(The Root) — I’m really proud of Lena Dunham. No, we’re not friends in real life, and, no, we don’t even follow each other on Twitter. But if one can feel a certain delight, then disappointment, empathy and finally pride in a stranger’s work, then that’s exactly how I feel about the 26-year-old writer-director-actress as she embarks on the second season of her hit HBO series, Girls.
Returning to the small screen on Sunday, Dunham deftly navigates a clear path through the tsunami of deserved criticism over her show’s lack of diversity. Girls follows four young women — all of them white — living the decidedly unglamorous life in New York City.
It’s the polar opposite of Gossip Girl, and comparisons to Sex and the City are marginal at best, lazy at worst. But concerns that Dunham’s New York, specifically Brooklyn, was shockingly “all-white everything” were well-founded. In a show with such a sweeping, all-inclusive title, the lack of even one girl of color was felt by fans and eventually by Dunham herself.
“But for me to ignore that criticism and not to take it in would really go against my beliefs and my education in so many things,” Dunham said in an interview with NPR in 2012. And in the new year she made good on her resolution to take that criticism to heart without being campy.
Season two is all about new beginnings. In the premiere episode, Hannah (played by Dunham herself) has a new boyfriend, Sandy (Donald Glover of NBC’s hilarious sitcom Community). Glover’s casting could easily be dismissed by some as reactionary, if not blatant tokenism, but those rabble-rousers need only to actually watch the first two episodes to realize Sandy’s character is hardly out of place. For a girl like Hannah, a guy like Sandy is a godsend.
“I love how weird you are,” says Sandy after chasing Hannah down in a record store and planting a wet one on her. He’s uncomplicated. But still gun-shy from her last relationship with the intensely strange Adam, Hannah is trying to take things slow with Sandy.
“I’m going to make logical, responsible decisions when it comes to you,” answers Hannah.
Sandy is the kind of guy your girlfriends can get behind. He is nice and in law school. He has a clean apartment minus the annoying roommates and, most importantly, he is just that into Hannah. Sure, Sandy’s a Republican, but nobody’s perfect. By contrast, Hannah’s ex, Adam, is like an emotional scab you just can’t stop picking.
“When you love someone, you don’t have to be nice all the time,” a crippled Adam tells Hannah, who has been taking care of him despite his mood swings and their “it’s complicated” relationship status.