The True(r) Truth About ‘Girls’ and Race

I am a white, straight man who self-identifies as a lefty of sorts so take your cultural commentary from me at your own risk.  That said, here’s a quick thought about the whole Girls peccadillo (and some exposition as to why I see it as a minor phenomenon).

First I read that Girls might be bad for girlsthat it may have a debasing effect, and that the show may illustrate widespread feminine anxieties over the newfound responsibilities endemic to feminist liberation.  Now there’s an internet-meme-explosion over the show’s all-white cast (and a few problematic sarcastic responses from one of the show’s writers).  I say, so what?

So what, not because I’m upset over proclamations of the End of Men, because women have recently overtaken men as active participants in the American workforce, and, on average, they tend to dominate in academia, too.  While these trends are ugly for men — and I happen to be one — they certainly are just.  I’m just hopeful that, as the gender hegemony rightly dissipates and equity emerges, things don’t go so far that the sins of fathers are visited upon the sons of our future (but that’s another post altogether and an unfortunate symptom of all progressive group politics — there’s never an end to corrective measures, movements, or progress, it seems).

I say “so what” because what’s really happening here is people are getting up-in-arms over the cultural gravity of a television show.  A few words of advice: don’t allow your understanding of life, the universe, and everything to be informed by television.  Ever.

The entire thing — TV — is intentionally developed to produce profit and induce predictable consumer behavior.  The best possible outcome for advertisers is a monoculture and, because 72ish% of people self-identify as white in America, that’s the cultural identifier television shows are going to cater to in an effort to draw advertisers.

So much of the caterwauling over this incident has come from the fact that women seem to view the show as a program with promise — one that they relate to somehow — but they just wish that they related through the lens of diversity.  Another suggestion:  Capitalism is a system built upon temptation — if you find yourself tempted to support any product that negates your values, you’ll have to make a choice.  Either compromise your values or boycott the product — in this case, flip the channel.

It seems sophomoric to reverse roles here and cry out that those who made the art that offended made the wrong choice — they’re within their rights to portray whatever world they choose to, however they choose.  That’s how art works.  Sure, you’re free to offer commentary but the outrage is just a little overstated.  To top it all off, the complaint itself is just a little too oversimplistic, too.  No one seems the least bit upset that the characters are all from affluent families — where’s the class outrage?

And f*(# you all for getting me so riled up that I used the term “art” to describe television.

Tagged , , , ,

9 thoughts on “The True(r) Truth About ‘Girls’ and Race

  1. I totally see your point, however, you fail to grasp the gravity of the issue. Television offers a medium that reaches a lot of people. You are a white guy so you may not get it, but it is demeaning when you can turn on a television and watch people’s “art” and not see anyone like yourself hour after hour, day after day. You start to feel some way about that on the inside. You almost feel like you aren’t real OR like someone wishes you didn’t exist. There are a variety of questions that come to mind. Are you not good enough to be seen? What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you valuable enough to society to be shown? Are you some sort of dirty little secret that should be relegated not just to the back of the bus, but off the bus completely? Do you not matter? Are you a monster that needs to be kept in the closet? Aren’t you important enough to be included? Why don’t people like me? I don’t profess to have all of the answers to all of the questions in the universe. I just want to be included. Is that too much to ask? Judging from Apatow’s response, I guess it is.

    • No. It’s television. People have an obligation to understand what it’s attempting to achieve (making money via selling shit). I disagree. You can’t get justice or a worldview from the medium. It’s a waste of time to try.

      • You see @frustrated I think you are wrong. TV is nothing but a medium of communication. The issue is the people BEHIND the things you see on TV and that is what I’m talking about. YOU CAN get justice and be heard – you just have to find others who think as you do. Times change and they will change for the better – one mind at a time.

      • I’m afraid we’ve come to a peccadillo here. You expect lots from television as a medium and nothing from yourself and viewers. I still disagree.

  2. Thanks for visiting Tallulah!

    Your post is healthy. Many people use the same thinking when considering Tyler Perry films and this week’s #1 film ‘Think Like A Man.’ It’s the acceptance that not everyone is meant to be on the same page. Acknowledge, incorporate and keep it moving.

    I’m taking your post as a call to me (and maybe others) to mix up their pop culture diet so it’s not monolithic. The concern is that the people (audience & gatekeepers) who believe in ‘Girls’ might reject ‘The Misadventures of a Awkward Black Girl’ because it doesn’t fit into their conception of the world.

    And that’s where I think the frustration, resentment and anger comes. I have the privilege and curiosity to mix up my pop culture diet — many others have used their privilege and lack of curiosity to limit their own, to much success and popularity.

    As for Arfin, I used to work with her sister. And I read as much of Dear Diary that I could. I know what she looks like but her tweet was mean & cruel in the same way Mary Jones character in ‘Precious’ was mean & cruel. Cruelty doesn’t know color or race. Lucky us!

    • TB – thanks for your well-reasoned thoughts. I doubt closed minds are apt to open up over a TV program. That said, I get the concern and appreciate that people fight the battles that they’re comfortable with.
      I think it’s just as problematic, however, to censor art for being exclusive as it is to forcibly segregate services. Forced inclusion in the art world will create bland, impersonal art that speaks to everyone and no one, I think.
      You’re right — mean & cruel behavior is colorless. It’s a helpful reminder that we all share the same human nature.

      • well said. I do have one question – what does forced exclusion in the world look like to you?

      • Good question. Forced exclusion takes on lots of appearances the world over. I think we see less of it than we did, in many ways. I think class exclusion is ignored more than it ought to be. Art is a feeble thing, though, in my opinion — for better or for worse, it speaks about the human condition as it stands.

  3. if you talk about class seriously in america, most people look at you like you have a vagina in the middle of your forehead. best to let them have their illusions and have another cocktail.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: