Last night was the season finale of the HBO show GIRLS. A show that I have, like most, a love-hate relationship with.
I loved the overall concept of the show. The writing had moments of pure genius you’d find in a Woody Allen or a Cassavetes film. The direction and visual aesthetics would make me nostalgic for NYC so the producers knew how to hit the visual mark. The acting was dare I say, brilliant.
But here is my problem with the HBO show GIRLS that maybe you wouldn’t see.
It’s not the pro-feministic stance that Lena Dunham pushed on the show because I loved that. I loved the shows take on what women go thru in their 20’s in NYC even if it was a very privileged perspective of Brooklyn.
What I didn’t love was how, as a New Yorker, as someone of color, the show made me feel like suddenly New York City wasn’t my city anymore. That as a person of color I’m meant to be in the back seat.
Some of you might argue, “Come on, they had people of color on that show.” You’re right, they have. Hell, some of them were actually friends. But there is context to this. The reason why I am writing this.
This season, Lena Dunham’s character starts off with hooking up and having what could have been a strong love affair with Riz Ahmed’s surf teacher Paul-Louis. I was smiling as I watched. I thought yes, the mold is broken on the show. He even has a white guys name. Go “Girls!!!”
But then as the season continued my heart broke. By the end of the season, Paul-Louis turned out to be a brown guy who abandons the girl who just told him she is having a baby. His baby. And then we never see him again after a awkward phone call.
Now I want to understand this. Why was he depicted that way? I start to think to myself, what if it was an African-American man she had hooked up with and ended up having a child with who responded the way Paul-Louis did to Hannah? What if it was depicted that way, would the internet lose its shit? Would there be viral posts of “check out how GIRLS depicts black men” all over the web?
I’m thinking out loud here but with so much happening in the world to minorities I start to question such things.
Recently Jeffery Lord on CNN said something to his three black colleagues that included Don Lemon telling him “You have three black co-workers telling you the comment was offensive.” Lord said during his appearance on Lemon’s show that “there are no people of color. There are only Americans,” a view that black commentators said was naive and didn’t reflect their lives.
I feel like that what GIRLS was. Trying to show everyone as equal. But it missed the mark when it came to race and depictions of race. And we celebrated the show because it was good TV.
Look, I’m not trying to rail on the show, but the depiction of a caucasian woman who is a shit show raising a child with brown skin pissed me off. If it was a white guy who had left her and she had a white baby, I might have thought “That man was a dick,” and would have loved her character a bit more cause she is persevering. But why a baby of color? Why “for the love of the TV GODS” are we still doing tropes like this on TV?
There are no small moments in art. Everything has a meaning.