ONTD Political

'Girls' Writer Responds to Critique of 'Girls' with Horrible Joke

10:14 am - 04/19/2012
'Girls' Writer Responds to Critique of 'Girls' with Horrible Joke

All writers know how tough it can be when your work is criticized and sometimes it's hard not to respond with a mean joke at the critic's expense. But even when succumbing to the temptation of a one-liner, most of us manage sounding like a racist. Not Girls writer Lesley Arfin, who responded to complaints that there were no black characters, save for a single homeless guy, in the first episode of the HBO show, by tweeting, "What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME."

Do you get it? See, Girls, set in New York City, is about four rich thin white girls. Precious, also set in New York City, is about one poor fat black girl who is sexually abused by her father and lives in the projects. It's a "funny" "joke" because Arfin thinks she would never actually interact with a person like Precious. The idea of an Arfin character in Precious -- hilarious! It appears Arfin was responding to criticism like that of New York Times technology reporter Jenna Wortham who wrote a critique of the show for The Hairpin on Monday morning, concluding, "I just wish I saw a little more of myself on screen, right alongside them." (Arfin's tweet went out on Monday evening.) Worth explains her problem with the show:

My chief beef is not simply that the girls in Girls are white... But the problem with Girls is that while the show reaches — and succeeds, in many ways — to show female characters that are not caricatures, it feels alienating, a party of four engineered to appeal to a very specific subset of the television viewing audience, when the show has the potential to be so much bigger than that. And that is a huge fucking disappointment.

The argument has been made that smart women on screen are already enough of a minority to make up for the lack of women of color. Nope. Not good enough.

Before Arfin was hired by Lena Dunham to write for the show, she was a fixture on New York's cool kid blogging scene, collaborating with various elements of the Vice empire. Her 2007 book Dear Diary was published by Vice Books and MTV Press. (with the an intro by Chloe Sevigny) and she edited the Williamsburg-based Missbeehave magazine.

At exiled Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes's Street Carnage (where Arfin once wrote the Ask Barf advice column) Benjamin Leo thinks her analysis is dead-on. Responding to Toure's (complimentary!) tweet asking where the black folks were on the show, Leo writes, "Suck my dick too, you fuckin one-track-minded McCarthyist hijackers." McCarthyist! You know, after Joe McCarthy, famed red-baiter. Noting Arfin's Precious tweet, he says:


UGGGGG, but now watch as the writers are forced to acquiesce and add some phony token Black Rhodes Scholar to appease these morons. Guys, you’ve kept it SO real—please don’t suck their balls. It’s 2012 and Obama’s in the White House: the McCarthyism 2.0 witch-hunting mob has been disarmed! They have no power over you! TELLYOUR STORY."

McInnes has his own ideas about race that crafted get people to notice him, as in his August 2011 essay for Taki's Magazine titled something I'd rather not retype. That's the same magazine that published John Derbyshire's racist essay that got him fired from the National Review last week. Derbyshire wrote about the necessity of getting a smart black friend just in case someone calls you racist. Leo dresses it up in a different style, but his advice is the same.


*crosses 'Girls' off list of shows to look into*

Edit: Arfin deleted the Precious tweet, and later tweeted this:

Without thinking, I put gender politics above race and class. That was careless. The last thing I want is girls vs girls.
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suzycat 19th-Apr-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
I can't believe that is the tweet of an adult. You know, I would forgive it, but not let it slide, if she was an arrogant brainy memememe 17 year old with no real life experience going "nobody understands myyyy marginalisation", but she should know better than that.
tiddlywinks103 19th-Apr-2012 04:58 am (UTC)
Homegirl is apparently 31. That is BAD.
britneyspears 19th-Apr-2012 03:26 am (UTC)

and here i was wasting time defending this privileged ass show. now i can save my breath tyvm.
kalikahuntress 19th-Apr-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
This show needs to get cancelled.
rex_dart 19th-Apr-2012 03:27 am (UTC)
oi fucking c

i've never heard of this show but i just read the wiki and it sounds fucking terrible in every regard.
beuk 19th-Apr-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
this has kind of made me curious to read the wiki myself.
roseofjuly 19th-Apr-2012 03:34 am (UTC)

phony token Black Rhodes Scholar to appease these morons

Because Black Rhodes Scholars are phony.

t’s 2012 and Obama’s in the White House: the McCarthyism 2.0 witch-hunting mob has been disarmed! They have no power over you

Hold the phone, a single middle-class black guy happened to get elected to the highest position in the land! Never mind that he's attacked by racist bigots day in and day out for the most trivial of things, RACISM IS OVER GUYS. That the President is Black obviously means that the fact that a show set in one of the most diverse cities in the world (and a minority-majority city, I might add) has no people of color is irrelevant.
yeats 19th-Apr-2012 03:39 am (UTC)
i have never cried at the comments on a fucking blog post before. thanks a lot, taki mag. you've made history.
musikologie 19th-Apr-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
I made it to the second comment, and then ragequit the tab.
13chapters 19th-Apr-2012 03:51 am (UTC)
My new BFF Jasika Nicole* has been on a fucking roll with blogging about this show on el tumblr. I had never heard of it but she is reaalllllly angry about it and has said so many good things.

*She's my new BFF because I reblogged something she posted with a question, and she PMED ME THE ANSWER. And then I responded to thank her AND SHE RESPONDED AGAIN. therefore she is my new BFF stars in my eyesssss. *___*
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 04:10 am (UTC)
I read one of the comments where someone was walking about how he could see the all-white bubble happening, and that blew my brain - my friendships have always been really diverse groups. I can't imagine being that isolated.
bunnika 19th-Apr-2012 03:51 am (UTC)

Not regarding this tweet or Arfin, but on the lack of black characters on the show, and the creater/writer/star Lena Dunham's lack of give-a-damn when it comes to being exclusionarily racist.
mdemvizi 19th-Apr-2012 03:53 am (UTC)
Not to be that person but I will say that this show is actually kind of good. I completely understand all of the problems with it (and Tumblr lets me know of the ones I miss too). I've only seen one episode but next week's episode is conquering abortion so who knows.

Ugh idiots on twitter are idiots always.
etherealtsuki 19th-Apr-2012 04:03 am (UTC)
Side eyeing you right now. This isn't the place to say how good the show is when its writer is being a racist shit.

alierakieron 19th-Apr-2012 04:00 am (UTC)
She apparently also likes to make jokes comparing the president to poop. I know nothing about the show but now I don't' WANT to. *rage face*
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 04:05 am (UTC)
Yeah, I read that - the big "joke" being poop is brown and Obama is also brown, so FUNNY~.

aberforthsgoat 19th-Apr-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
All her gross race/gender politics aside, I don't know how any feeling person who watched Precious could use that film to try to score points on twitter. Way to expose your ugly little heart, lady.
tiddlywinks103 19th-Apr-2012 04:57 am (UTC)

And her excuse tweet(And not even remotely an apology) was not good enough. No intersectionality, eh, you dumbshit? Only White women can care about gender politics? You made this girls vs. girls by being an obtuse, privileged asshole. Congrats.
illusivevenstar 19th-Apr-2012 05:03 am (UTC)
I see white feminism is still as clueless as ever.
apis_cerana 19th-Apr-2012 05:34 am (UTC)
Without thinking, I put gender politics above race and class. That was careless. The last thing I want is girls vs girls.

Lol ok here, have a cookie :D

Fuck off.
terribilita 19th-Apr-2012 05:34 am (UTC)
Arfin also praised Leo's disgusting article on twitter, but she deleted it, of course.

But! She still lists it as a favorite tweet.

terribilita Re: 19th-Apr-2012 05:39 am (UTC)
Oh, and this tumblr post details more of her fuckery.

in the span of a month, she:

- Compared Obama to poop. Literally. Like the joke was OBAMA IS BROWN, JUST LIKE POOP.

- used everyone’s favorite transphobic slur. twice.

- called me both “gay” and a “fag” because I told her to shut up

- called many others gay and a fag

romp 19th-Apr-2012 05:41 am (UTC)
yuck--thanks for the warning
mskye 19th-Apr-2012 06:44 am (UTC)
Well, I guess I won't be checking out this show anymore.
webbgirl 19th-Apr-2012 06:45 am (UTC)
Arfin is completely gross and I would never want to contribute time or money to anything she did after this.

The other thing that got me though was Dunham's response on HuffPo to the comments about the lack of POC on the show.

When I get a tweet from a girl who's like, "I'd love to watch the show, but I wish there were more women of color." You know what? I do, too, and if we have the opportunity to do a second season, I'll address that.

It really comes off as "Oops. Totally missed that all these people were whitey mc white-white when we shot it. I should totally throw some POC in next season."
recorded 19th-Apr-2012 07:03 am (UTC)

anyone care to help? this seems like a rather deadend conversation that I'm not prepared to have. or should I just unfriend this douchebag? it's just a guy a gave dating advice once, unfortunately. he didnt deserve it. biggest asshole ever.
evil_laugher 19th-Apr-2012 07:09 am (UTC)
lol Brian can't have any fictional POC characters unless he's "writing about race"? What a struggle.

This guy thinks that you can't criticize a work unless you're willing to write a screenplay yourself? Interesting.
imnotasquirrel 19th-Apr-2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
Without thinking, I put gender politics above race and class. That was careless. The last thing I want is girls vs girls.

See, if she had been one of those people telling WOC to shut up and be happy, because at least this was a show by women and for women (which is an argument I've heard), then this apology would make sense. But this has nothing to do with the initial tweet, where she was just being a racist fuckrash, period. Gender politics didn't really enter into it that much at all.
lilyginny27 19th-Apr-2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
What the fuck does McCarthyism have to do with this? Let's just confuse the issue a little more, shall we?
amyura 19th-Apr-2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
My husband and I are HUGE Game of Thrones fans, so we've had to put up with three weeks of promos for Girls. I didn't even know the name of the show until last week, because the promos annoyed me so much-- spoiled rich kids in New York-- WHY would I want to watch a show about their struggles?

Gotta say, the first episode was exactly what I expected.
roseofjuly 19th-Apr-2012 04:27 pm (UTC)
That's how I felt. I enjoyed Gossip Girl, but there are far too many shows like that popping up now - about the exploits of very white rich people enjoying themselves in the city I currently live in and cannot enjoy to that extent, since I am neither white nor rich. It just makes me bitter, not entertained.
shoujokakumei 19th-Apr-2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
The original reason I decided not to watch this show is because it's about people who are supposed to be like me... Who are nothing at all like me. And I'm glad for that, because if I was as gratingly obnoxious as the people in the clips I've seen online, I'd really hate myself. A lot.

Everything else I read about it just makes me glad I haven't wasted my time on it.
fightingwords 19th-Apr-2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
Fuck ALL these motherfuckers.
pandaseal 19th-Apr-2012 06:42 pm (UTC)
I love the complaints about it being hard to write people who aren't exactly like you. IDK, maybe you shouldn't be a writer if you're unable to write anything but vague expies. I'm sure there are some writers of color who would write a great show for HBO that wasn't honkeycity.
ms_mmelissa 19th-Apr-2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
+ a bajillion

If the only way you can write a person of colour is as a background token character or an offensive stereotype you've got problems.

(lol honkey city).
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