Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Post-Racial America

I'll admit this right off the bat, just so there's no question about it later: I have only seen one episode of Girls. But for the last year I've been hearing a lot about the show's "racial problem." This season, in an effort to address her criticism head-on, Lena Dunham featured the wonderful Donald Glover as her character's love interest.

This article
is a review of the episode, and it isn't particularly favorable. That seems fitting, since I don't look favorably on the review. This quote especially ruffled my feathers:

"What Dunham's latest well-intentioned disappointment makes clear is that it will never be enough for white writers to simply try harder in their depictions of non-white characters. Some may produce keenly observed, authentic-feeling portrayals, but even those who have spent their whole lives surrounded by people of diverse backgrounds will never know first-hand what it's like to be a person of color in America."

Are artists only allowed to present people who are exactly like them? That seems awfully limiting. Not to mention insulting. We're all human, after all. I may not have felt the rage of racial discrimination, but I have felt both rage and discriminated against, so I can comprehend how another person might feel pain. I've played mothers, pregnant women, Christians, and men onstage - I am not, and never have been, any of these things. But that's acting. Art isn't literal. If that's what you want, then you should stick to documentaries.

Shakespeare was a man, but he wrote for women. I'd argue (and I think a lot of women would agree) that his ladies are often fully-realized. But there are also two-dimensional women in his plays. Just as there are flimsy caricatures of men. I think there's a serious lack of female playwrights (and composers!) but I'm not about to argue that Sondheim shouldn't write for women since HE MALE. HE NO GET IT.

I really feel for Lena Dunham - she's a young, adventurous writer and artist who has worked her rear off to have her own show on HBO. And now every armchair director in the country wants to influence her work. She's damned whether does or doesn't include multicultural characters. People cried, "Racism!" last season, and now they're shouting, "Write what you know!"

I want to buy her a glass of wine and thank her for working so hard. I also want to ask her to write me a part. Just a small one, though - I'm not greedy.

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