Warning: Spoilers ahead from the “Girls” series finale
Of all the questions left unanswered by Sunday night’s series finale of “Girls,” one screams out most loudly: Why is Hannah’s baby black?
It’s not a random question. Hannah, as played by Lena Dunham, is unquestionably white. Baby Grover’s father — a stoner dude named Paul-Louis — is played by Riz Ahmed, a well-known Anglo-Pakistani actor.
Ahmed is darker than Dunham, but he’s not black. Which leads us back to Grover, who is — or at least, appears to be, going on looks alone.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a black baby.
But the choice to cast a seemingly black kid in an ostensibly white(ish) role confirms that “Girls” was an exercise in unprecedented self-indulgence. Dunham is going to do whatever she wants, without a thought to the world outside her little bubble.
Which kind of sucks, since I loved her show so much.
I loved “Girls” despite its refusal to cast almost any minority actors. I loved it even as it glorified millennial underachievement. And I particularly loved it this season when Hannah, jolted by an unexpected pregnancy, chose not only to keep her child, but to reject the security of co-parenting with longtime paramour Adam for a far scarier future on her own.
As a new dad myself — and the son of a single mom — I intuitively felt like Hannah had all the makings of an awesome parent, even amid all her self-loathing and self-doubt.
Which is why seeing her mother a black kid felt like such a middle finger to my six seasons of fandom.
I clearly missed something…. why is the baby black #girls
— Racx ♌ (@RacxStar) April 17, 2017
Now, it’s true that “Girls” is hardly an identity-politics maverick. Remember, this was a show universally criticized for its virtually all-white first season, and it only seemed to embrace inclusiveness reluctantly.
The show presented a world of white affluence and privilege — and I’m OK with that. “Girls” was what it was and didn’t really need to justify itself. If I wanted Hannah and Marnie’s (Allison Williams) nonwhite equivalents, I could tune in to Issa Rae on “Insecure.”
But given its past failures, you’d think the show would have learned by now to stay far, far away from race issues.
Yet, there goes Dunham, tossing racial ambiguity into the mix on “Girls’ ” most important episode ever — and not even bothering to contextualize it.
Lena, a black baby? Really?
Sure, casting an infant can be difficult — it’s not all about looks; it’s about who behaves best on set. But why, then, didn’t the “Girls” team limit their casting call to babies who better fit the profile?
And take it from someone who’s lived it: It’s pretty unlikely that Hannah and Paul-Louis would produce a kid markedly darker than themselves.
Dubious parenting olympics: Parents who took kids to Trump's White House Easter egg roll vs Parents who casted their black baby on 'Girls'
— CocoaHouseGirl (@HelenofIbadan) April 17, 2017
I, for instance, am darker than my white mother and lighter than my black father. Meanwhile, my baby son is even lighter thanks to his own genetic mashup. If it didn’t happen in our family — a family with actual black people in it — believe me, it didn’t happen for Hannah.
And it’s not just about the awkward optics. There are larger societal implications of a white woman raising a black kid.
Hannah, it seems, will be raising a black kid in what we can assume is a mostly white town. (Fine, the cop is black — bravo.) Specifically, she is raising a black boy, in a society that demonizes and literally kills black boys. That means something.
Are we really supposed to believe that Hannah — who clearly considers herself tuned into race issues, in a liberal-arts-school way — would have zero thoughts to share about this?
Also, will her son have any black role models? Is Hannah prepared to deal with racism? How will she contend with questions about ethnicity when nothing in her own life has prepared her for them?
These are not mere afterthoughts; these are questions at the core of the mixed-race experience.
Really gonna miss GIRLS. Also best of luck to Hannah's Black baby.
— Jamala Johns (@jamalajohns) April 17, 2017
That Dunham simply skipped over this conversation at the series’ very last moment cannot be ignored — especially when everything else about this final episode was so carefully considered. How could this not even warrant a mention?
Perhaps Dunham, like so many in Medialand, simply thinks that all black and brown people are interchangeable.
Or maybe Dunham just thought she would get away with it — because, hey, we’re all colorblind here, right? (It’s certainly not the first time she’s inserted herself into a cultural blunder.)
Like I said, I’ve always rooted for Dunham. But as an actual biracial person, I’m left feeling screwed by her — unsure why she opted to exploit stories like my own with such carelessness.
I would have loved to have Hannah end up, much like in my own family, as an awesome mom to a beautiful brown kid.
But Dunham didn’t write her way there. She didn’t create a compelling narrative around those tricky subjects. Somehow, suddenly, she’s made her character one half of a mixed-race family — a dynamic that could constitute a series in and of itself — and apparently it wasn’t even worth a passing comment.
Unlike many of my multi-culti cohorts, I don’t see race in every issue. I abhor the word “privilege,” despise the concept of trigger warnings and cringe at the lefty jargon that defined race and culture throughout the Obama era.
Things must be deeply offensive for me to take offense. So listen, and listen well, “Girls”: Sunday night’s show was profoundly offensive.
I ask you again, Lena Dunham: Why is Hannah’s baby black?
This article was originally published in New York Post.