Nepotism, Sexism, Racism and HBO’s Girls
By Alex Cranz
Before anyone had even seen a single episode of Girls the racism talk had begun. And if you’re even remotely attuned to the color problem in American media you could see why this talk was happening. The show was shockingly white and the cast all even seemed to sort of look the same. But it wasn’t the first show to feature an all white cast. Hell it wasn’t even the first show this year to feature an all white cast and I can think of a certain popular CBS show about women but usually written by men that is actively racist nearly every week.
So why was Girls singled out? Well partly because they have a monumentally stupid story editor.
But also because in addition to featuring an all white cast it also featured a cast of actresses who all happened to be the children of famous people, and they were all women starring in a show written and directed by women.
And here is the deal, nepotism? Super irritating. It is frustrating when you don’t have a chance but someone else is afforded that opportunity because of where they were born or whom they know. But then that kind of disappears if the person succeeding because of nepotism is actually talented. Yeah their name got them in the door but they hit it out of the park for other reasons.
Girls? Kind of an example of a person with some good opportunities making the most of it, and let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how connected you are, a 25-year-old woman writing, directing and starring in her own show is unheard of. It doesn’t happen and I really don’t think it happened to her because her mother is an artist you might have heard of if you live in New York City. If shows were handed out to successful and connected people’s kids all the time than Jessica Capshaw wouldn’t always be a late addition to an ensemble cast and Emily Deschanel wouldn’t have been in her mid-thirties before she was producing and starring in her own show. Hell, Colin Hanks would have a career outside of cameos on Happy Endings.
As for the racism and sexism? Well they’re kind of intertwined. There’s been some smart and savvy discussions about race and the show. Check out the feminism tag on Tumblr or head over to the always sublime Racialicious where they engage mainstream media’s problem with race on a daily basis (and the Girls issue here and here). The show has a problem with how it represents race (and homosexuality you’ll find in later episodes). It’s clearly written from the viewpoint of a fairly sheltered heterosexual white, privileged woman.
But why is racism suddenly the word everyone wants to bandy about? On Twitter people who have never even seen the show are ripping into it and its creator. And I’m noticing that a lot of the new people hating on the show aren’t people of color, less fortunate women writers, or Brooklynites (all folks who can, should and do have a beef with the show). No, the most vocal haters are the same white guys who decreed that Diablo Cody was overhyped five years ago.
It’s the sexist white dude who seems to love nothing more but tearing down a talented chick with a tattoo on her arm.
And these jerks are keeping the rest of us from having an honest discussion about the show, its flaws and its strengths. Because I really want to rip into some aspects of the show (the title alone is blindingly stupid and openly invites criticism and reeks of privilege), and I want to praise others (last night’s HPV episode? A standout and the rare moment on television where HPV is treated as the cancer causing danger to ladies that it is), but I’m terrified of doing that because some dude is going to see that criticism and use it to justify their criticism which has the unmistakable odor of sexist douche baggery.
I mean, look, the woman’s show has been on a full week and already the internet is full of backlash. Much like Cody, Tina Fey and many other female writers (Shonda Rhimes isn’t allowed to live down Crossroads and the ghost sex season of Grey’s Anatomy even though we can all ignore JJ Abrams and Gone Fishin’ and the TIME TRAVELING ALTERNATE UNIVERSE season of Felicity.) before her she can’t go a week without the haters rising up and trying to smack her down.
I’m all for holding women writers to high standards, but why aren’t male writers being held to those same standards?