The Token: On Donald Glover And ‘Girls’
There are moments when Tumblr is great, particularly when something flashes onto your dashboard and makes the day better. This time it was a simple ask box. Question: “How do you feel about Lena Dunham winning the Golden Globe for ‘Girls?” Answer: “I’d rather just talk about dick.” Brilliant. I couldn’t have answered it any better.
Dunham’s star is on the rise and season two of “Girls” is two episodes in. While “Girls” showcases Dunham’s ability to paint a vivid picture and get a point across, it’s left me feeling that this will be the season that she actively work at ruining things I love. Not her off-kilter narrative of the gentrified Brooklyn. That was last season. This time she’s introduced a new character: Sandy played by Donald Glover (of Childish Gambino and “Community” fame).
My excitement about the addition of Glover to the cast bloomed and died the instant I finished watching episode one this season because it seemed there was no way Dunham (or her writers) can be trusted. This is proving to be true. By the time season two wraps, there will probably be a litany of quotes, dissections and bullet points explaining why Glover’s character fails to address the inherent race problem in the show.
So is so glaringly wrong about “Sandy,” the newly-introduced love interest? The writing will never allow Glover’s character the same privileges as the rest of the characters: To be fully realized.
First introductions are lasting because just as in the real world, it’s what we use to build from. Glover’s character first appears as Hannah is riding him reverse cowgirl. However, the explanation of the relationship happens later, so now there’s a subtext of proving that he’s not just the black guy Hannah’s fucking ‘to make Daddy angry and show out.’
Sandy is also a Republican. That angle will probably take time to be fully exploited, but is a landmine waiting to explode. This character trait doesn’t add anything positive to the narrative. Is it really to be believed that four girls in hipster Brooklyn will be able to stomach a Republican in their midst? It also feeds the classic black male trope, where his Republican identification is a solid line of reasoning to make him a villain.
Recently the Hollywood trend is to put black actors into circumstances that I hate (see also: “The Help,” “Django Unchained,” Zoe Saldana in “Nina,” etc), so it doesn’t strike me that Dunham was attempting to listen to the backlash, but ended up feeding the beast with Donald Glover’s token character. But I still hope that the non-conformist, cute, hipster, black guy wins.
Unfortunately, it’s quite unlikely when he’s caged within a script built on the foundations of classic racist tropes. But as I watch “Girls,” I’ll be rooting for the underdog. This is one of those rare occasions when I’d love to be proved wrong.