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.
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.
13chapters 19th-Apr-2012 04:19 am (UTC)
I mean, I guess that would depend a lot on where you live. My hometown in California is like 80% white (as am I), 15% Latino, and 5% other ethnic groups (probably most of that is Asian), so most of my friends were white. I still had Latino, Black, and Asian - and multiracial - friends, but not necessarily all at the same time, and my friendship groups throughout my life weren't particularly diverse.

When I lived in Chicago, my group of friends was way more diverse, because...Chicago is just a much more diverse place. I can't imagine living in NYC and only knowing white people.
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 04:22 am (UTC)
Which makes this show even more head-scratching - it's in an area that's 65%ish nonwhite.

I grew up in a suburb of a suburb (Decatur, Georgia, a town on the outskirts of Atlanta), then went to college in PA that was overwhelmingly white (like, at least 80%), and even so, my groups of friends and drinking buddies were all pretty diverse. So this show being so white really just makes no sense to me.
bunnika 19th-Apr-2012 04:33 am (UTC)
I live in a city that's about 2/3 black, 1/4 white, and has a growing (but still relatively small) hispanic community. I still know lots of people with only white friends. If someone wants the bubble, they can get it.
13chapters 19th-Apr-2012 04:46 am (UTC)
Well, I can imagine people not having friends in other ethnic groups, but it was my impression from criticisms I read of the show (which I have not seen) that there are no POC characters at all, except in service positions. (I can't remember where I read it now, but I specifically remember hearing that the only POC were maids and people on the street.) Unless there have been no scenes at workplaces so far, that just seems unlikely to me.
apis_cerana 19th-Apr-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
This, exactly
apis_cerana 19th-Apr-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
I can't imagine living in NYC and only knowing white people.

I can -- some people have a very not-diverse workplace. Also a lot of transplants from mostly-white areas like to come here and pretend they're being progressive and cool while they refuse to interact with lowly non-whites
kitschaster 19th-Apr-2012 06:30 am (UTC)
Ugh, I almost fell into an all-white bubble of friends, but then I just decided to avoid my fiance's friends, and the few friends I have now are quite diverse. :D

But I can also see how this can happen, though. It happened for a short period of time in Los Angeles when I abandoned all of my music friends, so yeah. >_>
evil_laugher 19th-Apr-2012 07:06 am (UTC)
You wouldn't think it possible, but there are definitely proudly progressive white people exactly like that, ones who travel the world and live in diverse, sometimes minority-white, cities. The people behind this show are probably case-in-point. Knowing a few like that, I don't know how they manage it. It seems like it would take a lot of effort to socially stay that white. Like... in Baltimore, really?
sobota 19th-Apr-2012 11:26 am (UTC)
i'm fairly isolated myself, where i'll be the one poc friend in a group of white people in racially mixed cities. sometimes it makes me feel really uncomfortable.
latin_lunatic 19th-Apr-2012 04:15 am (UTC)

I need to follow her right now, especially if she's blogging.

eta: and... i already love it after two posts.

Edited at 2012-04-19 04:19 am (UTC)
13chapters 19th-Apr-2012 04:21 am (UTC)
Yes! And she posts pretty regularly, with her art and crafts projects and she is soooo talented I am jealous. She's such a normal person, I could totally imagine being friends with her. I mean, what am I saying, she's my BFF!
latin_lunatic 19th-Apr-2012 04:42 am (UTC)
Wow, she gets some stupid comments. No wonder she quit her twitter.
eleveninches 19th-Apr-2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Love her.
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