So, I bought into the hype and started watching Girls. Do I like the show? Yes I do. But do I like the characters on that show? I don’t know about that. I’ve also been reading the critiques of the show with some interest. Like many things, the show has created a lot of oppositional politics – some have declared Lena Dunham’s creation as a feminist show, while for others it’s just “pandering, privileged dross“, and others it’s yet another show that is too white.
It seems that in the internet age, we should always have an opinion about something, and that opinion should be black and white. Maybe it’s because a headline like “Is Girls feminist?” “Is Girls a privileged piece of trash?” would inevitably get more page hits than a title like “I don’t know how I feel: can Girls can be many things at once?” And I get it, I get that websites and the writers that write for them must make money somehow, and that money comes from advertisers that pay money depending on page views. Since I have neither the need to generate page views nor see this as a “business”, I might as well say some conflicting opinions.
My first reaction to watching the first two episodes: I couldn’t help but hate all the characters for being so selfish, being so self-conscious, and also blind to their privileged status (such as: getting mad when Hannah’s parents told her that they were finally cutting her off, financially). I also acknowledge that hate came about because it hit a bit close to home – being overeducated, yet still having not much earning potential, etc. But I like the show; the conversation seems real, a lot of things happen, and people seem to be going through shitty times and yet funny things still happen. This is a lot like real life, for people like me and others in my social circle.
One commenter on this post (where produceer Teddy Zee questions the all-white cast of the show) said that Zee should be focusing his attention to class, rather than race. However, those things cannot be so neatly separated in our reality – to question whether something is classist must also invite the class-race correspondence in America.
To those that say the show is not “about” race: I get it. It’s tiring to talk about this all the time. But, I will just say this: maybe not everything is “about” something [insert women, race, class, whatever you'd like]. Sometimes, you know, it’s really hard to not notice the lack of an identity category that you belong to in these cultural products that are being proposed as the “voice of my generation”. If Girls, or any other show, is not “about” race but is about “society” or my “generation”, then I think it’s okay for me (and others) to bring up the fact that I cannot locate my identity categories reflected in these representations, without being faulted for being “too sensitive”.
Maybe we just get so excited when something deviates so slightly from the white, male, heteronormative and middle-class perspective that we tend to brush it with broad strokes of “PROGRESS!!!!!!” when in fact, it is progress with a caveat, or just a slight deviation.
Do I fault Lena Dunham personally for not including characters of colour? No. But is it valid to ask questions about why these types of shows that make the white, (upper-) middle-class, heteronormative stories keep getting told and picked in the media over others? I think so. Will I keep watching Girls? Most likely yes.