It seemed like an old take on generic déjà-vu: a handful of young women navigating New York, sleeping their way to self-awareness. I had heard its name tossed around, with disheartening references to Sex and the City, and the so-called death of feminism. But I got more than I bargained for when I sat down to watch Girls for the first time. The most relevant and best written television I have seen since Enlightened ended its inaugural run in December, Girls has a distinct voice that is externalizing many current issues affecting the modern youth. Creator, head writer and all around wunderkind Lena Dunham has created something unique that stands on its own, taller than its peers. And if you don’t know by now, its kind of a big deal.
Aside from its quick-whipped pop-cultural references and subjective insights into the mind and heart of today’s young woman, Girls has successfully pushed many generational issues to the forefront. Being part of the Y Gen, its pretty obvious to me that the rest of society thinks of us as a bunch of lazy, spoiled hipsters. This notion of misguided youth takes centre stage in Dunham’s self-deprecating world. There is a longing in Girls of a desperation to make something of yourself, and the deflating pressure that comes when it doesn’t happen. Romantic and professional dejection are abundant in the show; but its not necessarily the context that is so relevant, rather the way it is presented with such casual ease. Whereas Sex and the City is escapist and frivolous, Girls is realistic and sardonic, using its reach to not only entertain, but to illicit understanding for a generation constantly misunderstood.
Dunham has weaved many themes into her debut season. Sense of entitlement, disconnection and disappointment are the bread and butter here. It is these ideas that take Girls from being a mediocre drama about the insecurities of post-collegiate life to a smart and topical comedy focused on the self-indulgent plight of Y. No show has come so close to personifying the discouragement and anxiety of the contemporary twenty-something.
Handling preconceptions of image and self-worth expertly, Girls portrays women with a different kind of beauty compared to most other leading ladies on television. Even though all of the characters are attractive, they represent a mould of less-obvious beauty that is refreshing to see in this overly-exposed TV era of pubescent girls with perfectly coiffed hair digging up graves. While many critics have claimed that the show promotes the demise of feminism, I feel that this is the punch-line of Dunham’s joke. She is presenting a world where women are victimized, but not by men. They are victims of themselves and society, which is far more interesting. And despite their often demeaning sexual escapades, these characters are in charge of their sexuality, warts and all. Its far more empowering than Sex and the City, because its real. Sex is usually romanticized, even glorified, in its depiction in the media. But the reality of life is far different. Sex can be awkward, and degrading, and unsatisfying.
In one of her most endeared phrases, Dunham’s alter ego Hannah tells her parents: “I believe that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice, of a generation.” This sentence encapsulates everything that Girls is about. Fine-tuned, poignant and rife with self-disparagement, its more of a disillusioned quest for self-fulfillment down Brooklyn’s grimy sidewalks than a trip to Carrie Bradshaw’s glamorous penthouse in Manhattan. Brimming with razor-sharp commentary and acute observations, Girls embodies the predicament of being in your twenties without the road map.
Currently filming its sophomore season in New York, the future of HBO’s newest darling burns brighter than ever. And while Hannah may not be the voice of her generation, it seems that Lena Dunham could very well be.