It’s time for a completely unsurprising confession: I love Girls. Lena Dunham’s Girls, that is. The highly polarizing HBO comedy has made a fan out of me, despite instigating hatred in many others. And instigated, has it ever. Scores of articles are published on a daily basis lamenting Dunham and her cohorts for being too privileged, too naked, too whiny.
Yet for every hater among us lives a girl who sees a sliver of herself in the characters of this awkward group of Brooklynites. There’s free spirit Jessa, quirky Hannah, uptight Marnie, and the oddly relatable and undersexed Shoshanna. And it reminds me of something…
A teenager raised with the spoils of premium cable, I lapped up Sex and the City voraciously, albeit age inappropriately. I learned about waxing from Samantha, read Vogue along with Carrie, fought the feminism fight with Miranda, and even dreamed about Mr. Right with Charlotte. Yet when Carrie et al. said their final goodbye, so did I, closing the book on the big city lifestyle I knew even then was unattainable.
And then I went to college. In between classes, girls would stay home and marathon the show in syndication. They bought the DVDs. They had theme parties. They went on tours of New York. But most notably, they identified themselves by how they related to the show.
Sexually adventurous and outspoken? You’re a total Samantha. The best-dressed articulate friend? Carrie, to a T. Prudish? Charlotte. Duh. I was once reluctantly pegged as 75 percent Miranda, with a touch of Carrie and a dash of Madga. The maid. Clearly I wasn’t winning this game.
Yet women were making relationship decisions based on the age-old WWCD, mentality. What would Carrie do? She’d do nothing. She’s fictional.
Conveniently also a property of the Home Box Office, Girls is giving women a whole new set of archetypes in which to fit their personalities — grungier, more spendthrift archetypes. I’ll put it this way: If Sex and the City represents the glitz and glamour of being a single woman in the city, Girls is the hair you pull from the drain after one too many updos. Or at the very least, the mascara under your eyes after a long night out.
Dunham’s Hannah Horvath is awkward. She possesses a more typical body type, and she most certainly isn’t afraid to show it on screen. Sure, she gets financial support from her parents, and doesn’t take kindly to having it relinquished, but she lives in a totally feasible apartment in a neighborhood not inhabited solely by socialites. She wears normal, even dumpy, clothes. She wore a sleeping bag and a mesh muscle tank all in a two-week span for god’s sake.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the show. Though free-spirited, self-centered Jessa is a jetsetter without a care in the world who marries an investment banker after denying him a threesome. Marnie is uptight and unlovable, even when she’s completely down. Shoshanna, the JAP virgin, oddly becomes the most relatable, even when she sexts via emoji and oogles her Sex and the City poster. The irony’s not lost there. And Hannah's proclamation that she's the voice of her generation is enough to make this writer gag at times.
Regardless of the often cringe-tastic nature of the Judd Apatow-produced comedy, there’s something real about the way these women live. And if a college student five years from now purges the DVDs and decides she wants to have a gay roommate and wear Urban Outfitters clearance rack fare, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
In fact, I think Carrie would be proud. It’s not responsible to go into debt to support a shoe habit. At least Hannah spends her money on cupcakes.