On Race in Media: “Girls Through the Veil”

Ta-Nehisi Coates’


There are worlds and there are worlds

There’s a lot of talk around the web about Lena Dunham’s new HBO joint Girls and its lack of diversity. Part of the problem is that those of us who fit into that amorphous space of “black alternative” or “Afrobohemia” or whatever we are called today, so rarely see ourselves represented creatively.   It’s worth noting the title to Kendra James’ piece for Racalious–“Dear Lena Dunham: I Exist.” Or consider this from Jezebel:

I am a black woman, but I find more in common with characters in Seinfeld than I do with the ones in House of Payne. My world is neither all black nor all white, but a mix — whether it be race, gender, socio-economics, weight or age.
This is the voice of that tribe that doesn’t really get down with Tyler Perry, whose music choices tend to put us in places where there aren’t many black faces. As Wyatt Cenac’s character Micah put it in Medicine For Melancholy, our Friday nights generally boil down to one question–“Black folks or white folks.”

With that said, I think storytellers–first and foremost–must pledge their loyalty to the narrative as it comes to them. I don’t believe in creating characters out a of desire to please your audience or even to promote an ostensible social good. I think good writing is essentially a selfish act–story-tellers are charged with crafting the narrative the want to see. I’m not very interested in Lena Dunham reflecting the aspirations of people she may or may not know. I’m interested in her specific and individual vision; in that story she is aching to tell. If that vision is all-white, then so be it. I don’t think a story-teller can be guilted into making great characters.
Find the rest of the article here.

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