As anybody who has spent any time on the internet in the past few weeks can attest, the amount of media coverage Lena Dunham’s new HBO show Girls has received is actually ludicrous. The number of think pieces about What It All Means, on top of what seems like several self-consuming cycles of hype, buzz, and backlash, has frankly been too much. Which of course is why I am contributing one myself.
I want to start with the reliably excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece posted earlier today on the Atlantic on the matter of race on the show, which I think is really reflective of a large portion of the criticism that people have brought against it. He makes the eminently reasonable - and heretofore largely ignored - point that Lena Dunham does not, as an artist, actually have any kind of social responsibility to any group of people; her responsibility to her viewership consists of little outside of producing good television:
I think storytellers—first and foremost—must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don’t believe in creating characters out a of desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act—story-tellers are charged with crafting the narrative the want to see. I’m not very interested in Lena Dunham reflecting the aspirations of people she may or may not know. I’m interested in her specific and individual vision; in that story she is aching to tell. If that vision is all-white, then so be it. I don’t think a story-teller can be guilted into making great characters.
I agree with this. The problem can’t be tracked back to a white privileged girl writing about white privileged girls. If you want more diversity in media you need more writers from more walks of life to avoid stereotypes and to get real representation of people, be they women, men, straight, gay, or of any race or creed. Your motivation shouldn’t be to force Lena Dunham to write from the point of view of a transsexual colored woman, but to give that woman the chance to make a show on HBO to represent her own story. I’m upset with this very vocal criticism of one girl trying to tell her story, and while I certainly agree that the show might have been more compelling with more diversity in the characters I can’t blame her for writing her story this way.
The only good thing about this whole circus is the awareness of how people actually want diverse stories from a diverse selection of people in this day and age, but I don’t think it’s fair that one girl gets all the blame. I for one find the show to be just what it is; a comedy about a bunch of spoiled hopeless 20-somethings trying to grow the hell up before it’s too late and they end up as horrible entitled 30-year-olds barely scraping by in NYC.
“Why should women be paid equal to men? Men have been in the working world a lot longer and deserve to be paid at a higher rate. Heck, I’m a working mom and I’m not paid a dime. I depend on my husband to provide for me and my family, as should most women… and if a woman does work, she should be happy just to be out there in the working world and quit complaining that she’s not making as much as her male counterparts. I mean really, all this wanting to be equal nonsense is going to be detrimental to the future of women everywhere. Who’s going to want to hire a woman, or for that matter, even marry a woman who thinks she is the same, if not better than a man at any job. It’s almost laughable. C’mon now ladies, are you with me on this?”—
Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney