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.
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.

homasse 19th-Apr-2012 04:05 am (UTC)
I see you ascribe to the same thinking as Arfin, namely:

Without thinking, I put gender politics above race and class.

Thank you for reminding me of why I don't consider myself a "feminist." :/
kitanabychoice 19th-Apr-2012 04:12 am (UTC)
we need more well-rounded women identifying as feminists. :'(
homasse 19th-Apr-2012 04:18 am (UTC)
I don't identify as feminist because of the fact that western feminism, from the get-go, has always been middle-class white-woman centric (case in point: the "get women out of the kitchen!" battle cry - only well-off white women could afford to stay home and not work. Poor women and WOC always worked), and I still remember the collective ass-showing white feminists did during the Obama-Clinton primary runoffs. Plus, too often, white feminists expect WOC to just jump to their side in the name of "sisterhood" as they simultaneously exert their own white privilege and ignore the intersection of race in the lives of non-white women. So between that and things like Amanda Marcotte's heinously racist book illustrations and the way black feminist bloggers have had their words basically stolen and given no credit and the white feminists writers who stole them get acclaim, I'm basically done with it and have been for years, and will continue to be until feminism cleans up its act.

Which is why I said the original comment was a perfect reminder of why I'm not a "feminist" - the very attitude of "Yeah, there's some race shit, but who cares FEMINIST!!" permeates all of feminism.

Edited at 2012-04-19 04:19 am (UTC)
hinoema 19th-Apr-2012 04:39 am (UTC)
This, really. I'd rather be a humanist- then I can want *everyone* to get their shit together.
kitschaster 19th-Apr-2012 06:32 am (UTC)
If I could like this comment, I would.
jazzypom *fist bump*19th-Apr-2012 07:42 am (UTC)
My spiritual sister. I love you so much right now. Feminism has always been hand in hand with racism, sorry to say.
angelofdeath275 19th-Apr-2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
lickety_split 19th-Apr-2012 04:11 am (UTC)
Your timing is awful. Bad form.
rex_dart 19th-Apr-2012 04:27 am (UTC)
Not to be that person

swing and a miss
illusivevenstar 19th-Apr-2012 04:56 am (UTC)
You want to be the person that alienates everyone but white people? Lol ok
kalikahuntress 19th-Apr-2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
Sigh... of course it's good if you just ignore how blatantly racist it is.
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