Black People Review Girls (2.1): A Letter From Joe To Kendra

By Joseph Lamour

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Dear Kendra,

Did you have a good weekend? I hope you did. Mine was pretty great: friends, karaoke, laughter, moderately priced alcohol, and other 20-something stereotypes…Instagramming, there was definitely a lot Instagramming. So… Is it as foggy in New York as it is in Washington, DC right now? Because I’m feeling a little like I’m trapped in that Lana Del Rey video. Anyway…

I just wanted to break the ice before our season-long foray into talking at length about Lena Dunham’s Girls. I know, Kendra: the idea of Lena and Lena’s television program and requiring you to watch Lena and Lena’s television program for the site is a less than thrilling idea for a lot of people…and even less than less for entertainment writers like us who are attuned to TV stereotypes and diversity shortages. None of us were thrilled about the whole debacle last year. There was quite an article about it on the site, as you know—you wrote it, after all.

So, Kendra, I’ve watched the first episode of Season 2 already. I’ll let you know what I’m thinking, and I’ll wait for a reply with your own thoughts. We’ll be kind of like pen pals who are super-focused on talking about something neither is particularly fond of. Kidding, of course… sort of.

To the topic at hand!

Plot spoilers below the cut. You’ve been warned…

 

Here’s a fly-by recap, in case you want to have absolutely no surprises while you watch: the season begins by catching up with most of the girls of Girls–Hannah (Lena Dunham), Elijah (Andrew Rannells), and the result of Elijah’s preacher-curl regimen are asleep. Hannah is in bed with her gay ex, whom she’s now living with. Elsewhere, in her pink palace, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) is waving a sage stick and cursing Ray (Alex Karpovsky) for being a jerk (one can only suspect–there are a lot of jerks in this show) after sleeping with her. While walking in Chelsea, a pretty black girl in a striped shirt takes all of my attention. I think Marnie (Allison Williams) just gets fired from her gallery in that scene…or something. Stripes is placed directly in the center of the frame, so she is all I see on the sidewalk, but maybe I’m looking too hard for minorities–or maybe it wasn’t an accident. I feel like there’s a joke here somewhere involving sandwich boards that read “diversity!”

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We are then treated to a couple of scenes involving Hannah’s new man, Sandy (Donald Glover); the first being a sex scene; the second is a conversation showing how Adam is definitely going to ruin this thing with Sandy. I’ve been rather curious how someone like Lena Dunham would respond to the world after being asked over and over for months why she’s never met a black person. And the verdict? Sandy seems very much OK so far to me. The bookstore conversation between Hannah and him is by all means typical of a new relationship: we’re just looking at two significant others, one neurotic, and one in a beanie. Fine work.

Other things happen in the premiere, too: Adam is still a huge jerk. A huge jerk in love with our heroine. Rita Wilson is playing Marnie’s mom, and that’s pretty nifty. At a party Hannah and Elijah are throwing, Shoshanna and Ray fight then hook up. We also discover that this group of people is mostly comfortable befriending black girls with natural hairstyles. And–something unexpected–Elijah and Marnie hook up! It goes as well as expected, considering the fact that Elijah is gay and Marnie is a horrible person. But there are other more pressing things to discuss, obviously.

Here’s what I think, after watching the first half hour of the season: I admire that Dunham took the criticism she got last year to heart. There are so many examples of how Hollywood ignores this type of thing. In fact, there are whole websites devoted to it. It really seems like she listened; I can’t tell from thirty minutes that everything has been solved, but it seems to be off to a good start? Lena Dunham isn’t so bad? Maybe? I say that with reservation but enthusiasm. Before I go, a couple thoughts on the good and the bad:

  • Good: I’ll start with positive reinforcement: Girls is definitely more diverse this season!
    Bad: That definitely wasn’t the hardest thing to do.
  • Good: Donald Glover as Sandy! Hannah’s new, fleshed-out, not at all T-Doggy boyfriend.
    Bad: I’m just hoping Donald Glover won’t simply be this show’s Charlie Wheeler.
  • Good: About the extras: A marked improvement in the representation of Brooklyn’s racial mix. So, Lena Dunham created a popular show, a critically acclaimed show, and instead of being, like, “Whatever. They’re all going to watch me anyway!” she actually made an effort to improve her show. That’s good. Very good. And to be honest, she probably realizes that a more realistic mix equals a more realistic world for her characters to live in.
    Bad: Again, this is about the extras: There are definitely more black people on the show, but…I mean…I’ll put it this way. Realistic diversity is definitely not in your first season, girl. But it also not this. It’s definitely realistic here. But–it’s not this either, so don’t go overboard.

A closing thought, a coincidence: I went to RISD with Jemima Kirke, and you went to Oberlin when Dunham did–and you and I are colleagues now, as are Kirke and Dunham. The world is small.

Anyway, Kendra, I’d love to know what you think about the premiere: your thoughts on Sandy, the extras, and anything else. Looking forward to it, girl.

 

With Anticipation,

Joe Lamour


  • justlikeoldtimes

    Considering everything that’s happened, I wouldn’t call writing in some guest stars as addressing the criticisms. It may be some nice damage control that makes the show better, but it’s still ultimately a show about the characters who are white in NYC. I’m not saying the show can never be redeemed, but the it’s the broad stroke of the show that’s broken. Considering what people have said in defense of the show, I’m not optimistic that they’ll ever “get it.”