people before.  I dealt with that at my first college in Milledgeville, GA, (small-ass town: guess which school that is :P), and it was bullshit, then, 10 years ago; I’ll be damned if I put up with it, now.

    And on HBO of all networks?  The same network that had five seasons of the Wire?  The people who had Oz on for years?  (Oz, y’all!! OZ!)  What the fuck happened?  This is probably the worst show HBO has put up in years, and I’m including Arli$$, and even though it’s mostly an import, Angry Boys.  I wonder how long this show will stay on HBO until they, too, decide it’s too much trouble to keep on keeping on.  I mean,  look how quickly they dumped Luck after too many horses died on set.  Here’s hoping they care about the racial problems on this show as much as they cared about animal rights towards the other show.  At this rate, after the blow-up against the friggin’ PILOT EPISODE, I’ll be surprised if there’s a second season.

  • Anonymous

    All of this is only a mystery if you don’t recognize a basic fact. America is not so much a racist culture as it is a white supremacist culture.  Television and the media are the best medium for seeing that system play out.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/3codUm8BxvqjexiiRD_vT6du6nFanFt0#6779e roundelay78

    For anyone who hasn’t read it or gotten to a copy of it yet, this month’s  issue of BITCH magazine has a whole article titled “Out of This World: How Web Sci-Fi Is Bucking Whitewashed Hollywood”, which is about specifically  folks of color creating their own web shows as an alternative to the lily-white world of fantasy/horror/sci-fi. It’s got a long list of specific shows on the web to look  out for such as the Hong-Kong based LUMINA (which I’ve got to finish watching),  CHICK (about a black superheroine) and others. The ag already featured an article on AWKWARD BLACK GIRL about a year ago. Check it out if you can!

    • Anonymous

      Hey roundelay78, thanks for sharing the info! =)

  • jvansteppes

    “This is about a typical black woman with her black women problems.”

    This confirms my suspicion that there’s little difference between a network executive and a youtube commenter.

    • mickinickharp

      I love the word “typical” and how often people apply it to human beings.  

    • Anonymous

       I’m white and relate a lot more to Awkward Black Girl than Girls on HBO. And it’s funnier and more entertaining, IMO. I’d watch the hell out of that on TV.

  • Anonymous

    This was so ON POINT, Latoya, thanks for this!

  • Anonymous

    OMG! I thought I was the only one! I honestly didn’t see 4 girls. 

  • Bridget

    Best thing I’ve read all week. 

    I’m a middle class white woman and I love to watch shows about people who don’t look or act like me. 

     I’m 42, and I grew up in a rural town where there were just a few people of color. If you dated someone who was Italian or Irish, you were dating someone “exotic”.  TV is made for people who never get out of their very white small towns. 

    TV’s answer to diversity is, unfortunately, GCB.  This show is blindingly white,  and also, it portrays the Texan culture as super-different and over-the-top. Look how different those Texans are! Look at them with their church-going ways. Oh look, there’s the closeted gay guy who likes to sing and dance! Aren’t they different? They say “y’all!”  

    These people are just more middle and upper class white folks.  But they’re portrayed as this whole other society. Let’s see how those Texans live! They are so different than the rest of us. The shows about middle class white women on TV aren’t about my experience either.  They are dumbed down and slicked up. We’re not watching ourselves.  We’re watching a representation of white folks with the broadest commercial appeal.  This comment is not a bitch about how bad white people have it that television portrays them inaccurately. That’s just an aside.  Because, at least we’re on TV, being portrayed as something other than violent, loud n’ sassy or as a lukewarm comedy sidekick.  My real comment is this: I would watch Awkward Black Girl. I think most people would watch it.  If a studio took a chance on it, and did it the way she wanted to, it’d be a big hit.  I think people would love it. And: What can average people do to change this paradigm? 

  • Classified X

    I really love this post. I am a black woman working in the film/ television business. I have been doing this for almost 8 years (if you count all of the music videos I’ve filmed in college). I struggle EVERYDAY with race in this business. Im on set, in the production offices. I express that one day I’m not going to be a PA or an Assistant. And The answer I get is “are you gonna make movies like Tyler Perry? (My answer: really?). I’ve been told flat out that “Exec’s wont make a film like that (black) because theres no market for it. They dont make money unless your Denzel or Will Smith”. 

    I remember a time in the 90s where television networks had so many shows that featured black casts with black people stories. As a child i thought it would get better. I’ve asked a popular actor what happened to those shows? He said “writers strike left everyone jobless and damned near homeless. Now everyone is trying to be safe.” Know what I say? “excuses excuses”  Our youth only have basketball wives to look at on television. Its frustrating but I will NEVER give up. And I give props to those like Issa, who’s series I like more than most television shows. I’m planing my revolt… To be continued…..

    • Charlotte

      Keep up the good work/fight! We need you!

  • Lnakamur

    Thanks for posting this.  This twitterfeed is unbelievable and everyone needs to see it.  what important work you’re doing.

  • Racialicious Reader

    The NYC youth experience is largely and increasingly immigrant and/or racial/ethnic minority. As a lifelong New Yorker, I refuse to watch any show about young people in New York City that doesn’t reflect this reality.

  • Rebecca A

    Awkward black girl could do alot with it’s own show. When I saw it, I was like “This is me! Omg!!! ” It made me feel good about myself because her character is so relatable. IF she could make it, I could. Shame that it will never air though. One thing I read on tumbler for The walking Dead who had no black extras in Atlanta Georgia, a heavy black populated area, because there “wasn’t enough black actors who tried out.” What kind of sh-t is that? Really? Not enough? There’s too many!!! Get out of here, it’s not our faults all the time. Not even some of it. 

  • mickinickharp

    I despised “Girls”.  I liked the idea of the show–young post-grads learning how to make it on their own in the adult world.  Not a wildly novel concept, but interesting because typically this story revolves around men.  Ten minutes in, I knew I wouldn’t watch another episode.  The gargantuan sense of entitlement of the main character and the British woman made me want to vomit, and that’s completely because I was a working-class scholarship kid in undergrad who witnessed first-hand exactly the sorts of ungrateful cretins who sponged off the family like it was their due.  The best friend character (with BOYFRIEND TROUBLES! LIFE IS HARD!) is a whiny enabler.  Moreover, this was all the writers could find to say about NYC?  I’m a white Southern woman who visited the city for the first time four years ago.  These “characters” have to be the most dull representation of NYC-youth experience that HBO could have pulled out of its ass.

  • v.dot

    Those tweets about ABG are making me sick. When did Twitter become the most popular platform to air idiotic, plain racist views? Ack.

    I’d heard good things about ABG all over but only now watched the first episode. HILARIOUS! Will bookmark & watch more soon.

  • v.dot

    Those tweets about ABG are making me sick. When did Twitter become the most popular platform to air idiotic, plain racist views? Ack.

    I’d heard good things about ABG all over but only now watched the first episode. HILARIOUS! Will bookmark & watch more soon.

  • Elton

    What’s with this idea that you have to identify with characters in a shallow, demographic way in order to enjoy a movie or TV show?  White people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are white people on the screen? Black people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are black people on the screen?  Give me a break!

    What happened to escapism?  What happened to enjoying a movie or TV show precisely because you get to see things you don’t see in everyday life?  One of the reasons I love superhero movies is because the characters are larger than life.  Yet, if they’re written well, you find ways to root for them that aren’t necessarily based on their race.

    Captain America is white, but you don’t have to be white to root for him.  He’s a formerly scrawny kid who got picked on and is now living out his dream of defending others and fighting for justice.  That’s something I can get behind.

  • Elton

    What’s with this idea that you have to identify with characters in a shallow, demographic way in order to enjoy a movie or TV show?  White people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are white people on the screen? Black people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are black people on the screen?  Give me a break!

    What happened to escapism?  What happened to enjoying a movie or TV show precisely because you get to see things you don’t see in everyday life?  One of the reasons I love superhero movies is because the characters are larger than life.  Yet, if they’re written well, you find ways to root for them that aren’t necessarily based on their race.

    Captain America is white, but you don’t have to be white to root for him.  He’s a formerly scrawny kid who got picked on and is now living out his dream of defending others and fighting for justice.  That’s something I can get behind.

    • Anonymous

      Oh god where do I even begin with this one. Damn I am so used to responding with a gif

    • Lnakamur

      One person’s escape is another person’s oppression.  Racist entertainment is still racist, even if you are entertained.  

    • oper

      so, I have to be white in my escapist entertainment? that just reproduces an attitude that white culture/life/people is more fun, interesting, and worthy of being part of fictional universes.

    • Tony Wu

      Minorities do this every time we turn around in popular culture. I almost never identify with the characters in a shallow demographic way. Black people do it every time they turn on practically any movie or TV show. We’re good at this. White people can be, too.

    • Ike

       The problem is that non-white people ALWAYS have to put up with not being represented (or being stereotypically represented) in American TV and movies.

    • Anonymous

      But then why can’t it work both ways? White kids like me grew up wanting to be Eddie Murphy or Will Smith (and no, I’m not delusional enough to believe that either represents the sum total of black America).

      If black kids can identify with Captain America, then White kids can identify with the John Stewart Green Lantern.

    • Brandon

      “White people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are white people on the screen?”

      I’ll keep this simple, Elton.  Speaking for the white people of America… YES.  We can be pretty dumb when it comes to race.

    • Brandon

      “White people are confused by what they’re seeing unless there are white people on the screen?”

      I’ll keep this simple, Elton.  Speaking for the white people of America… YES.  We can be pretty dumb when it comes to race.

  • traci

    ughh at those racist twitter comments. you should have publicized their names, they wrote it they’d better own it.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Traci.  Let them be racist on Twitter…let everyone know who they are. They obviously think vituperative denigration is polite discourse.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with Traci.  Let them be racist on Twitter…let everyone know who they are. They obviously think vituperative denigration is polite discourse.

  • Jay

     It’s my hope that successful online series will be the death of network TV as we know it. It’s so stale and tired, I can’t figure out why anyone keeps watching or why creative people keep trying to take their ideas there.

  • Jay

     It’s my hope that successful online series will be the death of network TV as we know it. It’s so stale and tired, I can’t figure out why anyone keeps watching or why creative people keep trying to take their ideas there.

  • Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    I’m still ticked at all the haters on ABG, that shit is freaking hilarious. Like pee your pants funny. As CeeCee would say ‘racists beee triiiiiipiiiiin’

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

     I think it’s important to remember who really runs Hollywood, that’s old White men.  They have ultimate control and those 60+ year-old men aren’t going to greenlight a show they don’t understand.  And they don’t understand “Awkward Black Girl” or any show or film that depicts African Americans or People of Color in ways they don’t understand. That’s why we see Black women actors being nominated for all kinds of awards playing in “The Help” and films of its ilk but a film like Medicine for Melancholy which starred Tracey Heggins or  Neo Ned starring Gabby Union, etc, never get recognized by the Academy Awards.

    My hope is that now that so many have proved that the internet is a viable way of delivering content that instead of aiming for network TV, shows like “Awkward Black Girl” will be able to make money online and be able to prosper. To heck with Hollywood.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Linda-Reynolds/854065470 Linda Reynolds

      Actually not so much old white men now.  There is a lot of young white men and they are running the same tired white boys club as their elders.

      • Anonymous

        Don’t forget that Judd Apatow is behind Girls, and apparently he championed it to counter the whole “women aren’t funny” idea. You would think he’d be more sensitive to race.

        • Anonymous

          90% of his movies have had all or predominantly white casts.  I definitely don’t expect him to care about diversity. 

    • Anonymous

      Personally, I think the Internet is a mixed blessing. It’s great in terms of distribution, but there needs to be a better system in terms of remuneration. People point to Louis CK making millions selling his special for only $5, but boy, is that unrealistic for most creators.

    • RC

      But we understand most if not all of the white tunnel drivel that has been shoved down our throat and out our behinds for how long now?? The excuse that they won’t greenlight movies they don’t understand erases their guilt and latent white supremacists ideologies while throwing the creators of said un-white shows under the bus.  Are we to believe that none of the creators of un-produced shows are able to tell good stories (because a good story is what eveyone understands right?)? Face it thereis a serious problem that causes these producers to see almost anything presented by un-white skin as unworthy because it does not center around whiteness. And if you really think they don’t understand you might want snap yourself out of the fantasy….we win awards for roles like The Help because that is the only acceptable place they want us to be seen in and given accolades for..not because they only undesrtand us as maids. If we can understand all of the white life white world shows they have fed us (some of which we not only enjoyed but learned from) then they too can do the same…but Val, they just don’t want to.

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5YW7F65MA5WAVBWEPVR4SVSH7Q Daniel

    I think we should all know the script by now.  Only stories or narratives of people of color shucking to the lowest common dominators of their perceived stereotypical behaviors gets green lit for a mainstream American audience, so that all their confirmation bias can be confirmed, while being entertained in glorious Technicolor.

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

    * Hear ya- having experience going to a MFA Screenwriting program in California that claims “sensitivity to diversity” and then lauds projects that demean women and minorities… Hollywood is broken from the inside and its educational systems that tolerate continued sexism and racism.