Posted by: coolethan77 | October 15, 2012

Should Artists Consider Social Responsibility First?

Minorities are often marginalized, stereotyped or symbolically annihilated in the media. A recent example is HBO’s hit show “Girls,” written and directed by and starring Lena Dunham, a 26-year-old white woman. The show is set in New York city and revolves around the central character Hannah, played by Dunham, and her circle of friends, all of whom are white.

The portrayals of women in the show are not “active and strong” in an overt sense, but the main criticisms of the show have focused on the very noticeable absence of any minority characters. One writer noted that in one of the early episodes the only black person seen in a show set in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world was a homeless man begging for money.

I have heard interviews with Dunham in which she explained that it wasn’t a conscious choice to deliberately exclude minorities from her narratives but that she was just writing what she knew. She has promised to focus on integrating more positive minority portrayals in upcoming seasons.

But Dunham’s example is interesting to me because as we often critique media through the lens of media-studies theories and generalizations, we seem to be missing a vital question: Do artists have a responsibility to seek to empower women and minorities by portraying them positively? Or is the onus on the owners, producers and distributors of media products? Furthermore, can stereotyped or conventional portrayals of women and minorities be used to a positive end?

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