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.
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.
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 07:21 am (UTC)
He needs to have a talk with Roger Ebert about that.

Ebert did once write a script. It was a total piece of shit. That doesn't stop him or other critics from knowing what makes something GOOD.

I'm not a very good cook, but I know when something tastes bad.
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 07:15 am (UTC)
Leave Brian with this - "If you want to write about the human condition, but find all your characters are only white, and the thought of adding a non-white character strikes you as just adding a 'token' and not as writing a 'character,' then you need to take a good, hard look at yourself and rethink a lot of how you see people before you ever pick up a pen again."

And tell Jim people HAVE written it...only the covers get whitewashed (the book Liar), the characters get whitewashed (SyFy's and Gibli's Earthsea, A:TLA), the books get stuck in the "urban lit" section of bookstores, or the studios don't give funding to greenlight the scripts because they don't think it will have wide enough "appeal." And if a character IS black, then, well...see hungergamestweets.tumblr.com and look at how people responded to Rue.

Then dump 'em both.
lickety_split 19th-Apr-2012 07:43 am (UTC)
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 08:14 am (UTC)
All those people upset there were brown people in their dystopian, child-murdering, crapsack future can kiss the blackest part of my black ass.
roseofjuly 19th-Apr-2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
Especially since the author explicitly said there had been a lot of racial mixing.
lickety_split 19th-Apr-2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah apparently racial mixing = breeding the brown out of the population, according to the readers.
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 07:16 am (UTC)
ARGH, fuck everything, I had a nice response typed out and LJ ATE IT.
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 07:16 am (UTC)
...only there it is. WTF, LJ.
recorded 19th-Apr-2012 08:31 am (UTC)
ty, I replied with your responses & immediately unfriended to spare myself the agony of their repsones. It won't do anything as they had gone batshit crazy being defensive & denying privilege for days and days back and forth to themselves after my last post.

Jim said; "Yes of course. You are right. I'm so terribly sorry. I'll go back to reading Gender Trouble, The Beauty Myth, The Body Project, Indecent, and the 15 other books that are backlogged on my bookshelf next in line instead of being turned off by blind presumption. If you have any further reading suggestions I'm all ears, otherwise try not to shoot feminism in the foot by turning away people who genuinely seek enlightenment."

LOL. IDEK how he started rambling about feminism. Grasping to seem socially aware much?

And the other guy went on and on and on.... and on...
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 08:42 am (UTC)
Oh, hey, he hit Derailing for Dummies with the damaging the cause argument! Awesome.

heh, too bad you defriended before you could give them the link to DFD, because I can just imagine the spluttering they'd produce over THAT.
recorded 19th-Apr-2012 09:25 am (UTC)
Truth be told, I didn't understand the derailing for dummies site until after I started to understand social issues, so I don't think it would do them much good. Though I sent him the link in a PM in case he gets it at a time when I didn't.

There was a couple of others they hit. The other guy wrote such a long thing talking about how OMG IM DISCRIMINATED AGAINST TOO! I GOT FIRED FOR NOT BEING MASCULINE ENOUGH, etc etc.
roseofjuly 19th-Apr-2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
If you genuinely sought enlightenment, a woman "being mean" to you shouldn't turn that genuine desire off.
recorded 19th-Apr-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
lol yup, it's a fake "look, i care" chest puff because I yelled at him for stuff like that before. Once he was complaining that the dr.who companion was another attractive woman and I pointed out that dr.who is always an awkward looking white male. He didn't know what to say to that.

I've always really side-eyed him though, because he said he was dating a woman he didn't find attractive for the time being until he gets fit so he could drop her for a more attractive woman. He is just an asshole through and through and I wish I knew that before I gave him dating advice.
lickety_split 19th-Apr-2012 07:44 am (UTC)
There is little hope for either of them, and I mean that with THE utmost sincerity.
roseofjuly 19th-Apr-2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
So the fact that the creator thought "What do I identify with?" and answered "Four white girls and only white people, obviously" is not at all problematic, and people of color are just supposed to shut the fuck up and accept it? NO THANK YOU, JIM. I'm not going to worship at Dunham's feet simply for "pouring her soul out" by erasing people of color from the most diverse city on the planet.

Personally I would unfriend him, but then again I see Facebook as something that is supposed to be fun, not exhausting. I don't argue with assholes on facebook, I delete them.
recorded 19th-Apr-2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
I argue with assholes on facebook because I care a lot about issues and would like my social circle to not be douchebags (they generally aren't so it's not awful often), but this is someone I'm not invested in. The Brian guy keeps posting like TL;DR posts. I don't even know him. I don't care to know him. I sure as hell don't care to argue with him. The last line I saw was "Didn't I spend the last message explaining how being white/male hasn't benefited me? Yeah, I privilege deny because I don't experience privilege" or something along those lines. LOST CAUSE. Didn't even bother reading the other 10 paragraphs.
fightingwords 19th-Apr-2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
not_emily 6th-May-2012 03:39 am (UTC)

late comment is really late but I KNOW BRIAN. I'm having a fb debate with him now about privilege! He was complaining about some woman making assumptions about him while debating with him about the show "Girls". I know nothing of this show out side of _P, I came back to this post to read up on it and I SEE THIS.

the world is so small.
recorded 6th-May-2012 04:16 am (UTC)
He was complaining about some woman making assumptions about him


Unfortunately, I didn't have the energy to debate with them because I knew there would be no getting through to either of them. Jim found me on OKC last year and coincidentally was buddies with my douchey manipulative ex, so I just gave him some dating advice & we became fb friends. I don't even know Brian, but I knew that Jim wouldn't be budging considering he's an asshole all around. He seriously told me he wasn't attracted to his girlfriend and was only going to date her until he got thinner/better looking and then he'd dump her.

IDK about brian but Jim & Matt (Jaku) hung around a hackerspace together.
I did unfriend Jim, so I was wondering what kind of shenanigans happened after I abandoned ship. Did his buddies ~swarm~ to comfort him after the assault on his ~glorious~ and ~~flaw-free~~ person?

PS, do you want to be fb friends?

Edited at 2012-05-06 04:20 am (UTC)
not_emily 6th-May-2012 05:05 am (UTC)
Seeing the initial debate just sucked all the fight out of me. It's never going to get through Brian's head. I've had some success in the past with him, in at least making him see another viewpoint, but this just isn't going anywhere. He's just so mind-bogglingly wrapped in privilege. I don't know if you saw his whole tl;dr response (2 1/2 pages long in a Word doc) to your last comment, but holy crap. You're apparently a bad person for looking down on him and adding a token character is racist and so forth.

Jim sounds like a real charm. He did have one or two people come to his rescue so to speak, but Brian stole the damn show. It's so bizarre, I've known Brian for seven years and suddenly he's vomiting privilege all over the place.

And yep! I shall add you! I need more mean womenz on my friends list.
recorded 6th-May-2012 06:00 am (UTC)
I noticed Brian was very ~try hard~ about the entire topic so I knew he'd babble on trying to justify himself about it forever even though I wasn't there to talk to him. I'm not surprised he wrote 2 1/2 pages, loooooool.

I've encountered the same problem a lot recently. How do these people cloak their ignorance for so long? Must be something in the water making them crawl out of the woodwork.

Oh god, I'm skimming the discussion on Brian's page rn (it's public). This is so painful to read. Many points awarded to you for even having the patience to respond to this.
recorded 6th-May-2012 06:14 am (UTC)
my white guilt plagues me ~every dayyy!!~ my lyf is so harrrd

wtf is this shit
not_emily 6th-May-2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
omg lol @ that apt gif.

i keep going back. why do i keep going back. why doesn't he get it asdhjkalljhdwyrhsjk.

He's now posting "proof" on his main page about sexism and racism against white men. ahhhhh.
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