Girls

When I first read about Girls, I was suspicious. The women’s studies part of my brain was all “do privileged white girls really need another ‘voice’ in popular culture, especially TV?” and “why is it called Girls, anyway? Aren’t these women, after all?”

When I actually watched the show, my first question remained but the second diminished as I realized these are not adults and neither was I when I was twenty-four, no matter how much I thought I was. That is not to say that I find the show “representative” or “relatable,” which are some of the adjectives the critics are throwing around, in addition to the “voice” thing. I’m not saying it couldn’t be those things, but it is most decidedly not those things for me. Once I got past the notion that I was supposed to find Girls significant, profoundly representative of a certain type of person in a certain type of moment, and so clever, I actually started to like it. None of the characters are likable to me, but I am starting to like Marnie anyway. This is not surprising. It doesn’t usually take me this long to latch on to the female character who is uptight and emotionally awkward, but I’ve finally found her. It doesn’t hurt that Allison Williams is just beautiful. I realize that my pointing this out and using this photo from GQ is pretty much antithetical to the one Girls goal I can identify and support, but I’m a sucker for a pretty woman.

For me, Girls is a lot like Weeds. It feels irreverent and totally divorced from reality and consequences, and that’s OK, even nice. I’m not complaining. There is a moment, at the beginning of the second season of Felicity, when Felicity and her friend Julie are having a fight in front of strangers on the subway. They have what the internet would surely call “white people problems.” Felicity hooked up with Julie’s ex-boyfriend, and then Julie wrote a song about how horrible Felicity is and sang it (acoustically, of course) at their favorite bar. After enduring Felicity and Julie’s bickering for as long as he can, a black man sitting near them tells them to shut up because they don’t have real problems. He tells them about how he has a job and still doesn’t have enough money to feed his family. His is a tale of real life, and I get that no one (including me) wants that guy—that “voice”—on their TV shows all the time, at least not their white girl shows like Felicity. It disrupts the flow and makes Felicity look small-minded and selfish, which are things she isn’t. She’s just a twenty-year-old kid who gets wrapped up in her problems, and since she doesn’t have to worry about having enough money to eat, she worries about a song her friend Julie wrote about her.

Girls is really nothing like Felicity; I just happen to be watching them at the same time. The latter has a glossier, WB (now The CW) presentation. I suppose I should also mention that Girls is nothing like Weeds, either. Stylistically, Weeds is much more controlled. I always feel like Jenji Kohan has a grand plan that will be realized no matter what, and sometimes, especially lately, that makes me feel a bit like a pawn. So far, Girls doesn’t give off the impression that Lena Dunham has some grand plan at all, let alone that it matters more than anything else. That focus on the individual episodic moments is one of Girls‘ major strengths and in that way, it is indeed reflective of that certain age it wants so badly to reflect.

Furthermore, despite my not being able to identify with the characters and their situations, I do identify with the presentation style of Girls. It looks like real life. The female characters have real bodies. Sometimes a shirt kind of rides up on the side during a heated exchange, and that kind of stuff doesn’t get edited out. It may seem like a small aspect, but in the world of television, letting a show look like real life is a bold decision, especially when it involves women.

The first season of Girls is just eight episodes in, and all this could change. It’s hard for me to write about a thing when I’m still in it because I like to be able to look back at it as a whole and examine its cultural context. Television isn’t meant to be consumed that way, at least not only that way. Or at least it wasn’t originally meant to be. I think that may be changing. I have some fledgling thoughts about the way TV gets consumed these days because I just watched the entire seventh season of Weeds in a week and a half, and I can’t imagine enjoying it any other way. That could be specific to Weeds, though, because a lot of its charm is wearing thin and I watch it now more out of loyalty and the convenience of my friend’s Showtime OnDemand than anything else. I’m watching Girls more or less as it airs because some of my friends are interested in it, and I want to be able to talk to them about it, even though I don’t really have much to say about it. At this point, I do like it, but more than that, I am interested in it, too. I feel like I can tell what it’s trying to do and I like it in spite of that.