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Lena Dunham’s Show Girls – Yes, It Is That Good

Lena Dunham's Show Girls - Yes, It Is That Good

For those of you who don’t have HBO this might be a good time to check it out. Not only does the new series Girls by Lena Dunham premiere this weekend, but next week we get Julia Louis Dreyfus in VEEP.  And of course there is the brilliant Game of Thrones which has such amazing female characters. 

HBO has done a great job with the promotion for this series.  Almost too good.  The show and Lena are everywhere.  They should thank their lucky stars that they have such an articulate spokesperson in the show’s creator/writer/director/star – Lena Dunham.

I want to pause for a moment and note that it has been a long time since I saw a woman and such a young woman to boot have so many credits on a show.  Watching the credits roll after the first episode I literally had a flashback moment to when I saw Yentl as a teen and saw how many credits Barbra Streisand had at the end of the film.  While TV and film are different, seeing a woman take on this many roles behind and in front of the camera (I wonder if Lena sings?) is still quite striking almost 30 years later.

And I also love that this show is so clearly Lena’s vision.  To see a young woman with such strong vision and to be able to defend it and speak about it in such a strong way almost makes me weep.  And while she wrote the first three shows herself, the writer’s room is populated with other many other women.  This is a young woman who embraces other women, and loves other women which is so clear from the moment the show begins.  There is none of this competition crap.  This is a pure lovefest.

And the vision is about young women.  Granted, these are a certain type of young women.  Overeducated and underemployed and white.  People may have taken issue with calling 25 year olds girls.  What Lena says is that at 25 these are still girls because they are still trying to find their place in the world.  They don’t feel like adults yet.  They don’t act like adults yet.  So they are still girls.  Of course she enhances that with one early scene when the two best friends played by Lena (as Hannah) and Allison Williams (as Marnie) wind up falling asleep together because Marnie can’t stand to be in bed with her adoring boyfriend.

I’ve seen three episodes and they made me crack up and cringe at the same time.  I think what got me the most was that the show feels so honest and it has a ton of heart.  And yes, there is a ton of sex, so parents if you think because it is named Girls that it is appropriate for your tween or teen daughters, don’t be mistaken.  This is a show for adults.  This is a show for all of us who have been those girls who  were never able to articulate what we were feeling in this way.

One of the things I love most about this show is that is stars Dunham who we all know would never be cast as Hannah on a network.  In a Q and A with Time Magazine Dunham reveals that the week before the show started production even her agent was shocked that she was starring in it.   Here’s what she said:

“I remember my agent, who’s incredibly supportive, was shocked. A week before we were going to shoot he went, “Wait, you’re acting in this, too?” like it hadn’t even occurred to him that HBO was going to let me do this.  He figured I was going to have to cast some sassy, thinner version of myself.  And he was excited but shocked.” 

On network TV Allison Williams or someone like her would be Hannah.  But Dunham is the best part of the show — even though all the women are fantastic.  When she sits on the bed of the guy she just had sex with who she really likes (at times) but treats her like shit (at times) in her underwear and lets him play with her stomach roll I just gasped.  First, that I saw a stomach roll on TV, and second because she is just so damn comfortable to write something like this that she knows she would have to act.  And because Lena has a normal body and shows it naked on TV this show has an opportunity to go places no other show has gone before. 

It’s very lucky that HBO which for so long was a vast wasteland for shows about women has gotten on board with this show in a big way.  Because the HBO model will allow us to really see bodies and let us talk about issues about girls, about sex, about expectations and about life that can be presented in a way that will allow us to connect with in a different way than on network TV.

Bottom line is this.  You haven’t seen a show like this before.  It is a show that makes a feminist who is a generation older than Lena smile because she has taken the conversation about women to a beautiful and messy and unclear place that shows how far feminism has come.  I am seriously in awe of this young woman — and yes, she is a woman because while she might be a girl on the show — only a smart woman would be able to pull off what she has.

Make sure to watch the show this Sunday at 10:30.

Here are some great pieces on the show

Lena Dunham Interview, Part One: What Girls Is Made Of (Time)

It’s Different for ‘Girls’ (NY Mag)

Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’: Still Sex, Still The City, Different Show (NPR – audio)

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