Roots of "Girls" Whiteness Crisis: "Tiny Furniture"
April 29, 2012, 02:03 AM
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So, I watched Lena Dunham's 2010 indie film Tiny Furniture, which served as a trial run for her HBO series Girls

For a $50,000 budget film written, directed, and starring a 23-year-old, it's quite competently done. It gets lumped in with the "mumblecore" movement, but the dialogue is crisply written and well-recorded. The word that kept coming to my mind is "watchable." 

Tiny Furniture is not laugh out loud funny, but it gets funnier a second time through as you pick up that you aren't supposed to feel terribly sorry for Dunham's dumpy character as she endures repeated humiliations trying to launch a career as a hipster media sensation. She isn't supposed to be likable, as she does selfish things to people trying to be nice to her. She's a young, female George Costanza, but an ambitious egomaniac to boot, lacking George's contentment with his own mediocrity. 

You sympathize a little with her for having a mother / role model who has, somehow, clawed her way to making a lot of money in the New York art scene by taking art photos of tiny furniture (played in the movie by Dunham's real life mother, who, indeed, makes money selling in galleries her photos of tiny furniture). But, it's an inherently absurd situation.

So, who exactly are all the aggrieved People of Color who want to be this character's friend? And why?

And that raises the question of earlier New York sitcoms about People of Pallor, such as Seinfeld, where the only memorable black character was Kramer's Johnny Cochran-inspired lawyer. After Seinfeld and, especially, after Curb Your Enthusiasm (by which point Larry David had a half billion dollars, so even if he got Michael Richardized if a race joke went over wrong, he'd still have a half billion dollars), isn't it pretty obvious that Larry David's views on race are closer to mine than to those of all the folks who are in a huff over Lena Dunham's three titular friends being white. At least on the central issue — Race Is Not a Joking Matter! — me and Larry are on the same side of the barricades.