Review: ‘Girls’: A voice of a generation
“I don’t want to freak you out, but I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.” - Hannah
Growing up everyone expects that by the time they are a few years out of college they’ll have discovered the secret to life, the universe and everything. They expect that they’ll be happy, self-reliant individuals independent from their parents and their parents’ wallets.
But as someone who graduated college in 2009 – the first class of college graduates following the collapse of the economy – I can tell you that that’s a bunch of bullshit.
Those of us in our mid-twenties don’t know what the hell we’re talking about most of the time. We like to pretend that we have it all figured out by using terminology like 401k and drinking wine instead of beer because it makes us appear classier. We pretend that our friends having children doesn’t scare the hell out of us. But the truth is, we’re all a bunch of liars who don’t have any clue what’s going on. Sure, we’ll put on a brave face to the world and we’ll tell you all the lies we can to make you believe we have it all together. But on the inside we’re still wandering around like lost little puppies, hoping the answers will spring up out of the cracks in the pavement and tell us where to go.
And though our story has been told before,* I don’t think it’s ever been told quite as cleverly and realistically as it is on HBO’s new black comedy ‘Girls.’
‘Girls’ premiered April 15 to a thousand and one endorsements from my favorite television critics and them some. But in my own quest to write a proper review of the show, I found it difficult to remove myself and my own experiences from the equation long enough to write an unbiased review.
But I think that’s the reason so many critics have praised this show. ”Girls’ is a show that cleverly and subtly depicts life in such a familiar way that I found it hard to believe that I was watching a fictionalized account of reality and not my own diary (I do not actually have a diary) acted out on screen. If I had to choose one show currently on air to compare it to, I’d go with FX’s ‘Louie’, which is also written and directed by its star, comedian Louis CK. ‘Louie’ is an experiment in self-examination that exists via fictitious storytelling. Much like ‘Girls’, ‘Louie’ is aware of its surroundings and its viewership.
‘Girls’ was created by, written by, directed by and stars 25-year-old Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath, a 24-year-old college graduate with an English degree who spent the last year working as an intern at a publishing company. She lives with her best friend Marnie in a pretty nice looking apartment in New York City, but she is completely dependent on her parents, two university professors, for cash.
When Hannah’s parents tell her they will no longer be supporting her during the opening scene of the premiere, she responds by telling them how lucky they are to have a daughter who’s not addicted to pills or who didn’t have two abortions last summer.
I’m not entirely 100 percent certain, but I think I’ve used that same argument with my own parents to try to make them see how wonderful and lucky they are to have me as a daughter. And as soon as those words left Hannah’s mouth I knew this was a show I was not only going to love, but watch religiously.
Now, I know it’s been said by nearly every critic who’s reviewed the show, but it truly is possible for each and every viewer to find something in Hannah’s world to relate to. Whether it’s Hannah search for identity, Marnie’s uncertainty and uptight-ness, Jessa’s worldliness as a result of a fear of putting down roots, or Shoshanna’s naivety – this show covers its bases when it comes to the problems plaguing young women (and men to an extent) in their mid-20s.
The situations these young women find themselves in on a day to day basis – an unwanted pregnancy, the feeling of being trapped, awkward sexual situations with a guy who can’t even be bothered to respond to a text – all of these are situations that young women face all the time. Hannah and her
sisters friends are a strikingly real portrait of my generation.
This show and its four central characters are the antithesis to HBO’s other show about four women living in NYC. But ‘Sex and the City’ was a show that glamorized sexuality and life in the Big Apple. ‘Girls’ takes the approach that sex is awkward, men – even seemingly good men - aren’t always the most important subjects in our lives, cupcakes are breakfast foods, and that living in NYC is not all it’s cracked up to be.
These young women can barely afford that life. Hannah, in her attempt to reason with her parents, asks for them to support her by giving her $1,100 a month for the next two years until she can finish her book. She claims that $1,100 means she’s going to be living pretty thrifty and that this is a reasonable request. Having friends who did in fact move to NYC following college, I can attest that living in New York on $1,100 is pretty damn thrifty.
The comparisons to ‘Sex and the City’ are inevitable, and something the show addresses head on when Jessa shows up to Shoshanna’s apartment and she starts talking about the show and how she compares people to Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha as if they’re real people. But it’s important for viewers to see that ‘Girls’ is not like ‘SatC’, nor does it have any misguided intentions of ever being the show’s second coming.
If anything, ‘Girls’ showcases the insecurity of the modern 20-something female. Every woman in my generation has experienced the feelings and emotions exhibited by one of these women. In any group there is a women who’s felt trapped by a relationship, but didn’t know how to handle it. There’s a woman who’s felt abandoned by her parents, or at least the world in which she is comfortable, with no idea of how to find her own path. There’s been a woman so afraid of becoming stagnant that she never stays in one place long enough to actually forge human connections. And there’s always a woman who still sees the world as unblemished and perfect despite being shown the seedy underbelly of humanity.
This show is a humorous and cleverly subtle commentary on maturity, on being a girl, and on growing up in a privileged world only to find out life actually kind of sucks sometimes. And if you don’t find yourself wishing you could hang out with Hannah – with or without the opium tea – then maybe you’ve missed the point. But whether you like it or not, Hannah and her friends are the new poster children for us 20-somethings, so have a seat and relax – and enjoy the fact that all this crap is happening to someone else for once.’
‘Girls’ airs Sunday nights @ 10:30 on HBO.
Note: Photo courtesy of HBO.
*Check out the late, great ‘Wonderfalls’ if you want to see another brilliant take on the apathetic young woman in her mid-twenties genre.