Girl on (HBO’s) GIRLS

Five hundred years and a couple dozen references later, I finally got around to watching Girls. I knocked down six episodes today, and have big plans for the remaining four tomorrow. Tutoring season hasn’t started yet, and neither have my MFA classes; I have a ton of time to kill.

So, let’s meet the Girls.

There’s Hannah Horvath (played by Lena Dunham, who is the writer and director of Girls), an aspiring essayist and girlfriend. We find out in the pilot that her parents are cutting her off financially, and she does what any rational unpaid New York internee woud do; she demands payment from her internship position. Obviously, since it’s New York and you can’t actually get paid to do what you want until your late twenties or early thirties, she is rejected and quits. Meanwhile, she is sleeping with a skinny but cute weirdo named Adam, who, like most guys in their twenties, doesn’t have the word “commit” in his vocabulary. This is a big bummer for Hannah.

Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams) is Hannah’s room-mate. She is depicted as being the classy, more put-together one in the group. She has an utterly devoted boyfriend, a job as an art gallery assistant, and impeccable style. However, after a few eye-opening events, she realizes she is no longer in love with her effeminate boyfriend. Marnie frequently texts and reminds Hannah to come up with rent money.

Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) is the eccentric and British friend and (un)professional nanny. More often than not she wears those gypsy-pants that are fashionable in some circles and her employer’s dark red lipstick. She’s sassy, unpredictable, wild, and free; Jessa is the one who makes sure sex is on her own conditions, not anyone else’s. After luring an ex into her roommate’s bedroom to have sex with him, she practically kicks him out after she is through with his time. “That is me saying, ‘I will not be smoted!'” She triumphantly tells Shoshanna, who was uncomfortably trapped in the room with them throughout the entire ordeal.

Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) is Jessa’s cute and pure American cousin and roommate who attends NYU. Although she starts off as “the least virginy virgin ever!”  Shoshanna is funny in a particular way that’s really endearing; she’s that rich awkward girl who doesn’t really know much about anything, and maybe never will. At one point during an episode where all four girls are at an immense warehouse party, Shoshanna appears from the bathroom and spastically comes to the conclusion that she accidentally smoked crack.

What’s not to love? Lena Dunham’s depiction of post-college life is more or less accurate. I wouldn’t go so far as to say twenty-somethings can afford those kinds of apartments, but it would be hard to film in a 300 square foot studio in New York. Beyond this, though, their lives are messy. They don’t know what they want. Their jobs are seemingly temporary. Their boyfriends and lovers are anything but ideal. Most importantly, their lives are anything but ideal. Lena Dunham embraces the awkward, fumbling, and less-than roaring twenties and exposes them for the world to see.

There has been a lot of comparisons of Girls to Sex and the City, and I can potentially see why. There is a SATC poster that Shoshanna has up in her apartment that perhaps addresses our suspicions: Is this the SATC of our generation? Will we have to go through tumultuous affairs with Manolo Blahniks, men, and unrealistic writing careers? My answer is ultimately no. It’s true that it’s an HBO series that revolves around four young women living in New York, there is massive amounts of gratuitous nudity, and the main character is (an aspring) writer. Despite the similarities,  Girls is an entirely different take on women and New York City. Where the goal of SATC was to depict New York as this alluring, glamorous city that caters to the materialistic and emotional needs of women,  Girls does its best to portray the life of four twenty-somethings as realistically as possible, and this includes a metaphorical ass-kicking by their New York. At one point during an episode, Hannah confesses, “We’re all slaves to this place that doesn’t even really want us.”  I’m surprised HBO even agreed taking the show on. Unlike Sarah Jessica Parker (who refused to have a single nude scene), Lena Dunham puts it all out there in almost every single episode, including a visit to the gynecologist and awkward sex with her mom’s pharmacist. It’s uncomfortable, fantastic, and refreshing. The problems are real. Adam plays with Hannah’s belly fat because he thinks it’s “funny,” Charlie (Hannah’s gay ex-boyfriend) tells her she wasn’t fat throughout college, just “round and soft, like a dumpling,” her boss is a jovial old man who occasionally pats her ass as he orders another receptionist to teach her how to break down a box, her diary is even compromised and used as lyrics to a song Marnie’s boyfriend sings at his show.

I fell in love with Girls over a span of a day because I really enjoyed the world that Dunham created. Although these girls are able to survive in New York because of their parents, this is not another Gossip Girl. I asked my sister-in-law who has HBO if she watched the show, and she said something like, “You know, I watched the first episode, and I couldn’t get into it. It’s just about some brats in New York who don’t have real jobs.” It’s true that Dunham highlights the ugliness of young adults. Sometimes I hate Hannah, but most of the time I just want to have a bowl of cereal with her and talk about things that are super trivial. We are, in many ways, self-absorbed, scared, and selfish. We are not able to be completely independent, and it sucks. We make expensive mistakes in order to learn simple truths. And I find comfort in that, and feel less alone. Girls tells us that it’s okay to hilariously fumble through your twenties; things may or may not work out and that’s okay.

-Regina Vaynshteyn


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