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.

Do you watch the show? What do you think about the second season?

Joel is a native of Queens,NY raised in Atlanta,GA and currently residing in Oakland,CA. As a new writer and music buff his distinct background informs his unique perspective. This background includes a great deal of experience in the healthcare industry as a medical interpreter/translator and advocate for lower income families. His interests focus on further promoting gay men from all areas of the African diaspora.

  • http://twitter.com/BeyondSteven ST3V3N!

    I’m a huge fan of “Girls” I think the writing and acting is brilliant. Yet, I disagree with this article. One thing about Lena that amazes me is her ability to tell so much by doing so little. If you watch the show, the only character that is ever fully showcased is Hannah. To say the writing won’t allow his character to be fully realized is non-sense, particularly when the show is about no one being fully realized. If you look at the other “men” on the show, it is clear that they are ALL accessories. Sandy is no different. I like that Lena found a way to show this problem without it being the main drive of the story, like she does with every other issue. That is what makes the show great. To say that the script is “built on the foundations of classic racist tropes,” is really unfair and frankly invalid.

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