I recently started watching HBO's hit show Girls, a series about four women in their early 20s and the nuances of their allegedly normal but clearly interesting-enough-to-be-on-TV lives. Before I started watching, I'd already read several positive reviews about how the show depicted “real girls” who had “real problems” with their “real lives.” As the show progressed, one thing became apparent to both the critics and to me – the girls on the show were all white.
If you're a fan of Girls, you've likely already heard this argument, and if your fandom intersects with your tendency to peruse the internet, you've likely read several articles about either a) why we should care about diversity and its presence in pop culture or b) why everyone is being hypersensitive about the race issue and just because there are no girls of color doesn't mean the show isn't all inclusive of the modern 18-24 year old girl. Lena Dunham's character just happens to exist in a world where only white people exist, right?
The paradox of Girls is that it tries to simultaneously normalize the world in which the characters exist while excluding a large portion of girls who actually do exist, primarily non-white girls. While it's possible for someone to have a community entirely made up of white people, it's extremely problematic to portray that as something that's normal (not to mention it's highly unlikely especially in an urban setting like New York City). By this logic, the girls who don't adhere to any normalcies highlighted in the show should be considered abnormal, and abnormalities are always somehow marginalized and considered “lesser” than the norm. By excluding women of color, Girls is recreating and reinforcing the old idea that if you are not white, you are not the norm – and they are reinforcing that though the idea is old, it is by no means obsolete.
I'm not saying that just because there are no queer, brown girls with stretched ears and facial piercings on Girls, the show is invalidating my existence. No show should be expected to represent everyone, because societies where all minorities and subcultures are represented don't exist either. Judd Apatow, a co-producer of the show, told the Huffington Post that “we want it to reflect an honest life in New York.” However, a show that attempts to be a real and all-encompassing portrayal of a certain demographic or generation should work towards being inclusive within that demographic. According to Girls, no colored girls exist within the normal realm of females, which is not only racist but also factually incorrect.