Published April 18, 2012
LOS ANGELES – Last week, Lena Dunham was one of the most talked about young women in the entertainment industry. At just 25, she has created, directed, starred in and produced (along with "Bridesmaids" producer Judd Apatow) the highly-anticipated new HBO series “Girls.”
But following the racy comedy’s debut on Sunday night, a decidedly different vibe has emerged. Dunham has come under fire for failing to convey a wider scope of ethnicities and races in her show's cultural melting pot of New York City.
In a post titled “HBO’s ‘Girls’ is All About Spoiled White Girls” on the Womanist Musings blog, the author offers a detailed critique of the show’s trivialities and lack of diversity, pointing out that the first black person shown is a homeless man.
“I suppose I should feel thankful that they managed to scare up a Black man 'cause they most certainly didn't find a single GLBT person,” the author, Renee, wrote. “’Girls’ is quite simply about spoiled White girls. They have so much privilege that they have developed a sense of entitlement.”
The show was similarly condemned in the Twitterverse.
“Thanks to HBO’s Girls I now don’t have to travel to NYC to know what it’s like. It’s just all white people,” tweeted one. Another lamented that the title should have been “White Girl Problems.” Another tweeted “HBO’s Girls, summarized for you to save you the trouble: White girls, money, whining. There now; that’s what all the fuss is about.”
Dunham, who we interviewed last week, and HBO did not respond to a request for comment. However in a live web chat this week, the actress/creator told the called the lack of diversity “an accident,” and said she hopes to address the issue in a potential second season.
“Our generation is not just white girls. It’s guys. Women of color. Gay people. The idea that I could speak for everyone is so absurd,” she said. “But what is nice is if I could speak for me and it resonate for people.”
Many other industry voices say Dunham is under no obligation to incorporate different minority groups.
“Most wealthy white girls in America are surrounded by other wealthy white girls, so that’s who they choose to be friends with. So what? Are we so immature that we need to throw in a token African-American or Asian to make us better about the fact that some white people have zero exposure to diversity? That doesn’t help bring races together or heal inequality,” pop culture writer Jenn Hoffman told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “That’s an idealistic liberal media driven band-aid at best or completely unrealistic PC garbage at worst.”
Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business & Culture for the Media Research Center concurred that the racial condemnation was “over-hyped.”
“Not every TV show needs to find its PC racial balance so lefties can celebrate and network execs can market to every single minority in America," he said. "That might surprise some, but there are groups of friends that might be racially homogenous. It’s not a crisis."
Dunham’s creation has also been called “unsympathetic” as its leading ladies themselves all come from relatively privileged backgrounds. Dunham is the daughter of prominent photographer Laurie Simmons, and her co-stars are NBC anchor Brian Williams’ daughter Allison, playwright David Mamet’s daughter Zosia, and Jemima Kirke, daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke. The leading character, Hannah, (played by Dunham) is a college graduate without a job and living off her parents. But when they sever financial ties, she whines, is too socially awkward to get a job and balks at suggestions to work at McDonalds, even though she can’t pay her share of the rent.
But according to Amelia McDonell-Parry, editor of the pop culture site TheFrisky.com, the “unsympathetic” chatter has to do with viewers expecting to see something of “themselves” in the characters, but instead seeing major differences.
“I also don’t think people can really help where they came from,” McDonell-Parry added. “There would be hate thrown in their direction for squandering their privilege if they didn’t take advantage of it.”