Why Hipsters Love to Hate “Girls”

By Matt Weese on Sep 19, 2013 to Girls

HBO’s Girls, a show about a quartet of twentysomething females of varying backgrounds, attributes and problems, has been a touchstone of rabid criticisms since it first aired. Now approaching its third season (just finished shooting), that criticism is unlikely to abate.

A show that is lacking in ethnic diversity, replete with affluent characters mired in victimhood, and droll relationships to boot, has plenty going against it. However, there’s particular vitriol aimed at it from that segment of the demographic that it’s meant to represent.


Girls is set in Brooklyn, which today is largely populated by so-called hipsters—fashion conscious twentysomethings of varying backgrounds, attributes and problems, all also from largely affluent backgrounds.

Back in 2012, when the Girls first aired, Mother Jones proclaimed that the show would be a hit with hipsters since it was, just like them, “as profoundly bland as it is unstoppably irritating”.

HBO, clearly felt that the irony-loving Millennials would eat up the tropes thrown at them, in moments of self-reflection following bouts of awkward sex and experiments with Class-A narcotics.

However, the show has widely failed with this demographic, despite the fact that comedies which exploit stereotypes are usually a hit with the stereotypes they make fun of.

Gawker, for instance, that paean of twentysomething New Yorkers, largely panned it as a “television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.” 

The problem with this show is that in trying so hard to become the “voice of a generation”, it not only patronizes the Brooklynites it’s trying to portray, but also fails to provide anything aspirational for anyone else.

In the “great recession” when many similarly-aged college graduates struggle with the same employment problems, this show should have been a sure-fire hit. If only the show provided even the smallest ray of hope for the inane characters on display.

Instead, with attempts at portraying such subjects as the absurd banality of sex, the show is permeated with bleakness that makes it almost impossible to watch even ironically.

Shows like Sex and the City, admittedly produced is more affluent times, at least represented both the humour and joy in relationships, as well as lives most hipsters would hope theirs would turn into when they hit their 30s.

But demonstrating the purposelessness of the lives of twentysomethings in the 21st century, with similarly purposeless plotlines, is unlikely to endear the set of characters to anyone.


Strip away the contrived hipster conventions (note the spontaneous street rave that bookends the first season) and the pretense of big-city grit, and you’re left with a show that has all the marketing hype of HBO, but none of the associated creativity.

What do you think?  Are hipsters and Girls a match made in heaven?

Season 3 returns in 2014.  Here’s the first trailer.


  • jrasero

    I agree totally with the article, but I have noticed the people who don’t enjoy the show Girls are mostly male or diverse in ethnicity or not of well off backgrounds.
    For me all of Lena Dunham’s work comes off as pseudo artsy work, with little true meaning for the masses. The Show Girls is defiantly directed at HBO’s subscription base of white and middle to upper class individuals but people like myself Asian and a person that didn’t grow up in a pretentious upper middle class art family, can’t relate. The best way to sum up my feelings for girls is through Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s article:


    The show lacks true diversity but rather the diversity you see when you go to a pricey liberal arts school like Sarah Lawrence, there are a few characters of color and ethnicity but they are from the same over privileged backgrounds that Dunham comes from, so it isn’t just about race but socio-economic backgrounds as well. Jabbar makes a good point that most men love to talk about sex and surly love to engage in it but the characters in girls make men look like A-Sexual in comparison. Does formerly living in the suburbs make you that pent up? But the biggest reason thing I agree with Jabbar is the fact that the characters are too self conscious, cutesy, and just plain not funny.

    Dunham unfortunately has stated that Girls is trying to be the voice of our generation. That would be okay if our generation all came from well off backgrounds, went to liberal arts colleges, talked about and had this much sex, and were all this angtsy and were hipster wannabees

    • I’m from a middle-upper class background & female, and I hate this show. Mostly because I have traveled enough and worked enough on my own to not have my head up my a**.

  • Kassy

    I disagree with david. I definitely see character development. Ive also been up and down with the show but by the end of season 2 im totally in love with the relationships between charlie and marnien and hannah and adam and shoshanna in general and even jessa. The theme itself is not between boys and girls though it is between GIRLS. The romance between marnie, jessa, hannah and shosh is the plot. They love and hate and need each other and are in an ongoing competition of finding themselves and settling down first. Whomever makes it to happiness first wins. The lives of twenty-somethings can be as meaningless as the show appears to be. Bit the meaninglessness of it is as meaningful as it appears to not be. They wander but are not lost though it is not apparent. They feel endlessly lost. Lena dunham even references her hopeless attempt at beig thr voice of our generation (ironically) in episode 1. Shes basically saying “here goes nothin but im giving it a shot! I hope you see a little of you in us!” I agree with mj. Its going over ppls heads that arent artsy. Ps i am not a hipster. Im kinda marnie/shoshanna.

  • I’m a little bit old to be a hipster, although I’m totally too good for everything, so who knows. Honestly though, as uber picky as I am, I can’t see what the fault finders are complaining about with this show. Lena Dunham is absolutely brilliant, the characters are fascinating, the story lines are frighteningly real and the acting is flawless. I think it’s going over some people’s heads. As far as the hipsters go, of course they don’t like it. They don’t like ANYTHING, that’s why they’re hipsters.

  • David Pergolini

    I’ve been up and down with ‘Girls’ ever since it premiered two years ago. One episode would be hilarious and insightful, the next would be a total disappointment. What bothers me so much, and what you pointed out, is that there is no plot to the seasons. Now I don’t want to bash ‘Girls’ for not having flawless characters, thats what makes it interesting, but I will say that there is absolutely no structure to the past 2 seasons, and ZERO character development along the way.

    I’ll still be watching season 3. Great article.

  • The term “hipster” absolutely sickens me. Also, for the record, I’m not even American and I can’t stand Girls. It’s far below HBO’s usual standards and a disservice to the network.

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