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Hannah Horvath, will you be my BFF?

girlsby Alicia Costa

The second season of the HBO hit show Girls is barely off the ground and writer/executive producer/director/actress Lena Dunham is already been raked over the coals for her creative decisions for this season.

Girls, the brainchild of Dunham and comedy-gem maker Judd Apatow, has been widely written about since its debut last year. The premise of the show revolves around four white and seemingly wealthy 20-something women living in New York City.

The first season of Girls was widely criticized for the lack of racial diversity in the casting. Dunham stated it was unintentional and agreed that the casting choices were not reflective of the racially and culturally diverse New York City. So, in the second season African American actor/comedian Donald Glover was cast as Hannah Horvath (Dunham)’s new beau and this was met with mixed reviews. Most critics claimed that by casting Glover in a main role she was using him as the “token” minority in an attempt to make the show appear more diverse.

“… I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.” (Shalomlife.com)

Dunham stated that the decision to cast Glover was made before critics lambasted the casting of the first season and was due more to the fact he’s a brilliant comedian than about him being black. In my opinion critics claiming that Glover’s whole role was written only to add colour to the cast greatly diminish how well written and smart the character of Sandy the hot Republican (Glover) was in the storyline of Girls.

However, Dunham has received the most amount of criticism over her body. She has the audacity to be naked and sexual AND not look how everyone expects actresses to look naked. She is not afraid to act out her own sex scenes and own her body. Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Hung up on HBO’s Hung

Earlier this summer my roommates turned me on to HBO’s Hung, a sitcom starring Thomas Jane as Ray, a Detroit highschool teacher who decides to become a prostitute to make ends meet. The show also stars Jane Adams as Ray’s pimp/friend Tanya, and Anne Heche as Ray’s ex-wife. When I heard the plot I was immediately intrigued. How could the show’s creators deal with sex work in a humourous way without being crude or cheap? Surprisingly, they do.

I expect a lot of it has to do with the fact that the plot is unlikely enough and the characters zany enough to prevent it from being taken too seriously. Ray decides to market himself to wealthy, lonely, middle-aged women after his wife leaves him for a wealthier man and his house burns down. Tanya, his unlikely and neurotic pimp, is a failed poet whose other business venture, “lyric bread”, consists of making baked goods with messages inside them.

But the unreality of the show also makes it pretty hard for me to form an opinion on whether or not it’s feminist. It’s not really useful to look at how it depicts sex work because it doesn’t seem to be sending any political messages on that front. I decided to check out what some other people had to say.

The Feminist Spectator insists Hung is feminist:

No one here is starry-eyed about the American Dream; everyone knows that it’s precarious at best, diseased and desiccated at worse. But the series finds something sweet and poignant, rather than resigned and bitter, about the prevailing state of affairs, drawing the characters’ humanity against the odds…Happily, it’s the proto-feminist Tanya who gives them all hope, who swats away references to her own inferior looks (a constructed claim, since Adams is actually very cute), who glows with newly found confidence, who schemes about ways to increase their business, and who engages her clients with tough pragmatism and no-nonsense business ethics.

On the other hand, Juliette at Examiner.com suggests the show might actually reinforce sexual power dynamics by showing what men can get away with compared to women. She argues the protagonist would be more likely to be judged if it was a woman or a male prostitute who slept with men.

The New York Times says it’s not about sex at all, but rather a “finely drawn satire of the Great Recession”. Their analysis points to the setting of Detroit, Ray’s lack of ambition, and the comparative economic power of women in the show as indicative: “Collective aspiration and the kind of mercenary will that might move things along belong, in the universe of “Hung,” to the women in Ray’s immediate orbit. As a fantasy of male sexual objectification, “Hung” is a de facto dreamscape of female social authority.”

I can see all of their points, so I’m still on the fence as far as reviewing Hung politically. But no matter what, it’s an entertaining show with decent acting, clever dialogue, and  intriguing characters. And it’s worth checking out.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment