HBO's "Girls": Can You Relate to a 'Girlfriend' Show With No Black Characters?
New series is considered racist and unrealistic
After hearing much buzz about HBO’s new show Girls, I finally got around to watching the pilot yesterday (I still have to watch the second episode).
Girls is the scripted comedy from 25-year-old creator/director/writer/star Lena Dunham. The show is about three 20-somethings surviving life and dating in the Big Apple. It’s been dubbed Generation X’s and Y’s Sex and the City.
Let me say upfront, I really enjoyed the first episode. (But I’ll come back to this).
Girls received a lot of backlash for its one-dimensional portrayal of young women. The characters are all white and come from privileged backgrounds. Yet, the show declares itself as a window into this generation. It's been called racist (the only brown person in the first episode was a homeless one) and not relatable.
Journalist Toure tweeted:
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Ever since Sex in the City came onto the scene in 1998 and revolutionized a culture of young woman, Black women have been pleading and begging for a similar, well-written, well-produced show to relate to.
Girlfriends made a fairly decent attempt at showing young Black women’s experiences in life and love during its first few seasons. Then Single Ladies, with Lisa Raye and Stacey Dash, tried filling the void in its first season (aside from reading and hearing about it, I never actually watched the show).
Nevertheless, I couldn’t particularly relate to either series. Yes, the characters were Black, but those women were in their thirties, some already career-established, while the others were fixated on finding the right, well-to-do man of their dreams. I was still in high school (when Girlfriends aired) and college, interning, and fresh on the open-market dating scene.
What I found most interesting about Girls is that I could relate on some level to Dunham’s character Hannah: a 24-year-old recent grad and aspiring writer living in New York and working an unpaid internship, whose parents cut her off financially in the first episode. Mostly, because I too am in my 20’s, a recent grad, a writer of this blog, and have worked several unpaid internships, while still looking for the next step in my career. And up until a few months ago, I was living in New York, my mom helping me pay portions of my rent while I finished graduate school.
The difference: I am not sheltered from the world like Hannah. I have worked full-time jobs and had to support myself; even while living in New York. But, my mom, like many parents of today’s 20-somethings, stepped in as support.
Reality is, many 20-somethings haven’t landed their first “real” job out of college yet. They don’t have benefits, and probably won’t start investing into a 401K package until their thirties. Times have definitely changed.
Many of my other 20-something writer friends are in the same situations—trying to survive New York’s pricey rent and crazy dating scene, while looking for their next big career move. We are in that awkward phase of self-discovering in all aspects of life. “Girls” depiction of this was quite real.
I’m not saying that the show goes without flaws. Does the lack of diversity bother me? Of course. I would love nothing more than to see a well-produced show that actually brings insight into real young Black women’s experiences, because our struggles are unique. But just because there aren’t any brown sistas in Girls don’t mean we can’t find it relatable in some way, race and class aside.
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I had this discussion with my group of black female journalist friends. They all shared my exact sentiment.
One friend shared: "I could definitely relate to Girls as a 20-something. Searching for the right job and establishing your goals is what I connected to the most. Also, I related to the concept of depending on your network of friends in the city."
Another said: "I can’t relate based on race, but I can relate as a young 20-something trying to find myself. The theme of self-actualization resonated with me. Of course race and class matter post-college for jobs, but so does college rank, college location and major."
I’ve found that many writers criticizing Girls for its unrealistic depiction of young women aren’t living the 2012 20-something life. Determined to have someone invest in your creative dream: reality. Needing financial support while finding said dream: reality. Being unsure about who you are: reality. I wish it weren’t so, but it is.
Can you relate to a show about women experiences with no black characters? Let me know what you think about the show in the comment section
And here's a clip of Girls creator and star Lena Dunham discussing the show.