I viewed the pilot episode of Girls with completely subjective sensibilities. I literally knew nothing about it. I had seen no preview, viewed no one-sheet, read no review – nothing. And the best way for me to describe how I felt about the pilot was that as soon as it was done, I watched it again.
A breath of fresh air.
You hear that term a lot in the world on pop culture criticism, but that’s exactly what Girls is, especially when you take into context the clichés that muddle practically every other sitcom on television right now.
That first episode of Girls was, to be clear, insightful, probing, jaw-dropping and utterly hilarious. Its razor-sharp cynicism laced with middle-class, twentysomething angst propelled what is (by far) the most accurate conversational dialogue currently on television. The second episode was even better, upping the squirm factor ten-fold, and with gusto. Girls is, in a word, refreshing. But, as I’ve recently discovered, it is also polarizing.
As soon as I finished the pilot for the second time, I got online to see how other people felt about the show. What I found was mostly positive, ecstatic even, but digging deeper, I learned that people not only dislike Girls, they fucking loathe it. Why? At the risk of being presumptuous, I can venture a few guesses.
|Allison Williams, daughter of NBC's Brian Williams,|
is one of the Girls destined to become a star
Girls is real. Like… really real. And, if film box office numbers are any indication as to what audiences like to consume on a massive level, people don’t want real. Shame is real. Trust is real. So is We Need to Talk About Kevin and Another Happy Day and Tyrannosaur and Beginners. But how many people saw those movies? I mean really? Critics and dedicated indie fans, and who else? My point is, real has never equated to good, at least not in the eyes of 90 percent of the people watching television and/or movies.
People want their vampires and wizards and modern families and Aquaman movie stars. They want to watch four women who rule New York City with their fashion, money, and prowess, not four girls who want to rule New York City with their dry humor, awkward sex and lack of funds. The last HBO show that was really real was called The Wire, which is widely considered the best show ever produced for the television medium. But how many people actually watched The Wire live for five consecutive seasons? I didn’t. I heard the hyperbolic hype and jumped on the bandwagon late in the game, only to catch up on DVD later.
So, yes, I think the biggest turnoff for Girls is its dedicated accuracy. While myself and damn near every major critic may eat the show’s poignancy up, most people just don’t want to be reminded that life can, you know, be shitty.
But accuracy is only one of the “problems” here. The other major one, so it seems, is the show’s apparent lack of diversity. I’m not black, and it would be offensively unfair for me to say that the fact that Girls does not contain one black lead doesn’t really matter. All’s I can offer on the issue of race is exactly what Woody Allen offers his naysayers regarding the same exact subject. It appears that creator/director/writer/star Lena Dunham is drawing from her personal experiences, and maybe (and again, I’m being presumptuous here) she didn’t share her struggles before, during, or after college with any people of color.
I equate Girls’ lack of diversity to that of the majority of Woody Allen’s films, and, as Allen told Stig Björkman in the book Woody Allen on Woody Allen, Allen’s films don’t contain many black characters because he writes about rich, over privileged, Jewish, upperclass New Yorkers. This isn’t a fault of Woody Allen’s, nor is it a fault of Lena Dunham’s; they’re writing about what they know. Similarly, Tyler Perry’s movies aren’t bad because they don’t have any white people. Tyler Perry’s movies are bad because they’re bad.
You’ll have to forgive me, this has been as far from a standard review as one can get, but that’s kind of the point. I haven’t even described what Girls is about. How it openly mocks Carrie and Co. and is proudly asserting itself as the anti-Sex and the City. About how Dunham’s main character, Hannah is juggling life in Brooklyn after being abruptly cut off financially by her parents. How Hannah and her smart, or floosy, or wound-tight friends deal with money, sex, and life. Hell, I haven’t even discussed Dunham’s inspirational career. How she graduated from college and financed, wrote, directed and starred in a tiny movie called Tiny Furniture that made a splash at the festival circuit before nabbing an Indie Spirit Award and being released commercially by The Criterion Collection.
|Girls creator/writer/director/star Lena Dunham|
I haven’t even gotten into the fact that, at the ripe old age of 25, Lena Dunham has done more for herself based on a flawless work ethic than most people do in their entire artistic careers. In the opening episode of Girls, Hannah tells her parents that she thinks she could be one of the voices of her generation. That may seem like self-congratulatory praise to haters, sure, but that’s exactly what Dunham herself is: a unique voice.
Make no mistake, watching Girls is like watching a History Channel miniseries 20 years from now that’s dedicated to examining the emotional, cultural, and physical effect of America’s current fuckups on contemporary youths. There’s nothing soft or flimsy about Girls – the show is exactly what it aims to be: raw, brutal and sparsely tender.
Girls is realer than reality TV. It’s also the best show on television. My only hope is that HBO has the stones to allow Dunham to tell the stories she wants to tell, for as many seasons as she wants to tell them. It’d be a goddamn shame for this show to go away simply because people aren’t ready for it.