There’s been a lot of talk about girls on the internets lately; both girls, the gender, and Girls, the really frank and funny new HBO television show about four young twenty-somethings (girls, obvs) living and trying to make it in New York. The buildup to the series premiere was pretty astonishing; I’d never heard so many opinions about a television show that hadn’t even yet aired (journalists got a sneak peek at the first couple episodes). Some, mostly women, loved it, others, mostly men, didn’t; no one had seen the full season, but early judgments about it on both sides blew up the wide world of the web. That both subjects, girls and Girls, were then and are still being heavily discussed and in direct correlation to one another is no coincidence and the reason for this is the 25-year-old creator and star of the show, Lena Dunham.
Not afraid to be honest about something that’s now being termed the “girly narrative” (a term I dislike but that’s another post) but what is really just the story of what human beings with vaginas think, feel and experience, Dunham created this show that depicts the struggles of young girls in their personal and professional endeavours and their attempts at figuring themselves out in the process (you know, like LIFE). In doing this, she created what her character Hannah Horvath calls, facetiously, in the pilot episode, the “voice of my generation.” Except I think the joke’s on her because, um, she kind of did. And in doing that, she gave a voice to all the other young girls in her generation (and even some who aren’t, hiiiiiiiii) who recognize themselves completely in Dunham’s characters, in all their messy, imperfect, confused, self-doubting, still-figuring-it-out awesomeness.
Because when I think about the girls of Girls, I think about my girlfriends and me; specifically, how the girls of Girls ARE my girlfriends and me. After watching the first episode together a friend turned to me and said, “It’s like they put a camera in this apartment and just filmed US.” And that’s generally the reaction I get from every girl I speak to about the show. By drawing on her own experiences and telling her own stories, Dunham is really telling the story of the overall girl experience (that’s girl, not girl-y, and there’s a difference, to me anyway). Life is hard, often embarrassing and full of making mistakes and doing stupid things and having shitty boyfriends and feeling like you want to be more than you are but not knowing how to get there and Dunham was astute enough to harness this secretly universal thing and present it in a refreshingly honest, realistic and hilarious way, showing us that we’re not at all alone, like for real.
Which is why I think Dunham is the perfect role model for teenagers: she tells it like it is, not how you wish it were. Unlike other television shows that present these aspirational lives for you to covet – not that I don’t love SATC but – Girls makes you feel like you’re still okay even though you don’t have a walk-in closet filled with fabulous designer labels and an easily-paid-for-by-a-single-weekly-newspaper-column one-bedroom apartment in New York. She shows us that all the insecurities and doubts we feel, the hardships we encounter along the way to becoming grownups, are normal and part of the process and everyone’s the same in more ways than we think and isn’t that what we all, particularly teens who are just beginning the growing up thing, really need to hear? By baring it all (both figuratively and literally – in the first episode she’s naked in the tub eating a cupcake) and putting her insecurities, embarrassments and body out there, Dunham presents a way more realistic version of what life’s going to be like as a young adult than anything I grew up with as a teen. Which is, frankly, healthy and also a total relief because finally we have a show for girls that’s accessible. And I’m apparently not the only one to think so because girl just got nominated for FOUR Emmy awards. So when I said above that it’s difficult to watch Girls and not see your reflection and those of your friends in the characters? I think that if we can see even a little bit of ourselves in the smart, funny, candid, thoughtful person that Lena Dunham is, well, then I feel like we’re going to be just fine.
If you haven’t seen the show, check the trailer to get started and if you have…like omg, amIright?