Who We Talk About When We Talk About "Girls"

White Much?

A couple of months after my 24th birthday I moved to New York. And by “moved” I mean that I gathered a few of my things and left L.A. without telling anyone that I had no plans to return.

I'd taken the unexpected reality of being laid off from my writing gig at a start-up news analysis website (coupled with a surprisingly decent severance) as a sign that it was finally time for me to do what I’d been talking about doing since college graduation: move to New York.

Like Hannah Horvath, the main character in HBO’s Girls, I found myself two years removed from undergrad, living in Brooklyn, pursuing a writing career, and living with a friend...and by the unspoken rules of de facto cohabitation, her boyfriend as well. Unlike Hannah, my New York lifestyle was neither fully nor partially subsidized by my parents. More importantly, I’m black, and if you let Lena Dunham tell it, we don’t exist outside the occasional stereotypical joking reference, unless we’re driving a taxi, begging for change on the street, or serving some other auxiliary servile function. A New York without minorities—imagine that.

For these reasons, among others, it would be easy for me to call out Girls for its lack of diversity or shameless broadcast of white privilege, but I can only applaud the show for the same reasons it’s being put under the microscope in the first place—it’s fucking great.

Like so many critics of the show, I can’t turn a blind eye to the lack of color in the NYC depicted by the show. The idea that a program set in the most culturally diverse city in America would be so lily white is more than an insulting oversight—it’s blasphemous. However, we wouldn’t be talking about the show if it weren’t so good, and part of what makes it so important is that it offers a unique view of dynamic women who aren’t afraid to explore sex and sexuality in an open and honest way.

No, there weren’t any minorities in the cast last season but there were definitely characters that shot me through with that "Thank God I’m not the only person who feels like this” feeling. Like Shoshanna, I remained a virgin far past what I once considered to be a socially acceptable age, and had to deal with the anxiety that comes with that. I too dated my own Adam, and though mine wasn't nearly as strange, he definitely warranted a few side-eyes and subsequent explanations to friends. And what woman doesn’t have body issues like Hannah? Watching a female protagonist with such nontraditional qualities is too rare an experience, and that's damn unfortunate since this sort of representation transcends ethnicity, economic status, and geographic location.

These white girls aren’t just like me and my circle of friends in NY, who in Dunham’s defense, tend to self-segregate as well, but the parallels are there. My parents weren’t bankrolling my New York adventures but the show starts at a point where Hannah is cut off financially and that I understand. The “trying to make it in New York on your own” struggle is real for so many young people in this city; even though her indignation with her parents is comical, their refusal to support her brought her character down to size for me.

That the show has attracted such a diverse audience that can relate to these characters who aren’t exactly like us is a testament to good storytelling and character development. Far too often, women are only cast in television shows and movies if they look like Megan Fox or Gabrielle Union. I love the idea of having more faces like mine behind the camera ensuring that narratives reflect genuine female experiences, and cannot wait for the premiere of Season Two.

Written by Brooklyne Gipson (@Brooklyne)

Tags: girls, hbo, new_york
blog comments powered by Disqus