Sunday, April 15, 2012

Will we recognize ourselves in the hot mess female protagonist of 'Girls' ?

Nodding my head in agreement to Julianne Escobedo Shepherd's feminist piece Why I'm Deeply Skeptical of HBO's Super-Hyped Show 'Girls.' I, too, am having trouble digesting the idea of yet another show that's putatively about to blow up and may likely become a significant part of the cultural zeitgeist, but which features an all phenotypically white lead cast. Yet again. (See also "Friends," "Seinfeld," "Sex in the City"...) Tonight the show finally premieres, so we shall see... In the meantime, I think Escobedo Shepherd is right on about why, sight unseen, it's giving her pause:

"I appreciate the fact that when a TV show like “Girls” or movie like Bridesmaids is released, it can feel like a revelation. We’re so used to seeing ourselves portrayed in basic, often degrading ways, that when a developed, woman-written female character emerges, it feels like we’re able to come up for air. Lena Dunham is certainly admirable for her willingness to exhibit her non-model-esque body on film, a very welcome counterpoint to the unrelenting deluge of unrealistic body standards we are expected to aspire to. But it also seems like we might be so desperate for images of ourselves that are even mildly realistic, we give certain films and shows a pass in other arenas..."
"I often worry if some depictions aren’t just replacing the Mary-Eve dichotomy with an “Overachiever”- “Slacker” one. Bridesmaids was a good example of this: Hailed as a counterpoint to the man-saturated Apatow buddy oeuvre, it pitted a seemingly picture-perfect antagonist against an emotionally stunted hot mess of a protagonist and wrapped it up neatly at the end. Based on the trailers and preview clips for “Girls,” Dunham’s character reprises the concept of the hot-mess protagonist. It just seems like we deserve more than this."

"I also realize that, from a credible critical standpoint, it is not a good look to predetermine how one feels about a work of art without having experienced it first. But I can determine what I’m afraid “Girls” will be."

"Most of all, I’m afraid that “Girls” will be a “Sex and the City” redux, racially speaking: that its portrayal of New York City, the most ethnically diverse metropolis in the nation, will reduce its vast swathes of residents of color to background noise, to bit parts, to token roles in the lives of its privileged white main characters. The trailers depict as much, but for a token voice of wisdom in the form of a gynecologist, and I fear that this show will be another in a string that minimizes its own whiteness by touting its "liberalness." In her New York Magazine rave, Emily Nussbaum calls “Girls” “FUBU: for us by us,” and yet I’m worried that a lot of “us” aren’t going to recognize ourselves in this so-hailed feminist milestone of a show."


mom2boy said...

Hmm - (having never heard of this show before today) I think this just seems a little angsty for a tv show review. Unless the show is called "New York - a look at its vast swathes of residents of color" I don't know that the piece hits its mark.
If Women are looking for a feminist milestone of a tv show, should it be to one called Girls? (I guess the producers could have called it "(mostly white) girls" to head off this sort of discussion. I wonder why they also didn't go with "Sex in the City (between people in certain but not all age, economic and racial/ethnic groups)".

hush said...

@mom2boy - Lol! Get out from under that rock! 3L's don't have time to watch HBO? ;)

Must every show come with a white privilege disclaimer? No. But in the inimitable words of Oprah Winfrey circa 1995 when she had the cast of 'Friends' on her show: "I'd like y'all to get a black friend. Maybe I could stop by." Oprah managed to say what would be otherwise threatening things in the non-angsty way. Maybe that's part of the secret of her appeal to red stater haters.

mom2boy said...

True Blood might lure me back out from under my rock - that's a rainbow of a show! lol

hush said...

TB comes back on June 10th! Woot!

Haley said...

I just watched Girls and thought it was good, but not a groundbreaking, life changing half hour of television.

I liked seeing a protagonist who was actually pretty average looking with cheap clothes (even the pretty bohemian friend was not the stereotypical size 0 tan actress), yet guys wanted to sleep with them anyway. Just like in real life.

Also, Brian Williams' daughter is very pretty and I liked the whole "my boyfriend loves me too much and it bothers me" arc because it's sadly common.

Can't wait for true blood! I now cant wait for my weekly pre- Game of Thrones preview :)