When Lena Dunham's ground-breaking hit show, Girls, was first broadcast in the US, the chorus of complaints was almost as loud as that of praise. The twenty-something's big mistake: crowding her cast with white, middle-class females. That decision, the critics clamoured, wasn't in the least bit representative of New York's cosmopolitan melting pot of ethnicities and cultures.
Televisual racism at worst, old-fashioned tribalism at best. As is often the case, by the time Girls hit the airwaves on this side of the Atlantic, pretty much everyone already had an opinion on this, whether they'd illegally downloaded every episode and therefore could actually claim to have watched the show or not.
Lena defended her script and casting, saying, "I am a half-Jew, half-WASP, and I wrote two Jews and two WASPs... I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realise that it was four white girls."
Fast-forward to series two and while I think it's safe to say the balance hadn't exactly been righted (the four 'girls' the show centers round were still, after all, the same girls) the emergence of a black character ensured the issue wasn't being ducked. In true Dunham style, she introduced said character in bed, butt-naked having sex with her character, Hannah.
"It definitely wasn't a 'f**k you, haters!" she insisted. "But at the same time, it was a pretty clear statement that we are comfortable, that there isn't a political agenda against having black characters in the show."
Long-story short, can I suggest it's time for David Cameron to take a leaf out of Lena's book?
Many of us (all of us even?), can be guilty of surrounding ourselves with people just like us. Shared experiences, shared upbringings, shared points of view bring people together and keep them together. People like us (of the same tribe), doesn't necessarily mean people with the same colour skin, although in Cameron's inner circle that's certainly one of the way it has manifested itself. As the PM's only black, working-class advisor moves to a part-time role, amid suggestions he was pushed out by the Etonian clique with which Cameron has chosen to populate Downing Street, the charges of elitism are only going to get worse.
You can be celebrated for writing a hit TV show even if you get your ethnic mix off-kilter, especially if you take the criticism on the chin and don't duck the issue, but it's far harder when you're running the country.
Here's the thing, as writer Rebecca Carroll points out, fixing Girls isn't as easy as placing "a 'random' black guest at a party. It will be fixed by bringing in black writers, consultants, production assistants..."
Which sounds like a pretty good manifesto for the government. Stuff the corridors with interns, advisors and cabinet ministers from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all creeds and colour, and you might actually get some new ideas, instead of the same ones rehashed round and round again.
After all, it's not like we're asking Cameron to get naked with any comprehensive-schooled guys or girls. Maybe just give some of them a job.Suggest a correction