So I Finally Watched Girls and I'm Cool With Not Being In it

Sure, there's a lack of diversity on "Girls," but I could say the same thing about "Basketball Wives."

Apr 19, 2012 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Hey!

If someone was selling shit sandwiches to a sold-out crowd, and the line to get one was so long I couldn't tell that the prize everyone was waiting for was actually poop on a stick, I think I'd be OK with being "refused service" once I got to the front. 

"Get your caca on ciabatta," yells the sandwich maker, reaching into his fancy cart of ready made crap. But then just as he gets a glimpse of my face -- black, female, American, skinny, educated, whatever category you want to etch a sketch me into -- he recoils, strong-arming me with one hand and handing the sandwich to someone else.

And you know what? I'd be cool with that.

Instead of screaming, "No no! Give me the poo on white bread," I'd shrug my shoulders and go eat something else -- if I could. The real problem would be the lack of options to grab a bite somewhere else, not the fact that one particular shop is slanging doo doo.

Basically that ridiculous analogy is exactly how I felt about the "controversy" surrounding HBO's new half hour lady dramedy, "Girls." The show, created by girl wonder Lena Dunham, is by white girls, starring white girls and, when I really really think about it, is probably for white girls.

I think Lena's deadpan take on going nowhere fast in New York City was absolutely colorless but also authentic to her. So after watching the pilot all the outrage I could muster was a halfhearted Meh.

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Le sigh.

I do, however, wholeheartedly agree with Julieanne, who wrote, "I was uncomfortable with how much the show tries to faithfully replicate relationships and dialogue between friends and totally just airballs reality."

A pregnancy admission after wiping your butt with the toilet paper one of your friends rolled up for you? I'm sorry, I don't think they do that on planet anywhere. Yet I knew some of these Girls at Columbia, and I'll probably see a few of them at my 10-year reunion next month. Some of them might still be living off mom and dad. Still! And I'm sure they LOVE Dunham's take on NYC, which I'm happy to admit was well written and even "charming" as one of my friends described the show.  

But the call for more diversity on the show -- like maybe a woman of color, a category to which I belong -- I think is misplaced. Sure it'd be nice to throw in a Girl with a different background than rich or white but could Lena Dunham, the show's creator/writer/director pull that off? Or would we get another sassy BBF (black best friend) or a computer smart Asian girl (oops that already happened in the first episode) or a drunk black homeless guy (yep, that happened too). How many of us actually live in a United Colors of Benetton ad?

What's more troubling to me than the fact that "Girls" is about a slice of the female population so thin it's almost invisible in my range of vision, is the fact that a more diverse group of female writer/directors aren't getting their shots at the target demo. Of course there's Shonda Rhimes (full disclosure: I'm working on a feature with Rhimes' production company and Fox Searchlight) but name some more. Go ahead, I'll wait. 

My point is, just like how Girls' executive producer Judd Apatow doesn't  write any comedies about hilarious women and Spike Lee usually sticks to writing for strong black leading men, I have to go with the write what you know argument on this one. Isn't that what Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott both did?

Of course, the dangerous side of the "write what you know" ethos is that if you're a black writer then the powers that be demand you only write "black stuff," whatever the hell that is. Or Latina stuff or Asian stuff and so on and so on. It's stuffy and claustrophobic in that box.

So now we're full circle. Do we demand diversity in every show or demand more shows? I mean there's DOG TV coming to a cable box near you for Mary Tyler Moore's sake. I think there's a market for more shows from more women with different takes on the same angle, don't you?