Girls is painfully realistic
At this year’s SXSW festival I had the privilege of seeing the world première of the highly anticipated HBO series Girls . Attendees were treated to appearances from executive producer Judd Apatow and 26-year-old actor-writer-director Lena Dunham followed by a screening of the first three episodes of the show. The comedy series officially premièred on April 15 and already Girls is receiving glowing reviews. Many are even calling it “the voice of a generation.” It may seem like everyone is freaking out about the series but you’ll likely jump right on board with everyone else once you see it.
Set in New York City the half-hour series follows a group of four 20-something girls stumbling through post-college purgatory. Dunham’s character Hannah believes she has what it takes to become an accomplished writer and is planning to write her memoir (which she has yet to live) when her parents unexpectedly cut her off financially. Pairing the looming reality of rent and bills with the plight of self-discovery Lena paints a picture of the big city bachelorette lifestyle that is far less glamorous than Sex and the City and far more real.
Painfully embarrassing and brutally authentic many scenes in the series are unwatchable — in the best possible way. From irredeemable social slip-ups to agonizingly awkward sex Dunham makes her audience squirm. It’s not only uncomfortable because the situations Hannah finds herself in are so damn humiliating but it’s especially uncomfortable because we can all in some way relate. If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in your early 20s Girls is here to remind you.
Dunham seems to know no boundaries when it comes to self-deprecation. Introducing us to graceless girl slackerdom in her award-winning 2010 film Tiny Furniture Lena boldly revealed a raw unapologetic look at the life of an art college grad floundering in the harsh reality of quasi-adulthood. If this sounds a bit like Girls you’re spot on: the show very much feels like an extension of her film. Though Dunham recycles a handful of the same cast members Girls has quite a different feel particularly because it is much less disheartening than Tiny Furniture . Still the series manages to balance out the laughs of Hannah’s comedy of errors by tactfully touching on issues that are very real to young women in their early 20s — within the first three episodes Girls tackles infidelity sexuality abortion and STIs. There are no Degrassi lessons to be learned here however just the humbling admission and acceptance that these are the mistakes girls make.
A show about girls taking on the big city depicted with honesty is long overdue. Girls explicitly references The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Sex and the City and intentionally undermines their laughable portrayal of city girls. Dunham’s show has garnered much attention for good reason: it is unabashedly sincere and refreshingly real making it undeniably unique. The show is so cleverly written that it is easy to forget that Dunham is only 26. That said it quickly becomes evident that a series like Girls could only be written authentically by someone still in their 20s.
Brace yourselves for Dunham’s awkward masterpiece. Girls is truly unlike any series I’ve seen before and it lives up to the hype. Let’s hope HBO is smart enough to keep this discomfiting gem on the air.