Girls is pretty much over, and I’m surprisingly sad about it. The show took a dark turn in season 4 and I was ready to swear it off for good after season 5. But the final season has brought me back full circle.
My love for Girls, especially as a black woman, comes as an irony to some, given that the show has been critiqued for its lack of diversity and serious whitewashing of Brooklyn. Since moving to Brooklyn last year, I can say that the borough has undergone quite a bit of whitewashing in real life thanks to gentrification, but the critiques of the show are not unfounded.
Using this as an excuse to re-watch the series, I decided to try to quantify how people of colour have been represented on the show since its beginnings. I wanted to identify every character of colour, if I could. For this task, I decided to document every person of colour who spoke more than one word. Obviously, race can be a bit ambiguous. It’s possible that there are actors of colour who I incorrectly identified as white and did not include them in this list — and vice versa.
This grey area that speaks directly to how I saw race represented in the show watching it a second time. Even in the seasons where there were more people of colour, they often existed on the periphery — in service roles like receptionists or intrusive police officers. It was a rare occasion that they actually played any significant role in the lives of Hannah Horvath and her friends. There hasn’t been a single character of colour to appear consistently throughout the series.
If Girls is a satirical take on the privileged, but complicated, lives of four millennial white women in Brooklyn, they got it right. In a place like New York, you see people of colour all time. And if you’re really paying attention to Girls, you’ll see them, too. But whether or not you hear them is an entirely different story. Being heard has always been a luxury of the privileged.