WBEZ | Girls http://www.wbez.org/tags/girls Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The 10 most controversial TV episodes http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/10-most-controversial-tv-episodes-108657 <p><p><img a="" alt="" and="" before="" breaking="" class="image-original_image" creator="" dunham="" episode="" episodes="" from="" girls="" gone="" has="" href="http://screenrant.com/breaking-bad-ending-finale-interview-vince-gilligan/" in="" internet="" left="" lena="" little="" nuts="" one="" only="" over="" patrick="" s="" so.="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/One Man's Trash .jpg" star="" still="" target="_blank" the="" title=" &quot;Girls&quot; star Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson in a scene from the episode &quot;One Man's Trash.&quot; (Girls/HBO)" two="" understandably="" vince="" wilson="" with="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><p>The Internet is going a little nuts over the ending of &quot;Breaking Bad,&quot; and understandably so. With only three episodes left until creator Vince Gilligan&#39;s avowedly <a href="http://screenrant.com/breaking-bad-ending-finale-interview-vince-gilligan/" target="_blank">polarizing</a> finale,&nbsp;each new plot twist is more shocking and sensational than the one before. Plus, a Saul Goodman&nbsp;<a href="http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/09/11/breaking-bad-spinoff-better-call-saul/">spin-off</a>&nbsp;starring Bob Odenkirk is already in the works: another AMC series&nbsp;destined to continue pushing the boundaries of cable TV to a) new levels of borderline hysteria or b) serial drama fatigue.</p><p>Hot button television is nothing new; but oh, how times have changed. For example, the intense shock and dismay stirred up by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78juOpTM3tE" target="_blank">Red Wedding</a>&nbsp;massacre on &quot;Game of Thrones&quot;&nbsp;makes the once-scandalous aspects of much older shows, like Lucy being (gasp!) pregnant on &quot;I Love Lucy&quot; or the Brady parents sharing a bed on &quot;The Brady Bunch,&quot; seem adorably quaint by comparison.&nbsp;</p><p>But beyond the provocative themes that have persisted throughout many a series&#39; run, from the foul mouth of &quot;All in the Family&quot; patriarch Archie Bunker to the perpetual <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/celebritology/2010/04/the_10_freakiest_moments_in_tw_1.html" target="_blank">weirdness</a> of &quot;Twin Peaks,&quot; certain landmark episodes have also served as cultural powder kegs for audience uproar and debate.&nbsp;</p><p>So, which episodes reign as the most controversial to date? Here are&nbsp;my top 10:&nbsp;</p><p><strong>10. Girls, &quot;One Man&#39;s Trash&quot;</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><p>What&#39;s so controversial about this episode is why audiences found it controversial in the first place. Lena Dunham&#39;s character Hannah has a steamy dalliance with a rich, hunky stranger played by Patrick Wilson. Many viewers cited the impossibility of such an affair, saying that a man who looks like Wilson would never be attracted to an average-looking <a href="http://jezebel.com/5983437/what-kind-of-guy-does-a-girl-who-looks-like-lena-dunham-deserve" target="_blank">schlub</a>&nbsp;like Dunham. Many critics concluded that the episode must have been a <a href="http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/girls-season-2-episode-5-recap" target="_blank">dream</a>; because seriously, how could that ever happen? Insert massive eye roll here.</p><p>Thankfully, countless other viewers and critics jumped in to clarify that yes, a handsome man can still be attracted to a woman who doesn&#39;t look like a supermodel. Also, naked ping pong is okay.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;On All Fours,&quot; the episode in which Adam&#39;s shocking, agressive sex with new flame Natalia looked a lot like <a href="http://hbowatch.com/on-all-fours-did-we-witness-a-rape-on-sundays-episode-of-girls/" target="_blank">rape</a>.</p><p><strong>9. Seinfeld, &quot;The Puerto Rican Day&quot;</strong></p><p>In this Season 9 episode, the &quot;Seinfeld&quot; group become stuck in traffic among the celebrants of a Puerto Rican Day Parade. Kramer accidently sets the Puerto Rican flag on fire with a sparkler and then stomps on it to quell the blaze, inciting an attack from the Puerto Rican mob that leads to Jerry&#39;s car being thrown down a stairwell.</p><p>Obviously, the National Puerto Rican Coaliton was <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Puerto_Rican_Day" target="_blank">not pleased</a> with this representation. NBC apologized; and until 2002, the episode was excluded from syndication packages to other networks.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;The Contest,&quot; the episode in which Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer make a bet to determine who can hold out the longest as the&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_contest" target="_blank">master of their domains</a>.</p><p><strong>8. The Simpsons, &quot;The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson&quot;</strong></p><p>Since <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_vs_Homer_Simpson" target="_blank">shenanigans</a> in and around the World Trade Center featured heavily in the plot of this episode, it was removed from syndication following the September 11 attacks. By 2006, the episode come back to syndication in some areas, but with many parts edited out.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;Blame it On Lisa,&quot; in which Lisa Simpson stumbled upon some rat-infested Brazilian slums &quot;painted bright colors...so the tourists would not be offended.&quot; Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/apr/09/broadcasting.internationalnews" target="_blank">spoke out</a> against the show for portraying &quot;a distorted vision of Brazilian reality.&quot;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>7. Married with Children, &quot;I&#39;ll See You in Court&quot;</strong></p><p>Due to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I'll_See_You_in_Court" target="_blank">sex tape plot</a> orchestrated by the already controversial Bundy family, this episode was pulled by the censors and prevented from being aired for over a decade. Showrunner Michael Moye has since claimed that producers dubbed it &quot;The Lost Episode,&quot; both because it never aired and because they felt that they had lost control of the project.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;Her Cups Runneth Over,&quot; another highly sexual episode of &quot;Married with Children&quot; that prompted Michigan woman <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Rakolta" target="_blank">Terry Rakolta</a> to launch a letter-writing campaign urging audiences to boycott the show.</p><p><strong>6. The X Files, &quot;Home&quot;</strong></p><p>While &quot;The X Files&quot; has never shied away from creepy subject matter, this 1996 episode was by far the most horrific. Brief summary: a quadruple amputee mother is caught breeding with her disfigured sons, thereby creating more <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiMq8e2RJA4" target="_blank">montrously disfigured</a> children.</p><p>&quot;Home&quot; was yanked after its initial airing to its graphic nature, making it the only &quot;X Files&quot; episode to be banned from repetition on Fox.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;Irresistible,&quot; one of the few &quot;X Files&quot; episodes to feature a human <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irresistible_(The_X-Files)" target="_blank">serial killer</a> (played by Donald Pfaster) instead of a supernatural entity.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5. South Park, &quot;Trapped in the Closet&quot;</strong></p><p>In 2006, Comedy Central&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trapped_in_the_Closet_(South_Park)" target="_blank">canceled</a> the rebroadcast of this episode without prior notice, allegedly because parent company Viacom was being faced with threats from Tom Cruise to boycott publicity for <em>Mission Impossible III.</em>&nbsp;Rumor has it that Cruise, who also reportedly&nbsp;<a href="http://freespeechdebate.com/en/case/tom-cruise-sues-south-park/" target="_blank">threatened to sue</a> &quot;South Park&quot; for besmirching his action star image, did not find a gay cartoon version of himself &quot;trapped in the closet&quot; to be particularly amusing.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mentions: &quot;Jared Has Aides,&quot;a 2002 episode later&nbsp;<a href="http://tv.msn.com/tv/episode/south-park/jared-has-aides.1/" target="_blank">banned</a> by Comedy Central. Ironically, this decision was made not because of the AIDS-related material, but due to the portrayal of Butters being abused by his parents.</p><p><strong>4. The Sopranos, &quot;Made in America&quot;</strong></p><p>The anti-climactic fadeout of &quot;The Sopranos&quot; series finale left the majority of diehard fans feeling <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Made_in_America_(The_Sopranos)" target="_blank">very upset</a>. However, retrospective reviews of the episode have been mostly positive&mdash;likely fueled by the lengthy media discussions that immediately followed the broadcast and caused many viewers to change their interpretations of the ending.</p><p>Honorable Mentions: The much-maligned season finales of &quot;Lost,&quot; &quot;Roseanne&quot; and &quot;Gossip Girl&quot; (Dan Humphrey was GG all along? <a href="http://www.wetpaint.com/gossip-girl/articles/5-reasons-were-mad-that-dan-humphrey-is-gossip-girl" target="_blank">As if</a>.)&nbsp;</p><p><strong>3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, &quot;Earshot&quot;</strong></p><p>A school shooting on a popular teen drama is a hard sell at any time, but especially in the wake of a real-life tragedy. Such was the case with the infamous &quot;Buffy&quot; episode about a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earshot_(Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer)" target="_blank">high school gunman</a>: originally scheduled to air one week after the shooting at Columbine High School had taken place. &quot;Earshot&quot; did not appear on American television until five months later, but viewers&#39; emotions were still rubbed raw.&nbsp;</p><p>Honorable Mention: &quot;Glee&quot; airing its <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_Star_(Glee)" target="_blank">&quot;Shooting Star&quot;</a> episode just four months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and receiving a hailstorm of backlash as a result.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2. Maude, &quot;Maude&#39;s Dilemma&quot;</strong></p><p>&quot;Maude&quot; was a revolutionary sitcom that continually broke new ground in the 1970s, but one episode stands out above the rest. In this iconic two-parter, which originally aired in November 1972, the titular character (played by Bea Arthur) is dismayed to find herself pregnant at 47 and decides to have an abortion.</p><p>Roe v. Wade made abortions legal nationwide <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v_wade" target="_blank">two months later</a>; but members of the clergy still reacted to strongly to &quot;Maude&#39;s Dilemma&quot; being re-run in 1973, and at least 30 stations&nbsp;<a href="http://news.google.co.uk/newspapers?id=AUsNAAAAIBAJ&amp;sjid=Dm0DAAAAIBAJ&amp;dq=maude%20abortion&amp;pg=3411%2C2835386" target="_blank">pre-empted</a> the episode.</p><p>Honorable Mention: A controversial <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidents_Will_Happen_(Degrassi:_The_Next_Generation)" target="_blank">teen abortion</a> arc on the Canadian soap &quot;Degrassi&quot; also kept the 2004 episode &quot;Accidents Will Happen,&quot; from airing in the United States for many years.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>1. Ellen, &quot;The Puppy Episode&quot;</strong></p><p>This unforgettable two-part episode of Ellen Degeneres&#39; late &#39;90s sitcom, in which both she and her character Ellen Morgan&nbsp;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Puppy_Episode" target="_blank">came out as gay</a>, caused such a furor upon its initial airing that ABC had to issue a &quot;Parental Advisory&quot; at the top of each new episode. The series was cancelled one season later, and both Degeneres and co-star Laura Dern faced career backlash for years afterward. Oprah, who played the small role of Ellen&#39;s therapist in the episode, later said that she received <a href="http://radaronline.com/exclusives/2012/08/oprah-winfrey-ellen-degeneres-coming-out-backlash/" target="_blank">death threats</a>.</p><p>Today, &quot;The Puppy Episode&quot; is <a href="http://www.emmytvlegends.org/blog/?p=5903" target="_blank">widely regarded</a> as one of the most important and influential broadcasts in scripted television history. Degeneres&#39; career has recovered <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5jDoD_IYw" target="_blank">quite nicely</a> as well.&nbsp;</p><p>Which episodes would you add to this list?</p><p><em>Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer and co-host of WBEZ&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels,</a>&nbsp;a podcast about the future of television. Follow Leah on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></p></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 13 Sep 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/10-most-controversial-tv-episodes-108657 'Frances Ha' gets young women and millennials right http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/frances-ha-gets-young-women-and-millennials-right-107411 <p><p><a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=6&amp;ved=0CGMQFjAF&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.franceshamovie.com%2F&amp;ei=6BWmUdilIIrK9gSeq4DoCg&amp;usg=AFQjCNE9dGzWz47gWHrazMzBTDHcf3EbPw&amp;sig2=Vv3gALUP77OzEm-zDFMMwg&amp;bvm=bv.47008514,d.eWU" target="_blank"><em>Frances Ha</em></a> is a truly great film. It appears light and lovely and even (lovingly) frivolous and it is all of those things. But it is also very, very good. If one gives it the chance it deserves, it might even surprise and delight.</p><p>Yes, the movie was filmed in black and white, giving Manhattan and Brooklyn and Paris and even a small house in Sacramento a certain beauty that romanticizes the story line.</p><p>Yes, the dialogue can be fast and unnatural.</p><p>And yes, the end which wraps up almost too nicely can feel frustrating knowing the journey beforehand. But these things should not deter from the film as a whole. If films are meant to offer slices of life, then <em>Frances Ha</em> offers just that. Life is not a perfect narrative, but one that changes course along the way turning from comedy to drama and back again.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/still2.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="(Courtesy of IFC Films)" />Frances stumbles onto the screen. And once she is there, it is hard to imagine her not there. She stumbles in both her conversations (never graceful, always uncomfortable) and in her physicality. Greta Gerwig is a tall actress, not entirely a rarity in Hollywood. But she has a physical presence on screen in <em>Frances Ha</em> (a film she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach) that is captivating and demanding. It was evident in early mumblecore films such as <em>Hannah Takes the Stairs</em> and director Baumbach&rsquo;s <em>Greenberg</em>. It is especially evident here. Yes, she is the star of the film. But even if she wasn&rsquo;t, even if she was a minor character like the few minor yet perfect characters that pop up in <em>Frances Ha</em> throughout her 18-month journey (such as the always enigmatic Adam Driver as roommate #2 Lev), she would still demand attention. That Frances is an aspiring modern dancer only further highlights the ways in which life literally changes the machinations of our body.</p><p><em>Frances Ha</em> is a movie about many things. On the surface, it appears to be about millennials. Frances faces big and little disappointments that slowly try to break her spirit. Her best friend moves out of their apartment and into Manhattan. The rent on her Chinatown shared apartment goes up past what she can afford. She is not asked to be a part of her company&rsquo;s winter performances. These situations are physically affecting on Frances, if only temporarily. One sees it in her hunched shoulders or her face, a brief tell. But through it all she maintains a sort of millennial optimism that emphasizes finding joy in what life has given you, even if it is not perfect.</p><p>Frances is a character both easy and not easy to love. This is common for most Baumbach characters, but her possible lack of appeal stems more from her optimism and enthusiasm than from his typical pessimism and cruelty. In many ways, she might seem unreal. There is a perception that millennials want everything and want it immediately. But <em>Frances Ha</em> shows the reality, one that merely asks that happiness <em>be</em> possible.&nbsp;More than anything, the movie is a story about the loss of friendships. It seems impossible that the friends we hold so dear can one day slip away from us. But perhaps a part of us has always known that this might (or would certainly) happen and it is too difficult to understand.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/still3.jpg" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="(Courtesy of IFC Films)" /></p><p>This is a story told through Frances&rsquo; perspective. We assume that Frances&rsquo; roommate does not like her boyfriend because Frances does not like him. But she stays with him. This continues to shock Frances. But what does Frances truly know about the world around her? What does she know about the people around her? When best friend Sophie moves to Tribeca, Frances takes it almost like an act of betrayal. Maybe it is. It is not impossible to imagine being in a similar situation. But Sophie supposedly expressed her desire to live in Tribeca before. That this dream would involve Frances factored little into her motivation. In friendship, we hope to find someone agreeable. In reality, we find this and something more: an actual individual person with hopes and dreams and desires. Even having diverging interests can fracture a friendship. The things we do, the people we hold dear, can change the course of our lives forever.</p><p>The film greatly supports the power and strength of female friendships too. They are unique and precious and to have a truly great best friend as a woman with another woman is to know love that transcends the complications of life. To lose that, then, is to lose comfort and security. It is the loss of someone we think we know as well as ourselves. It is the loss of self.</p><p>Dreams change. Friendships slip away. This is difficult to process. It seems unfair. Recognizing what you saw for yourself and what life actually gave you can be heartbreaking. This is what <em>Frances Ha</em> reminds its audience. I went to see the film on a Monday afternoon. The audience was largely comprised of middle-age couples, probably the ideal Baumbach audience. There were very few people my age and that is a shame because this is a film for them &ndash; for &quot;us&quot; &ndash; in a way that many films are not.</p><p>I can understand now why a show like <em>Girls</em> is popular even when many people (including me) do not like it. It is rare to see that life, the one of a young woman, reflected back on the screen. Not all fiction needs to be a study in our own desires for self-reflection. But its lack of presence in popular culture points to how refreshing it is to see on screen. Living through it now, it is difficult to say whether or not the millennial situation is worse than previous generations. But it is certainly unique and complicated in a way that very few have captured honestly. In <em>Frances Ha</em>, we are given a movie that understands. It does not condescend. It loves and loves fiercely.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Frances Ha is in theaters now.&nbsp;Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 10:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-05/frances-ha-gets-young-women-and-millennials-right-107411 Girl problems: Why Lena Dunham gets scapegoated for TV's lack of diversity http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/large_2.jpg" style="width: 449px; height: 280px;" title="(Golden Globes/AP)" /></div><p>If you&rsquo;ve logged on the internet at all in the past year (or even passingly know what Jezebel is), you know that a lot of people have a big, casually racist bone to pick with Lena Dunham. As the writer/producer of <em>Girls</em>, Dunham was being billed as the &ldquo;voice of a generation,&rdquo; one that would revolutionize the ways in which we talk about women in the media.</p><p>The problem for many with Dunham is the inclusion of young, privileged white women&mdash;about which there are many shows&mdash;speaks to the disinclusion of women of color, who have no one speaking for them. The show continued to marginalize anyone not of Dunham&rsquo;s background and social status (as the daughter of a famous artist), and as the show was marketed as a representation of the Millenial Generation, many felt it was a damaging and problematic representation. Rather than pushing things forward, <em>Girls</em> represented a nudge in the right direction&mdash;or more like a plaintive tiptoe.</p><p>But to many, it looked like more of the same. It was White Girl Problems all over again.</p><p>In interviews, Dunham hasn&rsquo;t been shy about speaking to the show&rsquo;s race problem. She mentioned that, when casting the show, race was not much of a consideration, which speaks the ways in which both white feminists and the television industry often don&rsquo;t recognize racial inclusion as being an issue.</p><p>With the new season, I was looking forward to Dunham taking the internet&rsquo;s criticisms and learning from them, and lo and behold, the premiere practically opens with Dunham carnally knowledging Donald Glover, the black comedian known best for his role as Troy on <em>Community</em>.&nbsp; While they&rsquo;re getting all up in each other, Glover and Dunham keep repeating phrases like &ldquo;You wanted this&rdquo; and &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about damn time,&rdquo; as an overt message to the show&rsquo;s fans. Dunham gets it, y&rsquo;all.</p><p>Many were concerned that Glover was being cast to as a &ldquo;token black friend,&rdquo; and the fact that the show opened with them sexing each other didn&rsquo;t help much, as it looked like just another image of the hyper-sexualized black male. The fear was that Glover wouldn&rsquo;t be presented as a character but an essentialized object, a vehicle of desire. To an extent, that was exactly the case.</p><p>However, Dunham did something interesting: she used Glover&rsquo;s character to call her on her bullshit&mdash;criticizing her for tokenizing him and not being truly interested in getting to know him. Dunham&rsquo;s Hannah was the kind of girl who would date a black guy to feel cool and get to go to the &ldquo;scary&rdquo; part of town. Basically, Glover&rsquo;s character was calling her a hipster racist, which was the major charge against<em> Girls</em> last year. Dunham literally put all of her critics&rsquo; words in Glover&rsquo;s mouth.</p><p>True to her character&rsquo;s narcissism, Hannah ignores them and creates a narrative in which she&rsquo;s in the right in the break up. She&rsquo;s the savior. Life is like <em>The Blind Side</em>, guys.</p><p>Q: Is this progress?</p><p>A: Not so fast. Let&rsquo;s examine.</p><p>Last year, Dunham mentioned that she wrote for white girls because she wanted to write from her own experiences, and this scene serves to narratively let her off the hook for not writing a black actor into the show or doing the work of inclusion. Part of being a good writer is pushing yourself to write outside of your world. Was Dave Eggers an African refugee when he wrote <em>What Is the What</em>? No, but he pushed himself to get inside someone else&rsquo;s head and see the world from someone else&rsquo;s point of view.</p><p>Martin McDonagh, the playwright and director&rsquo;s newest film, <em>Seven Psychopaths</em>, comments on this phenomenon through his lead character, played by Colin Farrell. McDonagh has often been criticized for not writing roles for women, and his lead, a screenwriter, grapples with the same issues in his work. As a part of this meta-commentary, the film&rsquo;s two female characters are vastly underwritten, and actresses Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurlyenko maybe share ten minutes of screen time between the two of them.</p><p>However, McDonagh calling himself on his own bullsh*t lends him an easy out, as he still doesn&rsquo;t have to write a female character. The same is true for Dunham, who gave herself a nice Get Out Of (Hipster Racist) Jail Free card by casting Glover for two whole episodes.</p><p>But what does give me hope is that Dunham has the courage to take responsibility for her show&rsquo;s representation of gender, race and sexuality in a way many shows do not. Shows like <em>How I Met Your</em> <em>Mother </em>and <em>Two and a Half Men</em> have repeatedly bashed transgender people for years, using the idea of transitioning as a cheap ploy for ridicule and laughter. <em>Two Broke Girls</em>, <em>That 70&rsquo;s Show</em>, <em>Sex and the City</em>, <em>Family Guy</em>, <em>Outsourced</em>, <em>Modern Family</em>, <em>Seinfeld </em>and <em>Homeland</em> have gotten away with trafficking in overt racial stereotypes, and shows like <em>Nashville</em>, <em>Mad Men</em>, <em>Raising Hope</em>, <em>The Middle</em>, <em>Enlightened</em> and my beloved <em>Cougar Town</em> have little to no POC representation.</p><p>Even reality shows aren&rsquo;t much better. Food for thought: Neither the <em>The Bachelor</em> nor <em>The Bachelorette </em>have ever starred a minority.</p><p>Last year, television critic Maureen Ryan argued that shows like <em>Girls</em> highlight the ongoing racial disparities on television. The problem isn&rsquo;t that Dunham is racist. Television is racist. Currently, the only primetime network sitcom about a black family is <em>The Cleveland Show</em>, which is a) animated and b) crazy problematic. In the 2000&rsquo;s, network TV saw shows like the traditional family comedy <em>My Wife and Kids</em> and the critically lauded <em>Everybody Hates Chris</em> come and go.</p><p>A television landscape that makes room for <em>A Different World</em>, <em>Cosby</em> and <em>The Fresh Prince</em> is largely a thing of the past, and unless it&rsquo;s Kerry Washington on <em>Scandal</em>, people of color are our black friends or casual flings&mdash;like Glover or Idris Elba on <em>The Big C</em>.&nbsp; Remember: Washington was the first black female lead on a network show in almost <a href="http://www.oprah.com/own-oprahs-next-chapter/Oprahs-Next-Chapter-Kerry-Washington-and-Shonda-Rhimes">forty years</a>. Clearly, TV has a race problem&mdash;or else Ken Jeong wouldn&rsquo;t be allowed to be in things.</p><p>However, Americans aren&rsquo;t often trained to see structural racism&mdash;although we&rsquo;re good at pointing out individual acts. (See: the movie<em> Crash</em>, which only looks at racism as a personal problem that can be overcome with a little shaming, yelling and Sandra Bullock falling down some stairs. Inequality solved!) <em>Scandal</em> showrunner Shonda Rhimes spoke to this tendency when she <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Shonda-Rhimes-Bunheads-1048843.aspx">called out</a> ABC Family&rsquo;s <em>Bunheads</em> for not including girls of color, which sparked <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/amy-sherman-palladino-shonda-rhimes-bunheads-338681">fervent response</a> from creator Amy Sherman-Palladino.</p><p>However, Sherman-Palladino also worked on <em>Gilmore Girls</em>, which championed both women of color and full-figured women in its seven seasons. At a time when the Ally McBeal body was the norm, the show was practically bursting with big girls, and it was awesome.</p><p>I find it interesting that whereas showrunners like Larry David, Ryan Murphy, Michael Patrick King, Mark Brazil, Steven Levitan and Seth MacFarlane are often let off the hook for their race problems or lauded as champions of equal opportunity humor, Dunham and Sherman-Palladino are made to pay for our media sins. In my critiques of King and Murphy, many were quick to defend them and defend them as refreshingly un-PC, willing to say what others are not. <em>Sex and the City</em> was actually about that sort of thing.</p><p>However, almost no one has jumped to defend Dunham for the same reason to defend Sherman-Palladino&rsquo;s right to make a show about white girls. In film, directors like Wes Anderson have, for years, gotten away with making movies with all-white casts&mdash;with almost no one criticizing his right to completely leave people of color out. Anderson&rsquo;s lone black character was <em>The Royal Tenenbaums</em>&rsquo; Danny Glover, who had almost no lines, and his most <a href="http://seul-le-cinema.blogspot.com/2010/02/darjeeling-limited.html">racially inclusive</a> movie was <em>The Darjeeling Limited</em>, a film that could have been called <em>Orientalism: The Movie</em>. It was a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-pandey10oct10,0,7184917.story">neo-colonialist</a> <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2007/09/unbearable_whiteness.html">fever dream</a>.</p><p>And remember Pagoda? He won&rsquo;t be winning Anderson POC awesome points anytime soon.</p><p>The major difference between Dunham and Anderson is that one is male&mdash;and the other is not. Although the criticism of Dunham is accurate, one of the things that&rsquo;s made her so easy to critique is the fact that she&rsquo;s a woman and, thus, free game for public scrutiny and paternalism. In a tabloid- and blog-driven media, women&#39;s bodies are an avenue for debate, whether that&rsquo;s Jennifer Lawrence&rsquo;s &ldquo;fatness,&rdquo; Madonna&rsquo;s arms, Angelina Jolie&rsquo;s legs, Willow Smith&#39;s hair, Lindsay Lohan&rsquo;s plastic surgery, Megan Fox&rsquo;s thumbs or Jessica Simpson&rsquo;s pregnancy body. We look at women to ask &ldquo;Who wore it best?&rdquo;&mdash;to hold some up while others are destroyed.</p><p>If you look at shows like <em>Revenge </em>or the <em>Real Housewives </em>series, we root for women to be taken down or torn apart&mdash;to be called out and shown for the frauds they are. For instance, check out that Buzzfeed <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/why-do-people-hate-anne-hathaway">article</a> on Anne Hathaway, which bashes every single facet of her career (and her &quot;stupid face&quot;)&mdash;but for what gain? Even if someone is gracious, hard-working and seemingly perfect, as Hathaway is, we can despise her anyway. As Slate <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/01/31/why_do_people_hate_anne_hathaway_one_reason_is_simple_sexism.html">put it</a>: &quot;Why do people hate Anne Hathaway? One simple reason is sexism.&quot;</p><p>And our media culture of lady hate sets up a discourse where we feel free to tear Lena Dunham apart&mdash;for her privilege, her non-normative body and the fact that she doesn&rsquo;t live up to our expectations who she&rsquo;s supposed to be. A parody of the show&rsquo;s poster&mdash;which re-titled the program as &ldquo;Nepotism&rdquo;&mdash;went viral before the show even aired, before Dunham&rsquo;s work even got the chance to speak for itself. The backlash against her was almost built-in, like the media&rsquo;s dogpiling on Diablo Cody and Kathryn Bigelow.</p><p>Compare the constant criticism of Sofia Coppola for &ldquo;always doing the same thing&rdquo; to Woody Allen who gets awarded for it. The Oscar-nominated <em>Match Point</em> was lauded as a return to form and his best film in 25 years, despite being a virtual remake of his own film, <em>Crimes and Misdemeanors</em>.</p><p>Of course, I don&rsquo;t think the fact of her gender lets her off the hook for the criticism lobbied against her. In her Golden Globes speech, Dunham thanked HBO for letting a misfit like her into their space, as girls who look like Lena Dunham aren&rsquo;t often allowed to sit at the table. However, Lena Dunham needs to use her power of representation to allow others the same privilege and use that power for good. Rather than taking the easy way out, her show needs to do the actual work of inclusion by letting others sit at the table, too. Dunham needs to realize she isn&rsquo;t the only girl in the world and make room for the Issa Raes and the Mindy Kalings.</p><p>However, the burden of change isn&rsquo;t on Dunham alone. The industry itself needs to see racial inclusion as an issue, and we as a public need to hold ourselves accountable to seeing the bigger picture. While critiquing Lena Dunham, we need to hold the industry to the same standards and ask why one of our <em>Two and a Half Men</em> can&rsquo;t be black or our <em>Two Broke Girls</em> can&rsquo;t be Asian. If we&rsquo;re serious about making TV a better place, we need to expect change out of more than just one show and one girl and stop asking women to make it better while the rest of us sit back and watch.</p><p>Dunham has clearly got girl problems, but fixing all of ours isn&rsquo;t one. We all need to call ourselves on our bullsh*t.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. </em><em>To talk more about Gilmore Girls, follow Nico Lang on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/girl-problems-why-lena-dunham-gets-scapegoated-tvs-lack-diversity-105376 Lena Dunham: The voice of a generation? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/lena-dunham-voice-generation-105194 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Girls .png" title="From left: Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet and Allison Williams: the stars of HBO's smash-hit 'Girls.' (Hollywood Reporter/HBO)" /></p><p>Lena Dunham and I have a lot in common.</p><p>OK, we&rsquo;re not<em> exactly</em> alike. I don&#39;t share Dunham&#39;s <a href="http://blog.zap2it.com/pop2it/2013/01/lena-dunham-gets-criticized-for-blobby-body-in-nasty-girls-review.html">much-maligned</a> body type, and my mother is not a <a href="http://www.lauriesimmons.net">famous artist</a> with a $2 million loft in TriBeCa. I also don&rsquo;t co-write, direct or star in my own hit series on HBO (except for in my dreams) But in many ways, I consider Dunham to be a kindred spirit, or at least a wacky spirit guide for surviving my mid-twenties.&nbsp;</p><p>Her character on <em>Girls</em>, the awkward yet somehow endearing 24-year-old Hannah Horvath, is an aspiring writer trying to make it in New York after her parents cut her off financially. Replace Brooklyn with Logan Square, and that&rsquo;s my life in a nutshell. Also, since Dunham is essentially playing herself (albeit an exagerrated version with fictional monetary woes), her stories of personal and professional struggle bizarrely reflect my own.&nbsp;</p><p>Dunham isn&rsquo;t a role model per se, but she does represent a faction of society that currently dominates popular culture: postgrad twenty-somethings. Or as the baby boomers like to call us, the &ldquo;entitlement generation.&quot;</p><p>That being said, I can see why so many people hate her. Dunham was born into privilege, attended one of the<a href="http://images.businessweek.com/slideshows/20111025/most-expensive-colleges-2011.html#slide14">&nbsp;most expensive art colleges</a>&nbsp;in the country&nbsp;and apparently <a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/07/152183865/lena-dunham-addresses-criticism-aimed-at-girls">didn&#39;t grow up around too many black people</a>. Her pet project&nbsp;<em>Tiny Furniture</em>&nbsp;got picked up by several film festivals in 2010, prompting Hollywood hitmaker <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2012/10/16/163012161/judd-apatow-and-lena-dunham-talk-about-comedy-on-iconoclasts">Judd Apatow</a> to take her under his wing and launch <em>Girls</em>&nbsp;with his new protègè front and center. No wonder her critics keep making <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/confidential/howard-stern-big-fat-meanie-girls-star-article-1.1238991">fat jokes</a>! They have to bring her down somehow.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Rk0-irdPGhU" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&quot;Bad Friend,&quot; an episode&nbsp;documenting Hannah&#39;s misadventures with <a href="http://jezebel.com/5979536/girls-finally-tackles-ladyblogs">blogging, clubbing and cocaine</a> that aired on Sunday night, is a prime example of why&nbsp;<em>Girls </em>is one of the best shows currently on television. Hot off the heels of two <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/13/girls-golden-globe-best-comedy_n_2466394.html">Golden Globe awards</a>, one for Best Comedy Series and the other for Dunham as Best Actress, the series continues to top itself week after week and shows no signs of slowing down.</p><p>Dunham and <em>Girls</em> co-writer <a href="http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/grown-up-behind-girls-jenni-konner.html">Jenni Konner</a> have been<a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/10/girls-season-2-of-hbo-s-lena-dunham-comedy-soars.html"> showered with praise</a> since Season 2 began in early January, especially in addressing the <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/lena-dunham-girls-race.html">&quot;people of color&quot;</a> issue that had been previously overlooked in Season 1. Dunham recently acquired a $3 million-plus <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/07/lena-dunham-book-_n_2259575.html">book deal</a> as a result of the show&#39;s success, and HBO has already announced a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/12/girls-season-3-hbo_n_2117810.html">greenlight</a> for Season 3.&nbsp;</p><p>But while <em>Girls</em>&nbsp;became a commercial and critical darling almost overnight,&nbsp;Dunham&#39;s public persona is decidedly less beloved. She has been called fat, ugly, racist, talentless, stupid, elitist, sexually grotesque and offensive on every level. This doesn&#39;t seem to bother her though, as she continues to <a href="http://www.thegloss.com/2012/09/23/culture/lena-dunham-naked-cake-toilet-emmys-728/">eat birthday cake naked</a> and makes no apologies for it.&nbsp;</p><p>A lot of people hate Lena Dunham because they believe that her lifestyle--a white, privileged and excessively tattooed hipstergirl cavorting through Bushwick--does not represent them (and how dare you suggest such a thing!) However, coming from a wealthy and well-connected family doesn&#39;t make her any less clever or insightful, and being a &quot;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/05/07/152183865/lena-dunham-addresses-criticism-aimed-at-girls">half-Jew, half-WASP</a>&quot; with lots of white friends doesn&#39;t automatically make her a racist.</p><p>We are all the product of our environments, and Dunham happens to tell some very funny stories about hers. The voice of a generation? I wouldn&#39;t go that far. A symbol of her generation? Absolutely. So say what you will about Dunham as a cultural icon, but she&#39;s going to keep <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/08/lena-dunham-chubby-teenager-cake_n_2434138.html">eating her cake</a> (and enjoying it too!)</p><p><em>Follow Leah on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/leahkpickett">@leahkpickett</a></em></p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-01/lena-dunham-voice-generation-105194