Chelsea Fagan's Blog

25. NYC. Works at Thought Catalog. First book, I'm Only Here For The Wifi, available now where all fine literature is sold.

I just have to say this, because this shit is fucking humiliating.

Look, we all know that I am a privileged, middle-class white girl. I’m actually even paler than most white people, though I’m not sure how that interacts with my privilege. And I have said some things with regards to race, political correctness, and privilege in the past (and in a state of profound ignorance) that I am beyond embarrassed to look back upon. I like to think that I am growing and learning every day, with the help of some of the amazing people I read and have discovered in the past year or so. I cannot say how thankful I am to have found some of these people who take the time out of their day to talk about the realities they face and struggles they endure so that we can start to understand and try to change things for the better.

And, though I cannot fully empathize or comprehend, I feel a deep sense of frustration with the HBO show that must not be named, and beyond its obvious classist implications and complete detachment from reality, the willful racism on display everywhere from its cast to some of the staff members’ Twitter accounts is nothing short of sickening. I am embarrassed because this stuff is in many ways associated with who I am and what I stand for, the kind of writing I do, and the things that I believe. And you know what? People have every right to assume that most, if not all, white people are complicit in some way because — let’s be honest — this system, and this constant media whitewashing and demonizing/ignoring of PoC works heavily in our favor.

But the fact that people would go so far as to mock these valid criticisms, to shame the people who have come forward with their hurt and their profound disappointment that, once again, a show that is set in one of the most diverse cities in America and purports to tell “our story” completely ignores them, is abhorrent. Your racism, and your silencing of these criticisms, is not “chic,” it’s not “ironic,” it’s not “edgy,” and most of all, it is not “brave.” You are not going against any kind of current, you are participating willfully and, dare I say, gleefully, in a system and a culture which renders a huge portion of our population perpetual “others.”

This is not some overblown SJ attempt to “collect my people,” but for the love of God, this isn’t a niche interest. This isn’t people bitching for the sake of having something to complain about, and it’s certainly not a result of any kind of boredom. I understand that, as a writer, I am lucky enough to have a platform and some kind of influence, no matter how small it may be, and it blows my fucking mind that people will continually take such a profound, important platform just to say, “Yea whatever LOL jk fuck u.” 

GROW UP.

Anonymous asked you: Loved your respond to GIRLS. It’s so frustrating when white people don’t seem to get it! They don’t understand why were angry by their oppression(yes, this is still going on) White people have such a negative opinion of women of color, in fact I would even go as far as to say that women of color are the most stereotyped demographic in America! It’s upsetting because we’re thought of as aggressive and violent were as white girls are thought of as cute and quirky!

I really appreciate this, thank you. Though I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I “get it” re: WoC in the media, though I absolutely agree with the points you’ve made here. However, I think for any white person to think in terms of “getting it” is pretty dangerous, because at most all we’re ever doing is listening and empathizing, it’s never going to be something we can truly integrate into our own worldview. It’s essential, though, that the “default view” of the media, and of our culture in general, stop being so homogenous and snowy, especially when its not even reflected in our actual demographics.

But the other issue I take with Girls (the one that I feel alienates most white people as well) is that it is portrayed as a democratic, for-the-people-by-the-people representation of our generation, its struggles, and what it means to be a young woman today. In reality, of course, we all know that the “problems” and “obstacles” these women are facing in the show are far removed from the majority of us, who are heavily in debt, never had the opportunity to be “cut off,” and are languishing in an economy with limited job prospects. These women all come from rich, famous parents in real life — it’s hard to believe that their interpretation of “our” struggles would have ever rung very true.

Honestly, if they want to trot out another show about rich white girls and their vapid, poorly-written problems, who cares? We can vote by changing the channel. But the fact that it’s being pushed — strongly pushed — as “our story” that is “finally being told” is downright insulting. Just because something is shot with the general look and feel of an “indie” film doesn’t make it any less synthetic and disingenuous.

I really like that everyone is talking about this, and bringing the real issues that make this a complex and important topic into the public discourse. I am heartened to hear that we are rejecting this homogenous, privileged view of young women and wanting something that touches on what is really going on today, and beyond that, what we really look like. I read so many intelligent, thoughtful, hilarious women every day who come from all backgrounds, who come in all shapes and colors, and who are getting their voices heard despite not having rich, famous parents. I believe that we can do better than Girls,  we clearly have the talent, and, frankly, we deserve it. 

I Suppose I Should Stop Expecting Better

 As@TaylerSometimes, an awesome teenaged black feminist I follow on Twitter, put it to me, “I wish I had the opportunity to be cut off.” I deeply appreciate that today’s college students face a maelstrom of issues, from lack of available jobs to crushing student loans, but I am afraid that these humanizing concerns won’t be incorporated. Meanwhile, the actresses portraying the main characters include the daughter of a famous feminist artist (Dunham’s mother is Laurie Simmons), the daughter of famous rock drummer (Jemima Kirke’s father played in Bad Company), the daughter of famous playwright (Zosia Mamet is the daughter of David Mamet), and the daughter of a famous primetime news anchor (Allison Williams’ dad is Brian Williams). Even if “Girls” is a “scathing critique” of a generation, as Nussbaum put it, I wonder how much those of us without wealthy parents or white privilege will even be able to comprehend it as such.

-Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, writing about her skepticism for the much-hyped HBO show, Girls.

Aside from not finding the film Tiny Furniture, nor the trailer for Girls particularly funny from a pure humor standpoint, I find it rather insulting that people from the backgrounds that these women came from are riding on a theme of “relatable” and “refreshingly honest.” I’m a twenty-something, city-dwelling, culturally aware white woman — shows and movies like this should speak directly to me like two tin cans with a string between them. Yet nothing could feel more alienating, more forced, or more unfunny, than the jokes of the “struggles” that only the most privileged class of society gets the honor of facing, and the reduction of every PoC, lower-class, or otherwise marginalized section of society reduced to token bit parts and backup dancers at best.

There are so many truly interesting, relatable, and funny stories to tell about women of my generation — though I’d imagine much of it doesn’t provide the escapism that entertainment like this does. How I would love to see women struggling with everyday life, women who come from all backgrounds, ethnicities, incomes, family structures, and have them be funny in the way humor can only be when it is so incredibly true.

Stop trying to tell me you know who I am, or what I think, because I am a young woman. You found a bunch of extremely wealthy, well-connected white women to rehash the same First World Problems Bonanza Hour we’ve seen with so many other female-oriented shows, and that’s fine. You do whatever makes you money. But don’t pretend it’s anything other than what it is — the same tired setup we’ve seen a million times, pandering to a desperate desire for actual funny, thought-provoking, interesting stories about women. 

I’m tired of seeing this garish caricature of what I’m supposed to be — cripplingly self-involved, incredibly well-funded, educated in the most exclusive liberal arts schools, and consumed with only talking about the men I’m dating that week or minute personal problems that could be fixed with a thirty-second call to my extremely wealthy father. We deserve so much better than this, and we’re beautiful and interesting enough as we are — we don’t need to be given the Acceptably Quirky Girl treatment to make us worth watching.