In the vein of Bridesmaids and “Sex and the City,” HBO’s new series “Girls” provides a brutally honest look at 20-somethings in New York City. Like its racy and raunchy predecessors, “Girls” has also affectively polarized critics and viewers with its tongue-in-cheek humor.
On the surface, the show’s ability to be both explosive and relevant is definitely refreshing. It strays from other comedic efforts with female characters that are often shuffled into the arena of light chick flick. At the same time, those that take “Girls” at face value are apt to be disappointed and confused.
“Girls” centers on Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham (the show’s creator, writer, and executive producer). Horvath is an aspiring writer who works a number of odd jobs and shares an apartment with her college friend, Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams). Michaels seems more composed than Horvath, with a steady job at an art gallery and longtime boyfriend. However, at their core, Horvath and Michaels are similarly desperate in their search for something more. Rounding out the cast are Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) as a British bohemian and her cousin Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) as an innocent and immature student.
Critical reviews of the first season are mainly positive, with an aggregate score of 87, and the show has been confirmed for a second. At the same time, negative reviews concern the plot of spoiled, privileged white girls and its similarities to the cast’s real lives. Dunham’s previous feature, Tiny Furniture, captured the attention of Judd Apatow who collaborated with Dunham to executively produce “Girls.” In addition, the cast members each have their own entertainment background, with Dunham’s mother being famed photographer, Laurie Simmons, Williams’s father being anchorman Brian Williams, Kirke’s father being drummer Simon Kirke, and Mamet’s father being the multi-talented David Mamet. To some, the real life girls of “Girls” seem spoiled and privileged, too.
However, these criticisms have little to do with the quality of the television show. Described as a dark comedy, “Girls” is a clever satire. It’s die-hard sincerity captures real-life moments and also effectively points out their absurdity, too. As Tom Goodman of the Hollywood Reporter says, “What separates Girls (Dunham has said the characters wouldn’t yet self-identify with the term “women”) from so many other comedies is that it’s aggressively rooted in naturalism, with all of its vulnerability and uncertainty and fleeting moments of being assuredly in control.” This combination of vulnerability and sincerity all help to question girls, women, and the society we live in. Why don’t 20-somethings identify as women? Why are they afloat in their careers and life plans? Why do they date men that treat them badly? Or, stay with men that they no longer love? It isn’t a celebration of bad choices, but rather an honest portrayal of them.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Dunham said, “Here’s the kind of show I would want to see. Here’s what my friends are like. They don’t have jobs, but they’re really smart. They take Ritalin for fun, but they’re not that f—ed up. They’re having these kind of degrading sexual relationships, but they’re feminists.” True, Dunham’s friends may very well be this way. True, also, that “Girls” captures and honors her friends while also showing just how outrageous and nonsensical their lives can be.
Image by Glamour Magazine