Girls has a long and confusing history with people of color. The first season of the comedy was criticized for featuring barely a drop of melanin over ten episodes, despite being set in the melting pot of NYC. Creator Lena Dunham first addressed these issues by, in season 2, having her character Hannah date a Black Republican named Sandy, who looked just like Donald Glover.
Sandy was gone after two episodes and a very awkward Missy Elliott reference. But the satire’s relationship with people of color has been improving. On the series’ IMDb page, we're reminded that Jessica Williams and Inside Amy Schumer’s Greta Lee were both on the show four times.
The HBO comedy’s currently-running season 6 has finally made waves in mending Girls’ major problem with race: people of color aren't treated as story machines or objects, but multidimensional people.
When we first meet Paul-Louis (played by Southeast Asian actor Riz Ahmed), he's a fully fleshed out person, with quirks, dance moves, and open relationship preferences that have nothing to do with his ethnicity.
A few episodes later, Riz’s character fulfills his main function as the surprise accidental father of Hannah’s baby. The shocked mom-to-be reveals just how little she remembers about Paul-Louis in last night’s “Full Disclosure,” when she incorrectly refers to the surf expert as a water ski instructor multiple times for little-to-no reason. It's not as though he stands out in her mind for another, "other" reason.
Two actresses of color made notable and memorable appearances this season, neither of which had anything to do with race.
Joy Bryant appears as Marlowe in "Hostage Situation." The guest star fills in all the requirements for the trope of a boho chic, antiques-loving drifter, giving Hannah the emotional support she needs in a weird moment and handing Hannah a gift she in no way worked for in the form of a tea set. No one could accuse HBO of type-casting this part.
Because Girls is a show we’ve stood by through six years of backlash, we like to think it’s possible the comedy can make amends for its early mistakes in this final season. As a step in the right direction, a preview for episode 7, "The Bounce," shows Hannah will finally contact Paul-Louis to tell him the pregnancy news.
If all goes to plan from there, the mom-to-be will give birth to a biracial baby in a matter of weeks. There’s absolutely nothing more real than that.