It’s impossible to read a pop culture blog or check out a review of your favorite TV show without noticing commentary about HBO’s most talked about series this year, Girls. That simple single word title has been the subject of explosive debate, speculation, and analysis as TV critics and everyday reviewers take to the comments to vent or gush about the show.
For the few of you who haven't watched (or read this blog before) the show is set in current day New York City and follows the lives of four women in their mid-twenties as they try to “figure out” what to do in the grey area between youth and adulthood that plagues their post collegiate years. It’s largely a show where no major events happen; we just watch these four women go about their lives in New York City.
The show is the brainchild of Lena Dunham, who made a splash in the indie film industry with her 2010 film Tiny Furniture. Tiny Furniture was remarkable for depicting the ennui of life after college with perfection; the muted tone and understated acting really brought unexpected nuance and depth to the complicated emotions depicted in the film. The themes of Girls are strikingly similar: the show has a muted and wry tone, covering disparate topics like sex, text message etiquette, and joblessness in a big city with equal amounts of detached amusement and bleak honesty. Girls is a show that deals with all the joyous, embarrassing, fleeting, and sad moments of women searching for themselves in the hustle and bustle of America’s biggest city.
Given the show’s widespread coverage, I wondered about what I could add to the Girls conversation that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over. I thought about commenting on the claim that Girls only caters to a select demographic of privileged white young women. I thought about the oft-made comparison of Girls to Sex in the City, and how the latter show simultaneously acknowledges and avoids any clear correlation to the former one. I also considered countering the argument that Girls is the voice for a generation of women. Any of these topics have been covered exhaustively by bloggers, critics, and everyday readers alike.
What I’d really like to talk about is the entire Girls conversation itself. I can’t remember the last time a major cable television network released a show that ignited such a fierce dialogue among viewers. Girls is a show that will make you feel something one way or the other; it doesn’t pull punches or make excuses. You will see men and women naked, and they might not be the classic Hollywood beauties touted on most other shows. You will see uncomfortably honest conversations about stagnant long term relationships. You will hear pitch perfect dialogue that captures the parlance of a twenty something today. And yes, you will hear characters complain about their “poverty” because they can’t get their parents to bankroll their life in New York City.
Unlike many typical coming of age TV shows, many of the main characters have qualities that paint them as less than perfect. For example, the main character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) has a toxic relationship with Adam, a sexually perverse guy who clearly uses her for sex though she sees their relationship as more substantial. Hannah also has a sense of entitlement about her life in New York, as early on in the pilot episode she tries to convince her parents to pay for her living expenses so she can pursue her dream of completing a book of essays. Hannah’s friend Jessa (played by Jemima Kirke) is a young world traveling libertine with few responsibilities; she gets a babysitting job simply because she’s bored, and she’s quick to excuse any reckless indulgence in her life.
So yes, the characters on Girls are less than perfect, and sometimes you can get quite worked up about what they do during the course of an episode. This isn’t a show where the purity and innocence of the main characters is constantly challenged by stereotypically “bad” foils; every character on Girls makes mistakes and carries their flaws, just like everyone does in real life. There’s something appealingly unappealing about Girls, something that rings true through all the mid-twenties angst, the somewhat hipster NYC backdrop, and the constant handwringing about guys. To be sure, the show doesn’t capture the essence of any one generation or group of women, but it certainly tries hard to portray a genuine human experience. And in this age of escapist genre TV, that’s something worth noting.
Better yet, it makes Girls something worth talking about.
Samantha Gray is a freelance writer. Her writing often focuses on providing information about obtaining an online bachelor degree. She also writes writes poetry and short fiction. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.