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April 16, 2012 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, April 16, 2012 -- 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycomMonday, April 16, 2012 - 5A

TV/NEW MEDIA COLUMN
'Girls' may miss
opportunity to
show diversity

F iLM REVEW V
'Cabin' hosts satire genius

s we come to the close
of the regular television
season, it's time to start
hunting for the buried treasures
of summer programming. It's
true that sum-
mer shows
used to - and
can often still
be - mostly
mindless filler
with a few
gems sprin-
kled here and KAYLA
there. This UPADHYAYA
week, HBO
launched its
new dramedy "Girls," a show I'm
simultaneously excited for and
concerned about.
Let's start with the good.
"Girls," created and written by
its star Lena Dunham, follows
four young women in their early
20s as theylive, learn and love in
New York City. Their ringleader
is Hannah, an aspiring memoir-
ist who is awkward, intense and
ambitious.
As Emily Nussbaum of The
New Yorker puts it, "Girls" is like
* nothing else currently on televi-
sion. It's a sex comedy from the
perspective of female characters,
a show that prioritizes women's
sexual agency and healthy female
friendships. It's everything I've
ever wanted from television!
Well, not quite. I'm worried
about "Girls" because - despite
all that it undertakes - it's still
exclusive. In a show set in one
of the most racially and cultur-
ally diverse cities in the country,
there isn't a single woman of
color in the core group of friends.
These girls attended fancy liberal
arts schools, and even though
their parents have cut them off
financially as a way to push them
forward, they come from the
upper class.
I'm concerned that "Girls" is
going to relegate characters of
color to background roles that
pop up intermittently in the lives
of these privileged white women.
When shows do this, these char-
acters are rarely fully developed
or nuanced, usually based on ste-
reotypes and assumptions. The
promos don't give me much hope:
The only woman of color who
appears is a gynecologist with
some words of wisdom. I hope
"Girls" will be smart enough not
to throw in a sassy black friend
or a sexually promiscuous Latina
or an uptight Asian girl as filler
or tokens that scream "hey, look,
diversity!"
On the subject of tokenism, by
no means do I wish that Dunham
had written one of these main
characters as a woman of color
just to have a woman of color.
White writers creating minor-
ity characters can sometimes be
problematic, as they don't possess
the lived experience of persons
of color. Again, there's the risk of
stereotyping. The answer lies not
only with diversifying a cast, but
also with diversifying the writ-
ers' room. To write characters
with diverse experiences and
backgrounds, there need to be
writers with diverse experiences
and backgrounds contributing.
As for the show's lack of socio-
economic diversity, Nussbaum
claims that the show takes the
specific demographic these girls
belong to and then "mines their
lives for the universal," but again,

I'm skeptical. I'm willing to give
the show the benefit of the doubt,
and I don't want to criticize it
too much before giving it a real
chance, but being cut off from
mom and dad's payroll is hardly
the same as coming from a low-
income household. Yes, I sympa-
thize with Hannah's inability to
find a paying job in the big city,
especially since I'm likely to face
a similar future, but what about

girls who couldn't go to college
or don't have the ability to move
home if they fail or were raised
by single mothers? New York City
is home to many women and men
alike who fit this description,
but they appear to be completely
absent from "Girls."
Some writers have noted that
"Girls" looks like ayounger, hip-
ster-fied "Sex and the City," and
I disagree to an extent. Whereas
"Sex and the City" romanticized
New York living and often pre-
sented its four main characters
as lovesick idealists (as Miranda
puts it in the season two pre-
miere: "How does it happen that
four such smart women have
nothingto talk about but boy-
friends?"), "Girls" takes a more
realistic and gritty route. The
lives these girls live, the sex they
have - none of it is all glamour
all the time.
Characters on
screen reflect a
one-dimensional
writers' room.
But when critic Willa Paskin
remarks that "Girls" is "for us,
by us," I can't completely accept
it. She herself calls the show's
lack of minority representation a
bad mistake in her review of the
first three episodes, so is it really
appropriate to use a universal
"us" to describe the show's make-
up and target audience?
I think that sometimes femi-
nist film and TV critics can get
wrapped up in the excitement of
simply having a show or movie
that places women at the fore-
front without mistreating, limit-
ing or devaluing them, because
it's unfortunately something
that is still a rarity in main-
stream pop culture. But this
excitement can lead to a lack of
criticism.
This happened with "Brides-
maids," which people have been
quick to compare with "Girls,"
mainly due to the Judd Apatow
producer credit they share. Ad
campaigns and critics alike made
it seem like if all women didn't
immediately go see "Brides-
maids," there would never be
another movie for and about
women ever again. In many ways,
it's true that the movie represents
an achievement, but it's hardly
the be-all, end-all, Hollywood-
hearts-feminism savior. And I
feel similarly about "Girls." We
can applaud it for its commend-
able successes, but we should also
critique it for the ways in which it
doesn't quite satisfy.
If "Girls" is supposed to be
the voice of a generation - or a
defense and critique of a genera-
tion, as Nussbaum calls it - it's
certainly painting a very narrow
picture of whatthat generation is:
white, liberal, educated. Its title
alone evokes a sense of represen-
tation, but that representation
is incomplete. In a time when
"Two and a Half Men" creator
Lee Aronsohn derides female-
centric television by saying
"we're approaching peak vagina
on television, the point of labia
saturation," I can't emphasize

enough just how important it is
that "Girls" and other female-
POV shows take a stand against
the Man. But in excluding a more
diverse range of women, the girls
of "Girls" can't possibly speak to
us all, and I hope it doesn't pre-
tend to.
Upadhyaya is moving to the
Big Apple. To help her pack,
e-mail kaylau@umich.edu.

Mock-horror offers
new take on typical
genre scares
By ARIELLE ACKERMAN
Daily Arts Writer
Nowadays, there's a certain
stigma of unoriginality attached
to horror films. Every film fol-
lows the same
formulaic sto- gg *
ryline: At least
five teenagers The Cabin in
or college stu-
dents travel
somewhere for At Quality16
a nice week- and Rave
end getaway
that soon takes Lionsgate
a turn for the
worse. Filled to the brim with
nudity and excessive gore, these
films, fittingly dubbed "torture
porn," are made almost exclu-
sively for shock value. Horror
films stopped trying to scare
viewers both physically and psy-
chologically - that is, until "The
Cabin in the Woods."
Just as the formula goes, five
collegestudents set out for a vaca-
tion to, you guessed it, a cabin in
the woods. They're expecting
a weekend full of beer, tanning
and fun, but their expectations
soon unravel when some ter-
rible, horror-film villains attack.
Meanwhile, some men in suits in
a high-security facility are eerily
linked to these college kids. To
give any more away would be to
betray the film's entire plot.
The acting is what you'd
expect from a horror film, which

"Where's the open bar?"
is, of course, exactly the point.
Some surprisingly humorous
and memorable performances
stem from the stereotypical
stoner (Fran Kanz, "Diary of
a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules")
and one of the men in suits
(Bradley Whitford, TV's "The
West Wing").
Everything, from the title to
the creepy guy at the gas sta-
tion who alludes to the cabin's
ominous reputation, so aptly
represents all the stereotypes
expected of modern-day hor-
ror films. Joss Whedon ("Buffy
the Vampire Slayer") and Drew
Goddard ("Cloverfield"), who co-
wrote the film, cleverly call out
every horror film that has come
before it just for such stereotypes.
They make the film breathtak-

ingly original precisely because
they use every unoriginal scary
device in the book, taking cliches
from zombie films to Japanese
ghost tales and turning them on
their heads. Their inspired writ-
ing also makes "The Cabin in the
Woods" perhaps one of the fun-
niest horror films ever.
Not only does the film bril-
liantly satirize the horror genre,
but it also calls out audiences for
taking pleasure in the sadistic
images of torture and violence
that play out before us. It makes
the viewer acutely aware that
the reason "torture porn" keeps
coming out is because we keep
going to see it. This reason alone
is what will make the film memo-
rable, as everyone who goes to
see it is sure to leave the the-

ater wondering why they are so
drawn to visual sadism.
The film's strongest attribute
is also its only downfall. The wit
and brilliance of the film detract,
only slightly, from the actual hor-
ror. Naturally, there are plenty
of blood-soaked scenes, but you
will likely find yourself chuckling
during about half of them - not
because these scenes are outright
funny, but because they so skill-
fully balance the line between
satire and subject.
"The Cabin in the Woods"
is not your typical horror film,
except that it is. It is, unmistak-
ably, every scary movie ever
rolled into one strikingly excep-
tional film, which is why anyone
who's a fan of horror will be a fan
of this.

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