Let's say you're an extremely hyped, heavily scrutinized, premium-cable comedy with a bit of a race problem. If you are, congratulations: you're Lena Dunham's Girls. In case you're just learning how to read or you've been locked in an attic for a while, Girls has faced considerable criticism for its representation of a surprisingly white New York City. (To be fair, it has featured such stereotype-busting minor characters as Black Homeless Man, Asian Who's Good With Computers, Caribbean Nanny, and South Asian Doctor.) Now, you can probably list off a bunch of shows with the same problem, which… is the problem, pretty much. Call it Seinfield syndrome. Or Friends disorder. Or How I Met Your Mother sickness. The point is: it simply doesn't match the reality experienced by, I would venture to say, the large majority of NYC residents.
For her part, Dunham has seemed genuinely concerned by this reaction, such as when she addressed the issue on NPR's Fresh Air:
I take that criticism very seriously. … This show isn't supposed to feel exclusionary. It's supposed to feel honest, and it's supposed to feel true to many aspects of my experience. But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things.
Now, that sounds good, but in a case like this, words don't mean much when they aren't then backed up by actions. And it looks like Dunham is doing just that, as Girls began filming its second season this week — joined by Community's eminently awesome Donald Glover. Pics or it didn't happen:
Since it's very, very early, there's no way to tell what Glover's role is or how long he'll appear on the show. And it would be insulting to say that Glover is there only to fix the show's issues with race; and yet, in the context of Girls first season, it can't be ignored. One of the best thing about the casting of Glover to me, really, is that it feels like Dunham actually did take these concerns seriously. It would be one thing to just create a character of color in a ham-fisted way to quiet critics. That would be pandering, thoughtless, and bad TV. But Glover, like Dunham, makes sense in the world of the show — young, critical darlings from New York City who are associated with hipsters whether they like it or not.
Also, you know, he's hilarious. So well done, Girls. Keep him around for a while, please?