I have a ton to say about HBO series, Girls, the seeming T.V. underdog turned sensation. What is it about this show that has drawn the attention of so many people, even those that are outside of its apparent demographic. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about Girls, heard them talk about it, and I have always wanted to talk about it myself.
The first thing people ask you about Girls is if you like it. There is an extreme polarizing reaction to the show—dividing camps between people who love it and people who absolutely despise it. Rarely have people fallen on the exact, thin divisive line of “it’s okay,” and people who do say this often lean towards one reaction.
The second thing people ask other people about Girls is, “So which one are you?” That’s probably the hardest thing to answer accurately, because they are all awful and freely picking one to embody yourself is a hard and unattractive decision. They are awful, though, in the way that you get, in the way that you can maybe sympathize with. What I see when I see the Girls girls are the worst versions of ourselves, the parts that we try to hide or deny, amplifed and glaring on your T.V. screen for half an hour each week.
We get to know the self-absorbed best friends and roommates: shrill, uptight Marnie and perennially unemployed Hannah (played by Lena Dunham, the twenty-six-year-old female creator of the show—but that’s another story) who recurring character, Elijah, said that were cut from the same selfish cloth. Marnie is fickle and juvenile, though she likes to think of herself as grown up. Hannah seems to have very little self-worth, and likes to pretend she knows what she’s doing when what she really is is lost.
There’s well-traveled, liberated, reformed wild child Jessa who gets by as a good looking nanny with very little to lose. Then, there’s Jessa’s cousin: sheltered, inexperienced Shoshanna, who dubbed her virgin self a Samantha Jones. (Shoshanna is actually not that mean. She is very, very endearing, and I think I would want to be her the most.) These people seem to be oblivious to their own flaws, which is what I find a little hard to believe. But, people do have their own blind spots; it’s just so hard for me to believe that theirs can be as glaring and obvious as they are.
There’s very little that’s aspirational about the Girls characters, but I think that’s why I like them so much. A lot of people have been put off by this plain Jane, awkward version of the New Yorkian stories that HBO seems to make every once in a while, but I like it because it makes you uncomfortable in a way that’s not horrific, but just earnest and real—shame and secrets shoved right up there in your face.
I love it because it gets to the meat of things, even though the truth is often awkward and strange and horrible, instead of beating around the bush for oh, I don’t know, seven seasons. Do I like the “ugly people sex”? Of course not, but it’s a part of the show and it works because it exposes everything, much like how every ugly thing about these people are exposed, too.
Another thing that I really like about Girls, as a show, is that they make no excuses for the awfulness of their characters. It really doesn’t care if you end up liking them or hating them for what they do. What happens is that you develop some empathy or compassion for some of them, because you’ve been there, too. Maybe not in exactly the same situations, but maybe steeped in the same feelings. I find that, as we see more episodes of Girls, their characters enough space and enough layers to be believable as people.
I saw episode 7, “Welcome to Bushwick a.ka. The Crackcident,” last night. I have never been to a warehouse party in Bushwick, but I roared with laughter and I felt for them. Maybe because I’ve done things that I’m not proud of. Maybe also because I have felt as betrayed, as wounded, as discarded, and as embarrassed as they have. Not in the same exact way—I have never faceplanted the pavement falling off the front wheel of a bicycle—but in a way that’s enough.
Plus, it was way funny.
Girls is more than just “Sex and the City for ugly people,” and it’s hardly the voice of our generation. What it is is a damn good show where we see lost twenty-somethings, in their complexity and depth, unafraid to show the ugly, broken bits that a lot of us would love to hide instead. It’s too early to tell what kind of people they are, but each week, another layer is uncovered. Right now, it’s about horrible people-in a real sense, not in a Joffrey Baratheon sense–that you end up rooting for because, sometimes, you can actually see them (secretly) as you.