A Wanker’s Literary Reaction: Girls
Now, let’s get this straight. Girls is by no means an awful show. In fact, it’s one of the more entertaining comedies to come out of America in the last three years. At no point during my binge-watching of this polarizing sitcom was I actively not enjoying the brainchild of the supremely talented Lena Dunham, and what follows is mainly a reaction to the astonishingly passionate reception the show’s garnered over it’s three-season run. point-by-point, shall we?
It’s Derivative as Shit
Now, literally any show that follows the lives of twenty-somethings in New York can be considered original. That’s just a fact. With the existence of Friends, Will & Grace, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, etc etc ad finitum, no show is going to truly break new ground with this premise as it’s been gone over a thousand times in a thousand different ways by a thousand different people. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, necessarily- New York holds a certain allure to film and television that almost no other city holds. That’s not my issue, though-my issue is the fact that Girls is Sex and The City.
The first episode shows one of the lead characters with a poster for the SATC movie on her wall; this pale nudge-nudge attempt to deflect attention from the almost unbelievable amount of crap these shows have in common. Like Carrie, lead character Hannah (played by Dunham) is a writer with a chequered sexual history and a gay best friend. The other three girls fall more or less into their respective roles- uptight Marnie works at an art gallery and describes herself as a serial dater (Charlotte), Soshanna is an ambitious and romantically reticent with a brilliantly logical mind (Miranda), and Jessa is promiscuous, straight-talking sexual free spirit (Samantha). Now, just one of these similarities you might have gotten away with- you have to consider the us of archetypes, after all-but there are various other plot points peppered throughout the series that stuck in my proverbial craw- one character dating an older, aloof artist who’s really kind of a dick, the destructive on/off relationship between the lead character and a man with a compelling nose, and the issue-of-the-week episodes (abortion, STDs, break-ups, etc) make the whole suspicious similarity thing a bit too, I don’t know, fucking clear to anyone with a mind. Now, I’m not defending SATC here-a 7/10 show at it’s best- but credit where credit’s due, Dunham. Subconsciously or consciously, you’ve created a Muppet-Babies version of Michael Patrick King’s adored series, but with nudity squared. And that brings me too…
The Nudity is Not Groundbreaking
Now, we’re comfortably past the point where seeing tits on TV leaves everyone clutching their pearls and swooning into the nearest mantlepiece, so it’s not the mere act of nudity that’s been deemed “groundbreaking” in Girls. No, it’s that we see Lena Dunham-a basically normal-looking woman-with her clothes off! Now, I’m all for trying to break down the destructive image that media presents of people at every juncture, and showing a normal person naked without trying to smooth out all the jiggly bits is undoubtedly a damn good thing to do (and a brave choice for Dunham). But the whole furore about it is undermined by the fact that every single other character on the show-man or woman-is inestimably buff, well-groomed, and up to the physical standards we’ve come to expect from people we deem worthy to point a camera at. With numerous accusations of black tokenism in the show, I’m surprised no-one has brought up the other blatant token in the show; the token normal.
It’s Also Just Not that Groundbreaking
Many people have commented on the realistic depictions of post-college, pre-family life-the disappointment, the financial difficulty, the fallible but hilarious female leads. But you know what? I’ve seen it before. I’ve seen women struggling, being unglamorous and still remaining stonkingly funny at the same time in Spaced, Black Books, Fawlty Towers. I’ve seen life as a young adult in Fresh Meat, Coupling and Peep Show (interestingly, all British shows). I don’t find Dunham’s creation to be anything new- a decent riff on an old theme, no doubt, but by no means nobly breaking down barriers for realistic, less-than-perfect women in comedy or the brutal realities of real life as a young adult.
And the presentation of characters who are often unlikable and make bad choices in almost every fucking episode (revving up for a rant here) is nothing new, either; in fact, it’s far easier to create unlikable characters who we cringe at than it is to create bastards we really relate to. Maybe my vision on Girls is somewhat blurry because I’ve never been a young adult striking out on my own in New York City for the first time, but that shouldn’t be a problem-characters and situations can transcend, and in Girls they simply don’t. It’s like watching a life I don’t want to lead starring people I don’t want to be doing things I don’t want to do.
Other than that, decent stuff.