HBO's Girlshas only aired one episode so far, but it's already sparked a firestorm in the online world of TV chatter. From Vogue favorably comparing creator Lena Dunham to Woody Allen, to Mother Jones posting an article called "Girls: What the Hell Was HBO Thinking?" reception of the show has been mixed, to say the least. Many critics hail it as a clever, fresh new take on TV, providing a much needed female voice; others think it's an unfunny, indulgent story about whiny, entitled characters.
One major sticking point for a lot of the show's critics — and even some of its fans — is how overwhelmingly white the main cast is. Producer Judd Apatow himself says the show's goal is "to reflect an honest life in New York," and many rightfully point out that life in New York, and especially life in Brooklyn, normally involves people who aren't white.
Girls is far from the first show to whitewash New York City, and it probably won't be the last. It's also not the only show to receive criticism for doing so, but the anger about this issue on Girls seems particularly intense. Why? Perhaps because it does so many other things right. It's written and produced by a women (a sad rarity in Hollywood, even today), it features small apartments (a miracle!), location shooting, and bad sex. The Hairpin has a beautiful and nuanced article about how Girls, by hitting the mark in so many other ways, makes its lack of diversity even more notable, and even more painful.
Adding to the controversy was a tweet from Girls staffwriter Lesley Arfin, who responded to the criticism about the lack of non-white characters by saying, "What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME." She later deleted the tweet and issued this apology: "Without thinking, I put gender politics above race and class. That was careless. The last thing I want is girls vs girls." The apology was then also deleted.
To their credit, the majors powers behind the show have acknowledged this problem in a somewhat more sympathetic way. Judd Apatow said, "the show will be on for a long time, so there's plenty of time to have every type of person on the show," and Lena Dunham told The Huffington Post, "when I get a tweet from a girl who's like, 'I'd love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color.' You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I'll address that."
What do you think: Is Girls's lack of racial diversity a big problem, or do you think it fits the show's narrow focus on one specific group of friends?
Catch the next episode of Girls on Sunday, April 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.