Girls is a good show. Let’s get that out of the way – there are some terrible shows on television and this is not one of them.
That said, the problem lies not in the show, but in the expectations of the audience.
One of my favorite quotes, and I totally forgot where I heard it, is “if you change the audience, you’ll change the performance.” It holds true in this situation: Girls is nothing without the 20-something girls who are it’s core audience. This show isn’t so much for them as it is wholeheartedly ABOUT them. If you live in New York and you’re between the ages of 20 and 30 there is a giant chance that the show is cringeworthy for the sole reason that you’ve had conversations exactly like the characters in the show. Its well written. Its not brilliantly written, but it’s well written for what it is. Lena Dunham specializes in the kind of fly-on-the-wall dialogue that is so batfuckingly popular right now: that post-mumblecore / “new honest” vibe that has come from a generation brought up to define themselves second by second with social media. We are a generation that has been brought up to focus on honesty, if nothing else.
We’re also a generation that has been brought up to assume that we’re going to get something simply by showing up. This is what the show, weirdly enough, doesn’t take into account. These characters are funny and likeable but they don’t seem to have any “real” problems other than being 20-something and living in a city. It doesn’t give me a reason to want to keep watching. There’s very little conflict other than “awkwaaaaard!” moments. You know all of the characters have safety nets. There aren’t any REAL problems in the show and on a base level that means little conflict and that means… well… very little action. Can you make a show about people without problems? I’m not asking for The Wire here, but shit, condom problems? That scene made me cringe.
… that being said, you know half of Brooklyn has safety nets (i.e. parents that will bail them out if/when the going gets rough), so why should I tune in next week? For another slice-of-a-charmed-life escapade? She’s confused about condoms? She’s making rape jokes in job interviews? Please. It’s hard to tell if these scenes are being presented because of the “omg awkwaaaaard!” factor or if Lena genuinely wants us to care about the characters. If I wanted to know what it was like to be young in Brooklyn I’d open the window or walk around the block.
Having gotten that off my chest, it’s still a good show. There’s some genuinely moving and brilliant moments in the first couple of episodes.
When you live in New York you live in a media bubble since so much of the (print) media is based in New York City, which is why the show has generated such a response, if you think about it… the whole “girls in the big city in their twenties!” bit which is what everyone wants to be/wishes they still were/wishes they could sleep with/wants to be around. People want the show to succeed because they want THEMSELVES to succeed. It’s easy to make that mistake. It’s odd and somewhat indicative of the loneliness that New York dwellers face every day. When the hype wave took over, it no longer became about the show. It started to be about what the show stood for.
I understand fully that women are making awesome breakthroughs in media right now, and I respect that. I just think it’s bonkers that so much emphasis is being placed on one show.
It’s just a show. It’s mumblecore Curb Your Enthusiasm with vaginas and dudes in skinny jeans.
People are reading into a comedy show way, way too much because they want to see their reflection in it. They put themselves in the plot (I’ve heard three “are you a Lena/Carrie or a slutty Brian Williams daughter?” etc) because they want themselves to succeed.
Imagine a TV in a vacuum in space with nobody around it playing the show ‘Girls.’ What is the show then? It’s just a show about young women, a pretty good one, hardly the best, hardly the “Woody Allen of her generation” hype, but a pretty decent show.
The “nepotism” backlash is complete bullshit because LITERALLY EVERYONE knows that it’s way, way, way easier to get ahead in the entertainment industry when you have family already in the industry / supportive enough parents to help pay your rent / bills, so you can get your foot in the door. That has been going on since the time began. Which is not in any way meant to sound like the cast was born with a silver spoon in their mouth and didn’t have to work for their success – it’s just that they’ve had an easier ride. To simply write the show off as “nepotism” is simply jealousy. Shit, who wouldn’t want Brian Williams as a Dad? Can you imagine dude giving you “the talk”? Exactly.
But ‘Girls’ is good. It could use a more diverse cast, for sure, and could probably stop sounding like what would happen if you took any random issue of Vice Magazine from 2004 to 2008 and shook it so all the words fell out and then rearranged the words into a script, but it’s still in baby steps right now. They’ve shown, what, three episodes? That’s barely a TV movie length and everyone is gushing about it like it’s the second coming of Christ. I want a reason to keep watching every week that isn’t just the hype surrounding the show. I don’t want it to fail. I want it to succeed.
Having said that, I want it to grow up a little and stop being so goddam self aware.
Then again, you could say that about the entire generation that ‘Girls’ is written for, too.