A Look At ‘Girls’

As a return to blogging, I’d like to discuss the new HBO series, Girls.

OK, so I’m a couple weeks late on this train. Not because I haven’t been watching (or reading all about) Girls, but because I’m one of the few voices on the internet that hasn’t already expressed his or her opinion on the subject. The three sources that are basically biblical to my conception of pop culture (Vulture, Grantland, and Tom and Lorenzo) have all published words on the topic, most interestingly–to me, anyway–is Tess Lynch’s piece, “Girls is From Mars, Women are from Venus.”

There was a lot of generated buzz about the show before its premiere back in April, and then a lot of back and forth from the critics once it hit the screen. Some hailed it brilliant, some called it the biggest mistake HBO has ever made. You basically couldn’t open an internet browser without something about it hitting you in the face, which is precisely the reason I started watching it. Sort of like Skins last year, but with quality.

To briefly list some of the major issues people have with the show:

  • It’s horribly, painfully white (there are no other races to be seen in this supposed representative New York)
  • The characters are unlikeable
  • Some people are calling it realistic, but who actually knows people who act this way?
  • It’s trying too hard to be Sex in the City
  • It’s trying too hard not to be Sex in the City

I’m probably missing a few complaints. The reason I enjoyed Lynch’s article so much is because it ignored all the whining about how Girls is not representative of ALL GIRLS (and since when did a title mean that it was going to represent everyone?) and cut to the question: is this text really adding anything to television? It’s not supposed to speak for everyone, but is it speaking for anyone?

My answer to that question, in disagreement with the articulate words of Tess Lynch, is yes.

I am not a Hannah. I’m not a Jessa or a Shoshanna. I’m a little bit Marnie (which is horribly sad, since her treatment of Charlie has made her the most hated character on the show) because I’m uptight and like to have things my way, but I would never handle things the way Marnie does. As Lynch is about five years older than the girls of Girls, I’m about three years younger. So maybe I don’t know their lifestyle any better than Lynch does, but she makes the mistake of confusing not knowing anyone who acts like the characters with not knowing anyone who feels like them.

All of the characters struggle with the transition from childhood to adulthood (hence that overly harped upon title). They do not struggle in many other ways–financially, educationally, physically–but they are in that stage of life when you’re trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, and THAT is a concern and a depth that many people feel. I would not show up at my parents hotel room, high on opium, to ask for thousands of dollars in support so that I could write, but I do worry about how I will make that leap to full independence. The characters of Girls are extreme, but their emotions are nuanced.

The show is far from perfect. I’m going to make a project of commenting on the episodes individually, but as my overall, collective first impression of the first six episodes, this show is doing something that other shows are not. It is compelling and it holds something real inside it, even if the actions of its characters and its racial variance do not reflect that same reality. It deserves our attention. It has certainly caught mine.


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