When HBO’s Girls premiered last April it quickly garnered a lot of attention. Lena Dunham not only writes and directs the show but stars as the main character, Hannah. That’s an impressive feat for someone who’s all of 26. Girls and Dunham received both a lot of praise and a lot of criticism. While it was applauded for its realistic approach to topics like STIs, abortion and virginity, critics argued that the characters were unlikeable, the sex scenes were painfully awkward and that there was a glaring lack of diversity. I had mixed feelings when I began watching, but by the end of season 1, I was 100 percent convinced that Lena Dunham was a creative genius.
The show centers around 4 gurls in New York City – self-absorbed writer Hannah, Type A Marnie, free-spirit Jessa and the bubbly and naïve Shoshanna. At the end of season 1, the gurls’ lives are pretty-much all over the place. Hannah and her boyfriend have broken up after realizing that he’s more committed to their relationship than she is. Marnie has moved out of the apartment she shared with Hannah after they got in a huge fight. Shoshanna has lost her virginity – something she’d been obsessing about for a while. And in the biggest WTF moment of the season: Jessa married a creepy older guy she had met a grand total of 2 weeks before the wedding.
It’s true the characters are unlikeable a lot of the time. Hannah is self-centred and has an incredible sense of entitlement. Marnie spent most of season 1 consistently whining about how her boyfriend is too nice to her but refusing to do anything about it. Jessa is irresponsible; she’s the type of person who fails to show up for her own abortion (which actually happened in an episode). As for Shoshanna…well Shoshanna sounds like an overeager squirrel a lot of the time. All of the characters are selfish and insecure. All of the characters don’t know what they want or where they are going in life. While the gurls may be unlikeable, they’re actually pretty relatable.
Selfishness and insecurity aren’t appealing traits, but they’re pretty common ones. And honestly, most 20-somethings don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. That’s what the show’s about – 4 gurls trying to figure things out and making a lot of mistakes along the way. In the premiere Hannah says, “I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.” That feeling of wanting to have a voice and wanting to be heard is something I think a lot of gurls can relate to, aspiring writers or not.
It’s also true that there’s a lack of both racial and class diversity. Everyone on the show is white and privileged, which doesn’t make a lot of sense since they live in New York City – a very diverse place. However, this problem extends to a lot of television shows, not just Girls. I don’t recall Gossip Girl or Sex & the City being criticized for their lack of diversity and they’re both set in NYC as well. Criticizing Girls’ lack of diversity is a completely valid criticism; however, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a television problem and not a Girls problem.
At the end of the day, the main reason you should be watching Girls is because it’s hilarious. It’s one of the few shows that makes me laugh out loud every single episode. Love them or hate them, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are completely captivating and I’m counting down the days until season two premieres on January 13th.