The racial issues the interwebs has with Girls made me feeling trepidation about the show. I think the fact that I had such low expectations was a good thing, as I actually ended up loving it.
I’m yet to warm to Lena Dunham as a person, but I love her as her alter-ego, Hannah Horvath, who, in the series’ opening scene, is cut off by her parents who have been supporting her in the two years since she finished college. Her mother rightfully calls her a spoiled brat (Hannah responds with, “Whose fault is that?!”) expecting them to fund her New York lifestyle while she pursues her “art” in an unpaid internship. Initially, I wanted to throttle Hannah for being entitled and selfish (I despise people who leech of their parents), but I can also understand her disbelief that her pretty well-off parents won’t extend their good fortune to her.
I grew up in a low-income home so I didn’t always get everything I wanted or needed. At the time, and even sometimes now when my pensioned mum will shout my minimum wage sister a coffee but not me, I thought it was so unfair; why should I be punished for my parents’ poor life choices? But at the end of the day, it has made me fight for the things I want instead of having them handed to me, gives me empathy for other people doing it tough and reminds me how I don’t want my life to turn out.
I also really related to Hannah’s gorgeous roommate Marnie, played by Allison Williams, whose perfect boyfriend is just too… everything. She “accidentally” sleeps in Hannah’s room when he stays over to avoid him. She suggests a sexy roleplay where he’s the stranger to avoid having tender, loving sex with him. She laments that she feels like such a bitch because he’s so nice to her and it just infuriates her. I feel her pain: most of the guys I’ve dated in the past have either been too nice or too assholish. Where’s the happy medium?
But back to the race thing. There has been a lot of umming and ahhing about the fact that there are no characters of colour apart from the techie Asian and the homeless crazy black guy tropes. Even the background extras aren’t that diverse for a show set and filmed in New York. Dunham has copped some flack for this, as Girls is completely her brainchild. But doesn’t that mean that she’s just being true to her experience as a privileged white girl who probably didn’t come into contact with many non-white people during her college and post-college years, some are wondering. I think it’s unfortunate that her ignorance is the reason Girls is so whitewashed, but hopefully the criticisms she’s faced since the show’s release will see more people of colour integrated into it. Girls may not show people of different races, but they sure talk about it (Jessa says she’ll have many different babies to many different men of many different races, and Hannah is admonished for a distasteful joke on a job interview because issues of race and deviant sex don’t have a home in the workplace).
Speaking of sex, in the second episode Jessa is faced with her abortion, which is handled in a very feministy way. Hannah insinuates that accompanying Jessa to her appointment isn’t a big deal, but her fuck buddy, Adam, says it’s a heavy situation. I am want to agree with Hannah, but she is eager to please and changes her opinion to more accurately reflect Adam’s.
Not to discount the opinion of those who think abortion is “one of the most traumatic experiences a woman can go through”, which Marnie does. Hannah is nothing but supportive throughout all of this, asking about the emotions Jessa must be feeling. Even little, innocent Shoshanna is surprisingly open-minded about the whole thing. While her insistence on Hannah and Jessa reading a self-help book on the perils of dating was annoying—the dialogue between Hannah and Jessa after the fact only added to the show’s pro-woman vibe—I’m actually really beginning to like Shoshanna.
While a lot of girls might not see themselves reflected on the television screen in terms of looks (although Dunham’s body diversity is refreshing), I think every girl will see a little bit of themselves and their friends reflected in Girls.
Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Why We Need to Keep Talking About the White Girls on Girls.
Image via Badass Digest.