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Lena Dunham: 'Girls' Isn’t Racist, It’s Honest

Lena Dunham addresses the criticism 'Girls' has received due to the lack of diversity

By: Ashley Baylen
Published: May 7th, 2012 in Culture » TV » News
The girls of 'Girls'Pic: Rollingstone.com

HBO’s newest show, Girls, debuted in April to mostly positive reviews. The show’s writer and star, Lena Dunham, created a show based around her own personal experiences living as a 20-something in New York City. Although The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman called the show “one of the most original, spot-on, no-missed-steps series in recent memory,” many people have expressed concern that Girls is narcissistic, lacks racial diversity, and can only be truly understand by upper-class white girls.

Lena Dunham thought it was important to address these issues on Monday’s ‘Fresh Air’. While being interviewed, Dunham addressed her experiences living in New York, the criticism Girls has received, and 20-somethings that still live with their parents.

"I take that criticism very seriously. ... This show isn't supposed to feel exclusionary. It's supposed to feel honest, and it's supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it's not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue,” Dunham explains.

"I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like — 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. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, 'I hear this and I want to respond to it.' And 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, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can't speak to accurately."

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Girls yet, it airs on HBO Sunday nights at 10:30 EST.

Related articles: Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow, Bridesmaids, Girls, HBO, Criticism, Racist, New York City, Fresh Air, NPR, Jewish, WASP
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