Girls creator and Laurie Simmons' Daughter Lena Dunham was on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross yesterday to address the walloping criticism slung at the show (racist, lacks diversity, stereotypical female characters).
After her initial, brief response did little to soothe the critical firestorm—like trying plug up a dam with your finger—Dunham used the Terry Gross platform to both clarify and expand on her reaction to the criticism.
I take that criticism very seriously. ... This show isn't supposed to feel exclusionary. It's supposed to feel honest, and it's supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things. And I think the liberal-arts student in me really wants to engage in a dialogue about it, but as I learn about engaging with the media, I realize it's not the same as sitting in a seminar talking things through at Oberlin. Every quote is sort of used and misused and placed and misplaced, and I really wanted to make sure I spoke sensitively to this issue. ...
I wrote the first season primarily by myself, and I co-wrote a few episodes. But I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs. Something I wanted to avoid was tokenism in casting. If I had one of the four girls, if, for example, she was African-American, I feel like - not that the experience of an African-American girl and a white girl are drastically different, but there has to be specificity to that experience [that] I wasn't able to speak to. I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, 'I hear this and I want to respond to it.' And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can't speak to accurately.
For the most part, Dunham handles herself well. She comes off as thoughtful and articulate, just apologetic enough to avoid looking overly coached. Also, there's this great little moment at the end, as Terry is thanking her for coming, when she responds, "Thank you so much, Terry. I really - you always make me think a lot." It's a small moment, but it's a genuine one; a glimpse at that realness and vulnerability Dunham is trying so hard to bottle for television. And hopefully it's indicative of a future, broader Girls world to come.
[Image via Getty]