"There are worlds and there are worlds"
There's a lot of talk around the Web about
"I am a black woman, but I find more in common with characters in 'Seinfeld' than I do with the ones in 'House of Payne.' My world is neither all black nor all white, but a mix -- whether it be race, gender, socio-economics, weight or age."
This is the voice of that tribe that doesn't see itself in
With that said, I think storytellers, first and foremost, must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don't believe in creating characters out of a desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act -- storytellers are charged with crafting the narrative they want to see. I'm not interested in
This selfishness tends to ultimately serve the writer and the audience. "Friends" was repeatedly dogged by criticism of its all-white cast. When its creators finally relented, they cast two great talents --
One of the writers on "Girls" responded to criticism of the show's lack of diversity by tweeting sarcastically, "What really bothered me most about 'Precious' was that there was no representation of ME." That comment understandably set off a new round of outrage. But it should also set off some reflection. I don't know Dunham or anyone who writes for "Girls." Perhaps that was a rogue comment that says nothing about the writer's team. Nevertheless, I think it's only right to ask whether you really want black characters rendered by the same hands that rendered that tweet. Invisibility is problematic. Caricature is worse.
Whatever the intentions of Dunham's writer, they are not ultimately the problem so much as the business in which Dunham and her writers find themselves. There has been a lot of talk about Dunham's responsibility, but significantly less talk about the people who sign her checks. My question is not "Why are there no black women on 'Girls,'" but "How many black show-runners are employed by HBO?" This is about systemic change, not individual attacks.
It is not so wrong to craft an exclusively white world -- a significant portion of America lives in one. What is wrong is for power brokers to pretend that no other worlds exist. Across the country there are black writers and black directors toiling to bring those worlds to the screen. If HBO does not see fit to have a relationship with those writers and directors, then those of us concerned should assess our relationship with HBO.
And now comes the part where I must be self-serving. While we are making our complaints to HBO -- and it is wholly right that we do -- we should take a moment to survey other fields and other stories. Black writers are now regularly producing high-quality fiction that reflects the texture and depth of our experience. If you can't find yourself on HBO, perhaps you can in the works of Mat Johnson,
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in a beautiful black world unpremised on the random whims of rich white people. We exist -- whether HBO adapts our stories or not.
- Sophia Vergara Named Forbes Highest Paid Television Actress
- 64th Emmy Awards Nominees Announced
- Does 'Girls' Owe Us Racial Diversity?
- Finding Your Roots
- Dolphins Replace Rivals Jets on HBO's 'Hard Knocks'
- Mike Wallace: Reporter First and Last
- 'Veep' Entertains, But Doesn't Hold Mirror to Reality of Office
- 5 Years On: The Secret of Fox News's Success
- Top 11 TV Shows You Should Be Watching
- Public Perception of Media Bias Hits Historic High
- Television For Women at a Crossroads
- Networks Are Not Upfront About Reality TV Shows
- Who Killed Networks' Creative Model?
- NBC: Back to Broadcast 101
- Oprah Winfrey is a Blessing to Us All
- A Plea for Better Junk on TV
- Charlie Sheen Act Potentially Deadly Off Screen
- It's TV, Not Political Office, for Lou Dobbs
- Past Offers Paths For Remodeling 'Two and a Half Men'
- Charlie Sheen and the Wages of Fame
- NBC's Andrea Mitchell Is TV's Iron Woman
- 25 Years at the White House: 'I'm Peter Maer Of CBS'
- Few Penalties For Stars Behaving Badly
- Boy, Do We Like to Watch
- Experts Key to Oprah Winfrey Formula
- Reality Bug Bites TV Stars of the '80s
- Discovery Channel Aims Higher: Enlightened Reality TV
- If God is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise
- Mad Men
- CNN's Larry King to Sign Off: Host Announces His Departure
- C-SPAN Now Reaches 100 Million Homes
- Fat Times For Weight-Loss TV Shows
- Betty White - What We Can Learn From the Golden Girl
- Why News Is Aimed At Your Emotions
- Television - Can TV News Be Saved?
- Television - Network News Doing Less with Less
- America Through the Reality Lens
Copyright © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.