Lena Dunham Addresses Girls Racial Criticism Like A Good Liberal Arts Grad
When the Girls backlash was at its peak (all the way back in April), it was hard for Lena Dunham, the show’s creator/writer/director/star, to address the show’s controversies with the level of sincerity and thoroughness the issue demanded. Instead, we got this eventually deleted tweet from Girls writer Lesley Arfin:
“What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME”
Which was glib and made the problem worse. Now that things have cooled down, and her show has gotten picked up for another season, Lena, herself, was able to address the issue directly, in a conversation with NPR’s Fresh Air:
“I take that criticism very seriously…This show isn’t supposed to feel exclusionary. It’s supposed to feel honest, and it’s supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things.”
And here is her response to the criticism of the show’s whiteness:
“I wrote the first season primarily by myself…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 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.”
This isn’t a 100% reassuring answer but it does suggest that moving forward, with the aid of a staff of writers, the show will be able to expand to characters of other races. And hopefully these new characters will be written with as much thought and specificity as the rest of the show has been.