Watch Live: The Washington Ideas Forum 2014

It's Bigger Than 'Girls'

Jon Caramanica making sense:


But cloistered though it may be, "Girls" is a symptom, not the disease. The debate over the show is related to, but not a full picture of, greater debates about race and television, about representation and power, and about reception. The vigor of the response has far more to do with what's not shown on television as a whole than what is or is not shown on "Girls," and also with who's chosen to pay attention...

And "Girls" is hardly alone in its whiteness. Far more popular shows like "Two and a Half Men" or "How I Met Your Mother" blithely exist in a world that rarely considers race. They're less scrutinized, because unlike the Brooklyn-bohemian demimonde of "Girls," the worlds of those shows are ones that writers and critics -- the sort who both adore and have taken offense at "Girls" -- have little desire to be a part of. White-dominant television has almost always been the norm. Why would "Girls" be any different? 

It is far less egregious than, say, its distant Brooklyn cousin, "2 Broke Girls," which may have a more diverse cast but paints its minority characters (the diner boss, Han, and the cashier, Earl) with awful, gauche strokes. And it's mystifying that there was never an outcry over "Eastbound & Down," which survived three seasons on HBO on a diet of ethnic stereotypes, potty humor and post-irony. The overtness of that show -- Kenny Powers riding a Confederate-flag boogie board, and so on -- was its defense. It was hiding in plain sight, painting its protagonists as backward but lovable.

It will come as no surprise that I agree with this. More, I think a significant part of the problem is the lives led by these characters bear some resemblance to the kind of people who tend to live in cities and write about culture.

And then there's something else now making the rounds which you can on display here---base jealousy. I didn't see that in the Hairpin piece or the Jezebel piece, but that poster just wreaks of it. 
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Things Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

You don't have to tell her how big she is. You don't need to touch her belly.

Video

Maine's Underground Street Art

"Graffiti is the farthest thing from anarchy."

Video

The Joy of Running in a Beautiful Place

A love letter to California's Marin Headlands

Video

'I Didn't Even Know What I Was Going Through'

A 17-year-old describes his struggles with depression.

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In