Seriously, the rats are here:
As for “Girls” (the HBO show), well it seems a little late to the party for me to be going on about that, given that the flurry of critique of the program’s race and class obliviousness has died down. Except in my case, well, the are coming. There’s some studio trucks outside as I type this. About two days ago, as those who follow my Twitter snark probably already heard, some flyers were taped up around the neighborhood informing us there would be a set on this street, as well as a few others nearby. Perhaps most alarmist, there seemed to be some presumption that the studio could at will move vehicles with a tow truck that they deemed in their way.
I’m sure by now anyone who has even the vaguest awareness of what the show has heard the criticisms. In a nutshell – for a show that claims to be the “hip now edgy” depiction of modern day Brooklyn, it dishes up yet another all white, all affluent (even if comes from their parents in exchange for not being pillheads or something) cast of self-absorbed hipster/yupster bougie hybrids. Their was some backlash against this that seemed to veer either into “Everyone’s saying that because it was written by a woman!” (as were a number of reviews and blog posts I read on the subject), or misinterpretations of New York minutia from viewers who tuned in elsewhere. Example: “They can’t be privileged, they live in a walk-up!” Short explanation: DHCR requires buildings over 6 stories to have elevators, therefore it’s not unusual to see Section 8 designated or Mitchell-Lama high rises with elevators, and quaint and pricey brownstones without.
My friend and fellow comic artist Daryl had a somewhat more reasonable defense: we’ve both seen groups of young women like that hanging out around whatever the designated hot neighborhood of the moment is. He’s right. Groups who came from somewhere else, who moved here with all their ideas about it coming from re-runs of “Friends” or “Sex & The City” growing up, not really interested in knowing anybody but other people just like themselves, or what they want to be. They may not be the only sorts of people in Brooklyn, but they certainly are a part of what it is now. And therein lies the crux of the controversy, not the show itself, but the way it was presented. If it had been hyped as a comedy solely about sheltered newcomers and their foibles, instead of THE definitive “voice of a generation” or “portrait of Brooklyn”, it probably wouldn’t have sparked this type of outrage, the exclusion so keenly felt. Very few people point out the underlying classism and racism of the “Seinfeld” characters (and it is there.)
And somehow I think the folks in marketing absolutely fucking knew this.
Which brings me back to them being here right now. I’ll admit, I saw the flyers and visions of unfurled roof banners, sporting messages about class and gentrification and housing, danced in my head, to the beat of a drum. BUT a) our budget didn’t allocate for the amount of heavier canvas it would take to create an effective one (a bedsheet might be subject to the wind, a weighted one might be dangerous if the weights came loose). And b) Eric was doing some reading outside and overheard some production people talking- their interest in this location involved the customized Harleys that perpetually line up outside out neighbor’s motorcycle shop. The same thing I drew for the cover image of Living In La La Land #2:
This was a bit of a perspective changer for me, as well as a damper on my zine fest pitch of “This is the Brooklyn GIRLS doesn’t show you!”. Not that I suddenly think the show and what it stands for is suddenly great. But are they giving revenue to the bikers, who have been here for decades? How will the bikes figure into the plot of the show? Does the usage of bikes belonging to a group of primarily Latino (with a few black, few white) bikers mean the show is actively willing to show a wider spectrum of Brooklyn than they have previously? Of course, the bikers are not actors themselves. Is the show only interested in shots of the bikes, will the neighborhood be once again “whitewashed” by the media by having Lena Dunham & Co. interact with a group of bikers cast as caucasian actors playing into the more standard “outlaw biker” character type? Will Hannah trade in her oblivious ways and hit the road on a hog? Time will tell. Time and any of my friends who DO have HBO getting me a burn of the episode when it airs. 🙂
Oh, and appropo of nothing, I made this: