Girls! Have you heard of it? If you haven’t, I have a second question: what internet are you on? For the rest of us, the new HBO comedy series starring and created by indie wunderkind Lena Dunham has been the only thing we’ve been able to talk and blog about. Do you think it’s weird that the cast is made up of the children of famous people? Is Lena Dunham getting too thin for the role? Is it bad that there aren’t any ethnic characters on the show? There’s been a lot of criticism and, finally, Dunham responds to the comments.
In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, Dunham responds to a barrage of the criticism she and the show have received (although, thankfully, she did not talk about her weight, which seemed to be a pretty lame issue to take with her and the show). Immediately, she talks about the lack of diversity on the show:
Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn’t able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.
But what, you might be asking, about playing a character who is out of work and suddenly cut-off from her wealthy parents? How can Dunham possibly understand what that’s like, as her parents are famous and rich? Well!
When I graduated [from] college, my parents said, ‘You can live with us,’ but they made it really clear they were not going to support any of my endeavors. They were like, ‘You can live with us and that’s a great gift we can give you, but you have to have a job, you have to figure out, like we did, how to have a creative life, and we’re giving you a great step ahead by already living in the city you want to be in, but we’re not going to serve that function for you. Our parents didn’t do it for us, and we don’t think it’s healthy.’
She goes on to talk about her love for romantic comedies and tattoos, which are also interesting topics, but clearly everyone is more interested in how she and her show is racist and belittling. Is it possible to take what she says as sincere, or is she giving all the right answers to abate her detractors? Who knows! But here’s one thing: Girls is pretty good.