On Girls
April 16, 2012, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Lena Dunham in HBO's Girls © Jojo Whilden/HBO. All rights reserved.

If you pay attention to pop culture, and have taken the subway in the past few weeks, you may be aware that a new show, Girls, written and directed by Lena Dunham, premiered yesterday night on HBO. We here at Citywide couldn’t afford to not talk about this new show as its creator once appeared on the show to talk about her equally buzzed-about debut film, Tiny Furniture.

But to get back to the point of this post. If you’ve heard of the imminent arrival of Girls, you’ve probably read in the myriad of articles about it that it’s a younger, hipster version of HBO’s past female-centric series, Sex and the City. You’ve also probably heard that the show features some very unglamourous, possibly humiliating sex scenes, many discussions of Dunham love handles and that her character claims, under the influence of opium pod tea, that she may be the voice of her generation.

Whether the show’s content warrants such copious coverage is probably too early to tell–we’ve only seen the first episode because HBO was gracious enough to make it available for free on Youtube for the next month and the countless articles online seem to point out that screeners for the first 3 episodes were made available to reviewers. From the first episode, we see in Hannah Hovarth, Dunham’s character, an only slightly improved version of Tiny Furniture’s Aura. Hannah, who is two years out of college, is a little bit more along into figuring out what she wants to do but seems equally as clueless as to how she’s going to get there. She seems to be trying to do things right, working at an unpaid internship in the hope of getting hired, but she’s been there for a year and only comes to the conclusion that the arrangement might have run its course when her parents decide to cut her off financially. She and her friends live in a “First World Problems” kind of environment and the show doesn’t seem to make much of an attempt to widen that perspective, which can be a little unnerving.

But maybe that’s not the point. In fact, many of the twentysomethings we see around are generally quite content only seeing things from their little bubble so that portrayal turns out to be pretty accurate. Still, the first episode still falls prey to some caricatures. These Brooklynites don’t seem to be spending much time with people who aren’t white and the girls, who are the center of the show, fall into some pretty common tropes. The freewheelin’ boho Jessa (Jemima Kirke) gets pregnant from a fling with a foreigner, the virgin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) lives vicariously through episodes of Sex and the City, the hot friend Marnie (Allison Williams) can’t handle how much her boyfriend loves her and the one with a few extra pounds, Hannah, is in a somewhat degrading non-relationship. Yet, despite these unflattering generalizations, a little something rings true in each of these girls as a symptom of being caught in a fantasy of what you’d like to be and what you have to face in the moment. As an 18 year-old coming to NYC, I packed my Sex and the City book with me because I imagined it was going to be some sort of roadmap when navigating my future relationships in the here. However, I also aspired to be like Jessa who, even though she spends all her time gallivanting around the world, is the epitome of the “too cool for school” New York it girl I expected all New York girls to be. As for Hannah, as sad as it is, many young graduates end up rotting away in unpaid internships because once out of college, getting sound advice on how to play your life becomes harder to come by. Meanwhile, the Marnies of the world seem to be the most rational and have it all together, at least on the surface.

What is obvious from the get-go is that these girls will not speak to every female on the planet. It’s not a big laughs kind of humor and many of the jokes might leave you feeling sorry for these characters, which is an odd place to end up when you’re hoping for the relief and uplift of laughter. But what is sure to make an impression as the show develops, and we get a few glimpses of it in the first episode, is the friendship bond that unites them all. Its most poignant appearance in yesterday’s episode is when Jessa, while sitting on the toilet, reveals to Marnie that she is pregnant. Marnie until then had been on a long diatribe about the uneven dynamic of their relationship, but as soon as Jessa tells her secret, Marnie stops dead in her tracks, forgetting about her initial problem and letting her friend in need be the focus. In the end, the friendship between Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte was the most memorable takeaway from Girls’ big sister Sex and the City (the show), and moments like that will make for a series that amounts to more than “The quirky and odd moments of white twentysomethings in NYC in 2012” and allow it to still seem relevant in a few years.

So if someone has HBO, can you host a watch party for Citywide to come watch episode 2? We still have some reservations but we’d really like to see how this show evolves. Thanks a million!


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