Oliver Willis is on to something here:
Let’s look at the ratings. As Deadline.com notes here, Girls got about 3.8 million viewers in its first season – about the same as Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Veep, which hasn’t received nearly the same amount of hype. And that’s on the same network.
In the most recent ratings I could find, Scandal had 8 million viewers (good enough to be the #2 show in its time slot), while Grey’s Anatomy had 8 million as well.
So Scandal has twice the audience, for what I’d argue is a more unconventional premise.
Also, there are not many minorities running network TV shows, let alone black women with shows that have multi-ethnic casts.
Yet, it’s Dunham who is on the cover of Rolling Stone this week, for a show that has been criticized for its dearth of minority characters even though it’s set in America’s most multiethnic city.This is driven by a coastal hipster elite that demands shows about them, for them, and by them; these shows cannot challenge their claim to be smarter, better, and funnier than the rest of the country and they aren't going to feature minorities because that would introduce a cultural situation that flies in the face of hipsterism: don't see me as I am--see me as I want you to see me.
If the hipsters were comfortable with showing diversity in their art, you'd see it. There wouldn't be an issue here. But Willis correctly points out that you don't see minority characters. I think that this is because we aren't at a point in the culture where real diversity and real variety are acceptable to the people who make some of the decisions about what we see and what we read about. This does not mean that the hipsters are racists; they're polite and intelligent enough to know that racism isn't acceptable. But they're just not willing to look at the culture openly and honestly enough to make the attempt to bring in other voices and other ideas. This would mean that they couldn't focus on themselves and their own issues. It would mean having to look outside at the world as it is.
Who cares what the elite influence peddlers at, say, Gawker or the Village Voice or any number of publications that have hyped Girls really think about the culture? What do they ever get right about where America is at right now?
In a huge swath of this country, people have fallen behind. They don't have good jobs, they're leaving college with enormous debt, they don't have the skills they need to rise to a level that would indicate having achieved real success in the culture, and they aren't interested in how people in places like New York City live. They are not stupid; they are outside of what an imagined version of hip looks like right now. They are not considered at all because they don't have access to the kind of disposable income that is required of being the complete hipster package. And God help them if they have kids and a shitty job.
What they think is good doesn't match what people who are connected think is good. The numbers Willis cites show this. And yet, no one is going to talk about how Lena Dunham really doesn't have much of an audience outside of the hipster elites.
If you don't have people of color in your life in a meaningful way, the chances they will appear in your art is somewhat slim, don't you think?