Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a brilliant dude. He's written eight books—five of which are about historical subjects other than basketball—he's acted (well) in numerous TV shows and films, and he was recently named a cultural ambassador of the U.S. But despite all his achievements beyond the basketball court, I have to say I didn't really see his 828-word critique of "Girls" coming yesterday.
It seems like everyone on the Internet has an opinion of the HBO show. (Sorry.) It's made an impact far beyond its paltry ratings. Abdul-Jabbar had some views on it, too, and they were worthy of him writing his first Huffington Post blog post, called "Girls Just Wants to Have (White) Fun," in three years. The write-up is hilarious, because it's friggin' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writing, but the critique also doubles as one of the best I've seen in a very crowded field.
The part that everyone will highlight comes when Abdul-Jabbar discusses the show's iffy portrayal of race. Kareem gives a nuanced look at what the show needed to do this season: Don't include an African-American character because you're feeling the pressure from the media, but if you do decide to include one, don't force it .
And yes, the master of the Skyhook says "black dildo." It's awesome.
Last season the show was criticized for being too white. Watching a full season could leave a viewer snow blind. This season that white ghetto was breached by a black character who is introduced as some jungle fever lover, with just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less.
I don't believe that people of color, sexual preference, or gender need to be shaken indiscriminately into every series like some sort of exotic seasoning. If the story calls for a black character, great. A story about a black neighborhood doesn't necessarily need white characters just to balance the racial profile. But this really seemed like an effort was made to add some color -- and it came across as forced.
Then he correctly applauds the show for its sex scenes, and here, the NBA's all-time leading scorer says "anal sex." Which is also awesome.
It's like a checklist of being naughty: masturbation (check), sex during period (check), oral sex (check), anal sex (check), virginity (check), etc. The show is actually at its most engaging during these awkward, fumbling, and mostly embarrassing (for the characters) scenes. The characters talk boldly about sex, but their actions are often shy and unsatisfying. The contrast of the generation that's been taught that pretty much anything goes sexually trying to act cool while struggling with their vulnerabilities is generally fresh and original and insightful about this generation.
My favorite part, though, comes when he compares the show to "Seinfeld."
When it takes itself seriously is when it stumbles. I just wish it would express its seriousness by being funnier. Seinfeld made it a point to ridicule the characters' shallowness and self-involvement, raising it to a level of social commentary. And it was funny. Two other girl-centric shows that reached these same heights to be voices of a generation were My So-Called Life and Wonderfalls. Both funny, yet also insightful and original. Perhaps that's why they both only lasted one season before becoming cult hits. Girls, a safer more mousy voice, has already been renewed for a third season.
Go read the whole thing here.
Meanwhile, I want more Kareem on TV! What would he say about "Workaholics?" Is he a "Game of Thrones" fan? Is he also bummed that "30 Rock" is off the air? Tweet him your suggestions on what he should write about next. He's actually answering most of the requests.