We’ve talked a lot about the HBO series “Girls” around these parts, so much so that many of you are tired of discussing it. But rock with me for a spell.

After its debut, the web lit up with talk about the lack of diversity on the show, which follows four twenty-something friends as they try to figure out their lives. While many have hailed the show as the best of the year, others have bemoaned the fact that none of the girls are black, brown, or anything other than white.

The show’s creator and star Lena Dunham mentioned that she wrote the series from her experience, which explained the lack of diversity, but Dunham promised to add to the cast during its second season.

As the season progressed, all the “Girls” talk seemed to fade, but a new post by one of my favorite blogs Very Smart Brothas explains why there could never be a black version of the show — and it’s not why you think.

Aside from the fact that black and white women often times have different cultural experiences, Damon Young says there’s one glaring reason why a black “Girls” would not fly: Folks are uncomfortable with black sex.

He explains:

These are just three of the dozens of times sex is shown, discussed, alluded to, made light of, seen, and overheard on “Girls.” Don’t get me wrong. The show isn’t just about sex, but it would be near impossible to have a (somewhat) realistic depiction of contemporary young people — even the ones not having sex — without sex just, well, being there.

None of this could happen with a black show. Sure, young black people find themselves in the same type of situations, but if black people were shown having the same type of sex (and having the same type of sex-related discussions) the characters on “Girls” regularly do, it goes from being thought of as “real” and “gritty” and “truly naked” to “nasty” and “pornographic.” 

We — and “we” in this case is “Americans” — have a strange relationship with black sex and sexuality, too strange for me to even begin to expound on today. Interestingly enough, this is true for both white and black America. As much as we complain about the lack of real black shows on TV, we’d be just as weirded out by real black sex. Can you imagine how many petitions would be made if a popular black show had a black female character asking to put her finger in a black male character’s butt during sex?

Young goes onto to explain that the show’s main character (played by Dunham) could never have a black equivalent because of her unremarkably average looks.

He surmises:

Well, if this black “Girls” is a mirror of the white “Girls,” the main character would be an average looking woman. Not “Hollywood average,” but average average. Aggressively average. “Looks exactly like the woman handing out chicken sausage at Trader Joe’s” average.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being average looking. Average has a low standard deviation as most people — myself included — fall somewhere within the mean. But, while there are a ton of average-looking working white actresses, I challenge you to name ONE relevant black actress under 40 who’d be considered average. Not Hollywood average, but “she looks like this chick who works at the DMV” average. 

My point? As talented as (“Girls” creator and star) Lena Dunham is, there’s no way in hell her black equivalent would be able to be the lead character on a show. Not just an HBO show, either. Any show and any movie.

While I’m not particularly interested in discussing “Girls” at length yet again, Young’s idea — that people (including black folks) wouldn’t embrace black sexuality on screen — is an interesting one.

Despite black people engaging in all sorts of sex, our willingness to talk about it, view it, and be open to the idea of black sexuality is still somewhat taboo. While our white counterparts participate in slut walks and embrace their sexual liberty, black women are often held to different standards by our communities (and others who ascribe certain stereotypes to us) that force many of us to keep our sexual histories, activity, and fantasies to ourselves.

But what do you think? Is our aversion to seeing black sexuality onscreen one reason why we’ll never have a black ‘Girls’ or ‘Sex in the City’? 

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  • kayla

    It’s amazing to me that people would be offended that Girls only portrays a group of white females. I was just having this discussion with a few coworkers of mine at Dish and they felt the same way! The show’s plotline is based directly off Lena Dunham, the creator, and her other over-privileged, white, young, female friends. I think it would be even worse to feature a character for no other value than their race, which kind of sounds like what they are planning to do in season two. At the same time, there has been such uproar on the subject that I don’t blame the creators for appeasing the audience. When I first watched the season, the debate hadn’t even crossed my mind. I’m going to watch it again just in case there are any hidden innuendos I did not catch. Luckily, I have the Hopper DVR box that includes a massive amount of memory, so I know I still have the shows saved somewhere. I don’t even know why anyone would be offended for not being associated with these girls anyway. They are not the most intelligent bunch.

  • Eclectikmystery

    I agree with Kayla’s comments, and quite frankly I’m perplexed because so often I hear lack of diversity comments from black folk who if they looked at their own social networks wouldn’t see a racially diverse assortment of cohesive friendships. In our most intimate of relationships most of the country is still very racially polarized. Lena is right to write the show from her own perspective–and it’s a damn good show.

    I’d also back up the comments of “Me”, Girlfriends was a widely successful show and was very well written. I don’t think we were uncomfortable with black sex at all. There is lots of porn out there as well, and if you look at it increasingly it’s interracial porn out there. Ever turned on BET or MTV or watched a hip hop or R&B music video? We are not a country that doesn’t want to deal with “black sex.” Sure we make speak in muted tones about it, but black sex is throughout our culture and I don’t think it’s the reason why there could never be a black “Girls.” The reason it would be tough to get a black show that’s different on the air is that far too often we aren’t creative in the stories we tell. Is it any wonder why Awkward Black Girl is so well received? It’s because it’s a show that is relevant and doesn’t recycle old stories! Writers should take the lead.