There’s a lot of talk around the web about Lena Dunham’s new HBO joint Girls and its lack of diversity. Part of the problem is that those of us who fit into that amorphous space of “black alternative” or “Afrobohemia” or whatever we are called today, so rarely see ourselves represented creatively. […]
With that said, I think storytellers—first and foremost—must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don’t believe in creating characters out of a desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act—story-tellers are charged with crafting the narrative they want to see. I’m not very interested in Lena Dunham reflecting the aspirations of people she may or may not know. I’m interested in her specific and individual vision; in that story she is aching to tell. If that vision is all-white, then so be it. I don’t think a story-teller can be guilted into making great characters. […]
I thought about that episode after one of the writers on Girls responded to the criticism by tweeting sarcastically, “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.” That comment understandably set of a new round of outrage. But it should also set off some reflection. I don’t know Dunham or anyone who writes for Girls. Perhaps that was a rogue comment that says nothing about her team. Nevertheless, I think it’s only right to ask whether you really want black characters rendered by the same hands that rendered that tweet. Invisibility is problematic. Caricature is worse. […]
There has been a lot of talk, this week about Lena Dunham’s responsibility, but significantly less about the the people who sign her checks. My question is not “Why are their no black women on Girls,” but “How many black show-runners are employed by HBO?” This is about systemic change, not individual attacks.
It is not so wrong to craft an exclusively white world—certainly a significant portion of America lives in one. What is wrong is for power-brokers to pretend that no other worlds exists. Across the country there are black writers and black directors toiling to bring those worlds to the screen. If HBO does not see fit to have a relationship with those writers, then those of us concerned should assess our relationship with HBO.