Could anybody tell me what is the Race Card?

February 11th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Lena Dunham’s Girls debuted last year. I hadn’t heard much about it, but a friend talked me into watching it, and it was pretty definitively Not For Me. But because I’m an idiot, I’ve kinda/sorta kept up with following the reaction and controversy about the series — how it’s super white, how the writers like to say stupid things in public, and so on. Looky-loo stuff, really. “Why do these people hate/love/defend/attack this stuff so much?”

Of course, that began backfiring almost immediately, because all things do. I don’t think I’ve read a single pro or con piece on the show that was worth the time, though a few of the more measured reactions — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s piece definitely included — were interesting, from the outside looking in. I’m curious about what works about Girls, what doesn’t, and why much more than I am than checking it out firsthand.

The latest one I’ve read was a piece by Rob Hart called “Call It What It Is: The Hatred Directed At Lena Dunham Is Petty, Childish Bullshit,” which I checked out after it drifted across my Twitter. It’s one of those defenses that depends and/or suggests that everyone is either a moron or jealous — in other words, not a good defense so much as a “You are all dumb and mama said knock you strawmen out.”

But this defense, when dismissing any and all negativity also tripped one of my pet peeves once I got to here:

As soon as the race card got played, there was no way for Dunham to win. When Donald Glover showed up as a black Republican, instead of being an interesting role for a funny and talented person, adding a black person in a featured guest spot was deemed RACISM (according to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at least).

There’s a lot I don’t like about this bit. Abdul-Jabbar said “But this really seemed like an effort was made to add some color — and it came across as forced,” which is pretty objectively not what Hart says he said. But the bit that made me roll my eyes, that made me second-guess this habit of driving slowly past other people’s problems and gawking, was the first eight words: “AS SOON AS THE RACE CARD GOT PLAYED.”

If you believe in the race card, you’ve got some scumbaggy views on race and culture. End of story.

It’s cool to defend Dunham or whatever, I agree that a lot of the rhetoric about her and her show has been pretty stupid and thinly veiled horribleness, but I feel like you shouldn’t act like a moron and pretend like the race card is a thing that actually exists while defending some dumb TV show.

The race card isn’t real. Let’s say that for the purposes of this argument the race card is a real thing that can be played by colored people. It isn’t, I repeat, but let’s say that in this hypothetical world full of unicorns and dragons and magic, it is real. The race card wouldn’t be the big joker or the small joker. It wouldn’t be the Ace of Spades or a Royal Flush (assuming you had several… never mind), either. It wouldn’t even be Draw Four. It would be that extra card that comes in card decks that explains the rules to a card game. You know the card that we all ignore? It’s that one. But the only thing written on it is “YOU CAN’T WIN.”

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon