Lena Dunham Responds to Girls’ Race-Related Criticism: “This Is a Hard Issue”
Most of the stories published about Girls have touched on the topic of race. Namely, the lack thereof on the show, which stars four white girls navigating their way through life, love, and occasionally, Brooklyn.
Now, the writer, director, creator, and star of the show, Lena Dunham, is addressing the criticism head-on. In an interview with NPR, Lena explained her state of mind when beginning the writing process. “I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting."
She continued, "Not that the experience of an African American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn't able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls."
Lena can’t help but back herself even further into a corner. Either she’s saying that she can’t speak to African American women because she isn’t one, or because she doesn’t know one. In both cases, we might point out that writers have been “speaking to” characters different from themselves for as long as books have been written. So not having direct personal experience with someone “other” than your own race might simply suggest a lack of imagination.
On the other hand, it was Lena’s decision to write a show however she wanted to. In Girls’ case, she explains that “I did write something that was super-specific to my experience.” And in many ways, we’re delighted. Most of the dialogue and situations on Girls is entertaining and rings true because it’s written by someone who really knows how these particular characters behave and speak.
Lena admits, “This is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated.” Consider us not horrified, but we’ll let you speak to your own experience.
Do you find Lena’s defense understandable? Or unsatisfactory? Share in the comments.
Catch the next episode of Girls on Sunday, May 13 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT onHBO.