Art by Molly
So Lena Dunham won some Golden Girls or something. That’s pretty great. In the year or so since Girls premiered and the internet had some thoughts about it, I had almost forgotten how intensely people feel about this one woman and her show.
Now, I don’t really want to talk about Girls. I’ve read far too many op-ed pieces and blog posts on the subject and that is a long and dangerous rabbit hole to fall prey to. (I’ll save you the trouble: just read James Franco’s HuffPo piece, it’s surprisingly insightful).
Instead, I’d like to talk about the idea of representation and responsibility. What are these notions and why must we pay attention to them.
In her acceptance speech at the Globes, Dunham concluded with this line:
“This award is for every woman who has ever felt like there wasn’t a space for her. This show has made a space for me.”
Yes. Exactly. Because here’s the thing, there wasn’t a space for a show like Girls until Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow came along and created one. Yes, from a place of privilege and institutional support they created one, but it was a space for a kind of comedy and a kind of audience that did not previously exist.
So now we have that space out there. The space for women to be blunt and naked and messy. For Lena Dunham to take off her clothes in Donald Glover’s apartment and for Zosia Mammet to let us know how we actually sound when we’re talking about hookups and virginity and Greek yogurt.
Positive stuff here. But now the responsibility comes in. I’m not saying that Dunham and crew have a responsibility to create a show with a racial representation that corresponds exactly to the city of New York. I’m saying that there is a responsibility to tell interesting stories that push past the hazily ignorant mindset of privilege. Privilege is something that is given to us by our parents and our backgrounds schools and our jobs and our friends. But we cannot let privilege get in the way of lived experience. We cannot be blind to it and let it cloud our work. Nothing a little critical thinking and open discussion can’t help to fix.
Because there is simply no room to erase the stories of interesting people (people of color, people of difference) in the name of the bottom line. I like Girls. I like watching it. And clearly, I’m one of those people that likes talking about it on the internet. But if the reactionary backlash to the success of Girls is any indicator, it’s about time there were even more spaces for even more people.
Interesting people telling interesting stories. I’d like to see us move away from the idea of “dynamic representation” in media and focus on simple, honest, dynamic storytelling. Stories shown on YouTube and stories showcased at college theatre festivals. Pieces published through zines or tumblr or independent magazines. Stories that will reach as wide an audience as a premium television network and stories that will never leave the back folders of your hard drive or the scribbled annals of your journals. There’s more than one place to look for stories that represent our experience and there’s more than one way to represent our experience in story.
–Meaghan Murphy, Staff Writer