Some Thoughts on HBO’s “Girls”

HBO’s Girls is the product of child (err..early twenties-ish?) prodigy Lena Dunham, who writes, directs, and stars in a show by our generation and for our generation. With the collaboration of famous comic filmmaker Judd Apatow, Dunham has created a show about a small group of girls living in New York City.

Jessa, Marnie, Hannah, and Shoshanna. Note: Hannah never looks like that on the show.

The experience of watching Girls has been one of utter confusion and bewilderment for me. I am constantly irritated and enraptured by it. Dunham has created a group of characters that neatly includes just about every unique stereotype that you have encountered in your dorm room or your intro to PoliSci class. Hannah is your high-minded liberal arts major who is endlessly working on a “book” and perpetually unemployed. Marnie is the downright gorgeous, tightly wound professional. Jessa is the lofty, world traveler who is effortlessly beautiful and interesting. Shoshanna is the small, weird girl whose quirks create a bubble of endearing cuteness. Each of these characters – along with their largely male and entirely impotent supporting cast – looks and feels real, albeit to an exaggerated extent. The show has this effect of making you feel like you’re watching people you knew at college going about their lives in New York City. Yet at the same time their vanity, self-interest, and petty problems are almost as irritating as your former roommate’s hygiene habits.

I’ve had conversations with Liam before about what the show “means” and I really don’t think that there is a deeper meaning to it. She’s not trying to extoll any greater virtues or focus on any themes. This is a cut-and-dry satire. Lena Dunham so clearly has us pegged as a collective group of people that she’s capturing it in TV show with a healthy dose of nudity and perversion. It’s all a satirical criticism of our generation. All the egocentrism of Hannah, all the self-importance of Marnie, and all of the reluctance to really participate in society that is Jessa. Lena Dunham is forming these characters based on her own supercilious, precocious assumptions about the people’s she’s known. These depictions are, more often than not, arrogantly exaggerated.

We can only assume that the character she plays on the show is her former self, and Hannah spends most of her time claiming to be the “voice of [her] generation” and lamenting the fact that she doesn’t have enough life experience yet to really sit down and write her book. Her hook-up that eventually is coerced into a boyfriend is consistently and deliberately emotionally abusive to her, yet she takes it. She takes it because much of her life she was pampered by a pair of saccharine helicopter parents to the extent that she doesn’t know how to take care of herself. She doesn’t know how to struggle. So it’s ever so fitting that in a great big slap of reality, the show begins when her parents finally cut her off after a few years living in New York as an unpaid intern collecting full support from them.

As a collective generation that’s us, with all the wind in our lungs ready to complain about everything that’s wrong but none of the physical energy to do anything about it (and I am likely a prime example of this). All of these characters on the show collect all this self-pity and create their own problems out of thin air. Yet they have a good time doing it!  We are an indulgent generation thriving – or floundering – in a hedonistic culture.

In true satire fashion, Dunham is showing us people that we come to dislike without realizing that she is showing us ourselves. Girls is an easy-to-watch and fun time with enough interesting things going on to keep you entertained even if you’re ignoring the social commentary that’s there between the lines. Check it out on HBO!

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