Before HBO’s Girls was set to premiere this past spring, the comedy about 20-something struggling post-grads in New York City sparked a debate about race and representation in Hollywood. My initial thoughts after I finished the first episode of Girls? Sure, it was hard for me to relate to anything that was going on on the show (I’m not white, I don’t come from a privileged, wealthy background, nor do I live in New York City), but I was immensely surprised at how entertaining I found the show to be — namely the awkwardness/quirkiness of the female lead characters. Lena Dunham, who impressively writes, directs and stars in the show, has already been hailed as the next Tina Fey.
Dunham has yet to be dubbed the “voice of her generation” (as her character in Girls states) — and rightfully so. Having such a title bears the social responsibility of, well, speaking for a diverse generation of people who come from different backgrounds and experiences. Fact of the matter is, Dunham is talented — her writing is witty, intelligent and full of charisma. Girls speaks of her own personal experiences; as that saying goes, write what you know. And she does a damn good job of it. Instead of pointing fingers at Dunham, we should be asking the programming departments of major television networks about the diversity in their programming — I mean, they are responsible for
what gets on the air.
Shortly after Girls aired, the extended trailer for FOX’s The Mindy Project premiered and, of course, was met with much applause. It’s been a while since an Asian American woman has taken the reigns of a comedy on a major televisionnetwork and, well, it looks like Mindy Kaling has hit it on the head. However, Kaling still sits alone, as we have yet to really see excellent programming starring Asian American talent that’s also relatable. (Sorry Maggie Q — I wish I could relate to your kick-ass assassin character, but it’s just not happening.) One could argue that Asian American programming now has a place on YouTube. You have your WongFu boys, KevJumbas and Ryan Higas. In a significant move, there’s now the YouTube Original Channels, which features programming in entertainment, beauty, sports and technology. This includes Michelle Phan’s FAWN (For All Women Network) and the Asian American pop culture blog’s YOMYOMF (You Offend Me, You Offend My Family). Speaking of the YOMYOMF Channel, I should make note of BFFs. BFFs is a comedy webseries that features Asian American actresses in the leading roles. While the series was met with lukewarm reactions, I have to say it’s a start, which is better than nothing at all.
If there’s anything I can truly criticize, it’s that there’s not enough self-expression among this generation. When the reality show K-Town (on YouTube’s Loud Channel) surfaced, it was met with so much negativity from Asian Americans whwere afraid of how they were going to be represented. But in all honesty, have our purported “positive” stereotypes (read: the model minority) played in our favor in American society? Going along with this idea of social responsibility, the key thing to note is that there are multiple voices of this generation, but many of them go unspoken. Dunham, Kaling or YouTube celebrities should not be the only ones speaking for us. Whether their work makes us happy, angry, sad or stir any sort of emotion, rather than sit back and mouth off on our soap boxes about what we think others are doing, think about what we can do right. We’re all quick to hate on each other; instead, let’s let theseconversations inspire one another.
This story was featured in our Fall 2012 issue. Get it here!