I’ve been avoiding writing about the lack of diversity in HBO’s new series “Girls” because it’s not really news. But the time has come, thanks to the show’s story editor Lesley Arfin.
I really didn’t care much about the “Girls” pilot episode being all white because most TV is all white. In fact, initially I thought it was unfair the show was getting the backlash considering all the white dudes on the most popular sitcom of the decade “Two and a Half Men” never got called out for putting on such a white show.
But on Monday Arfin responded to critics that said “Girls” was too white by tweeting “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” The tweet disappeared Wednesday after some controversy.
That’s not the least bit controversial if you consider some of the other things she’s written.
In an August 2010 post on her blog titled ‘When the shit hits the fan,” Arfin referred to defecating as “dropping off the kids” or “taking Obama to the White House.”
Arfin, a former Vice Magazine columnist, started out as a writer for “Girls” and is now a story editor on the show. “For every season in TV writing (usually) you go up a title, but I’m still pretty low-level so my responsibilities aren’t that concentrated,” Arfin told Vice.
But now that she’s been fanning her own controversies she’s perhaps the most recognized writer after the show’s creator and star Lena Dunham.
Dunham, 24, developed the show that’s centered around her character Hannah and a group of girls in New York City navigating love and careers. The NY Times called it “Sex and the City without Manolos,” a young Carrie Bradshaw in the recession years, if you will.
The show has received a lot of criticism for being all white when it takes place in one of the most diverse places in the world.
“I couldn’t get past that all four main characters were white—and not just white, but fresh-off-the-Mayflower, straight-haired white, girls who dated all white dudes and had all white friends and did white things like attend a gallery opening with a white wine in hand,” wrote Nona Willis Aronowitz at GOOD.
Others weren’t as kind.
“‘Girls’ is quite simply about spoiled White girls. They have so much privilege that they have developed a sense of entitlement,” Renee Martin wrote on Womanist-Musings.com.
To be fair, the pilot episode did include two very short appearances made by actors of color: 1. Joy Lin, a goody two-shoes Asian-American editorial assistant with a high pony and a penchant for Photoshop and 2. a homeless black guy who hollered at Lena’s character with a “girl, when I look at you I just want to say helllllooooooooooo New York!”)
Characters that may make a lot more sense now if you consider Arfin is a story editor.
“But the problem with Girls is that while the show reaches — and succeeds, in many ways — to show female characters that are not caricatures, it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that,” wrote Jenna Wortham, a technology reporter for the New York Times on TheHairpin.com.
Wortham closed her story by saying “I just wish I saw a little more of myself on screen, right alongside them.”
Some speculate that that’s who “Girls” writer was responding to Wortham when she decided to poke fun at critics.
“Girls” initial numbers for Sunday’s premiere on Sunday are on the low side but the show doubled what HBO had previously done in the 10:30 timeslot with “Life’s Too Short. Because the network relies on a subscription model the show could stick around despite low ratings—in fact, the controversy could result in new subscribers for HBO.
“Without thinking, I put gender and politics above race and class,” Arfin tweeted late Wednesday. “That was careless. The last thing I want is girls vs. girls,” she wrote. That post has disappeared also.
According to the latest Screen Actors Guild’s ‘Casting Data Report’ 72.5% of roles on television go to white actors.
(h/t Shallow Understanding)