Last year when Girls debuted on HBO, there was a lot of pushback on the blogosphere. Why was the cast all white? Isn't this New York? These whiny people aren't the voice of this generation. I was, frankly, confused by this reaction. All the criticisms were founded, of course. I just had no idea why people were (and actually still are) picking on Girls and on Lena Dunham.
Pretty much every major show on the normal networks and on cable has white lead characters, with the characters of color as support or background characters. Friends was all white in New York. So was Seinfeld. So was Sex and the City. Even the shows that have some racial diversity still feature white characters as the leads (for example, Law and Order: SVU had B.D. Wong and Ice-T, but the main leads were Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni; Hawaii Five-O's latest incarnation has Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim, but the main leads are Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan).
There are, of course, exceptions. The Mindy Project features Mindy Kaling. And Psych has two leads, one of whom is Dulé Hill, though you could easily make the case James Roday is the main lead of the two leads, with Hill being more of a supporting lead character. (As a random side note, Roday the actor is partly of Mexican descent, but his character definitely appears to be generic white.)
If people are going to be upset about Girls being racist, they'd better be equally upset about... just about every other show in America! And if they're going to be upset about whiny characters, they should be equally upset about Curb Your Enthusiasm, Californication, and a host of other shows that are critically acclaimed.
Ultimately, I think this singling out of Girls comes down to sexism. For some reason, straight, white male directors/actors/writers get let off the hook for featuring straight, white male characters. But if a straight, white female director/actor/writer dares to feature straight, white female characters, all hell breaks loose. She's a woman! Shouldn't she be perfect?! Geez. No. This is an HBO show and is no more perfect sociologically speaking than any other HBO show. True Blood has lots of black characters, but are you honestly going to tell me that Sookie and Bill are not the main focus of the show and that the black characters are the main focus?
I'd love Girls to break some new sociological ground. I just don't think that one show alone should bear such a burden. The whole system needs to change. No need to single out Lena Dunham to turn the whole thing around herself.
Further reading: How Hollywood is Racist