I set out to hate Girls. I really did. All that nepotism and optimistic youth!? U.G.H. And what the hell are they wearing? Seriously, I thought I was going to have a new show to use in my arguments about self-indulgent narrative television. Well, turns out the opposite is true; it turns out we are all 24-year-old Girls! Or at least I am, at heart. And I suspect, from the GA-LOW-ING reviews that have piled up throughout the HBO freshman's first season, that other people eventually began to tap into that universally youthful vein, too.
To call out the “four ladies” trope right away was the right thing to do. Creator/writer/director/actress Lena Dunham referred to Sex and the City in the first episode, in a brilliant piece of self-reflexivity. I realized we weren’t in Carrie’s NYC anymore, thankfully. Not that SATC didn’t have its own amazing, zeitgeist-creating thing, but man, did it age quickly, and become a parody of itself; the Cosmo the “cocktail non grata” of the last few years. And with the end of Desperate Housewives, we were left with a “four ladies” void in entertainment, the formula having enjoyed much success over the last 20 years with the aforementioned series, plus, of course, The Golden Girls. My web of skepticism began to fall apart when I saw my own reflection in the intertwining stories of these four girls. That was the magic of all those other shows, finding a way to make four women living together, or in close proximity, relatable to a broad audience.
But Girls is different from that pack, really different. By Episode 3, it felt so self-assured, at once mature and immature, funny and heartbreaking, real, yet fantastical. Hannah’s frequent nudity has been the subject of much debate. Not so much the amount—there is far more in Game of Thrones or Spartacus—but the fact that Hannah has a real body, unmanicured and plump. Part of the verisimilitude of Girls depends on Hannah displaying her body, again holding up a mirror to us, challenging the TV status quo of only showing nude women (and men too!) with sculpted, gym-crazed, gluten-free physiques. For me, Hannah’s nudity is like being in the locker room at the gym, seeing all kinds of nude bodies, big and small, fit and flabby, old and young, and remembering that everyone doesn’t look TV ready.
Girls is also the first show, IMHO, that has successfully handled the modern trappings of technology; such as when Hannah tried to gauge her relationship with Adam based on his inconsistency in returning text messages. And then when he did finally answer, it was with a picture of his penis. Followed by a text saying, “That wasn’t for you.” Wow. Real. Weird. Awesome. And yes, been there, girl! Or when Marnie and Charlie split up, and she spent an entire episode in bed, stalking him on Facebook, looking at pictures of him with his new girlfriend. Again: Been there, testify! But finding new and interesting, and yes, even dynamic, ways of integrating the use of technology into the fabric of the show is masterful. It doesn’t feel gimmicky or tacked-on, but part and parcel to the world these people inhabit.
Though the Season 1 finale airs this weekend, Season 2 is already secured and in-progress, so these Girls will be back, love 'em or hate 'em. My only hope is that they keep it real. There is a reason that GCB and Pan Am fizzled: There was not a real bone in their characters' bodies. It was all made up. Complete confabulation. Lena Dunham and Co. have made a new high mark for episodic narrative television. Expect many pretenders to the throne in the months to come. I’m just happy to channel my inner angsty 20-something for half-an-hour each week.
Girls' Season 1 finale airs this Sunday, June 17 at 10pm on HBO.