When Girls first debuted on HBO, I wrote a short review of the first three episodes, saying that I liked the show, despite some of its flaws. A quick paragraph to sum up what I appreciated about the show created and directed by Lena Dunham:
The girls of Girls feel three-dimensional enough that you begin to care about them by episode 3, though you’ll mostly consider whether or not you’d actually want to know any of them. This alone makes the show feel more realistic than others that fancify the young, broke and fabulous lifestyle of living in New York City. Instead of conversations in shoe stores and hot spots, the women are in their apartments, the waiting room at an STD clinic or on park benches. Technology is a big part of their lives, but not to the point that watching them text or use a computer is uninteresting. In fact it’s their conversations that are the big draw, mostly in the way they speak to each other and about the topic at hand. Each of the women have as many unlikable qualities as they do likable. Each have their own motivations that aren’t dictated solely by men.
Since then, we haven’t really written much about the show on AfterEllen.com, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t watching it. In fact, a group email thread this week that turned into a heated debate over the show indicated we’d almost all watched it at least once and had strong opinions on it, which seems to echo the rest of the television-watching American public. Lena Dunham’s show has become polarizing to some, inspirational to others. What we all could agree on was that it was, at the very least, starting conversations about what TV should be or do, and why Lena Dunham was the one that was supposed to be making sure these things happened.
If you haven’t watched the show or have ignored everything you’ve seen about it on the internet in the last two years, here is what you need to know: Lena Dunham’s parents are well known a well-known photographer and painter. Before HBO bought Girls from her, Lena had written, directed and starred in her own indie film called Tiny Furniture. The other major women in the show are three white actresses (Alison Williams, Zosia Mamet and Jemima Kirke) that also have relatively famous parents. This is either important or irrelevant, depending on who you are. The show has been critically successful but has also gotten a lot of flack for lacking in diversity. In Season 2, Donald Glover (Community) guest starred as Hannah’s love interest, but some critics thought it was too much of an obvious coup, and he only showed up for a few episodes.
So these are all the feelings we have. Surely have these feelings, too. So let’s get into it: Gay Girls Feelings on Girls.
Grace Chu: I watched one episode, and it made me feel ashamed I live in NYC. #truth. Words cannot describe just how much I hated that experience. #sorryimnotsorry
Marcie Bianco: No, it’s the best show on television!
Grace Chu: Fine. I will rephrase my statement. Lena Dunham is a talented triple threat (writer, director, actor) who deserves all the awards she gets, but watching Girls makes me want to projectile vomit.
Punky Starshine: I’m with Grace on this one. Well-written in that the characters and situations are realistic (I have literally fallen asleep on the F train and ended up on Coney Island — but I held onto my purse), but it makes me irate because Hannah is the exact type of person I avoid at all costs.
Dara Nai: I’m with Chu. I don’t get why everyone is creaming over Girls. The characters are insufferable, self-involved and entitled. If I want to watch 20-somethings like that, I’ll go to the abbey. Is it possible that people are confusing their enthusiasm for Lena Dunham with the actual episodes? ‘Cuz i’ve seen a few and they annoy the shit outta me.
Marcie Bianco: I’ve seen them all multiple times and I just wrote about Girls over at VP. I think the show’s brilliant because there is no teleology, no morality, no endgame. we’re getting exposure of a particular Gen Millen culture without the judgement (except that, as Dunham knows, we as humans always judge, hence our frustration with the characters etc etc).
Grace Chu: When I watch television, I want to be entertained. And I find no entertainment value in paying a monthly fee to Time Warner to let the same types of insufferable people into the sanctity of my living room that i kicked out of my life 10 years ago. Yes, people like that do exist. Scary!
Emily Hartl: My opinion is that it’s one of the rawest and most honest depiction of girls of today in their mid-20s. Really really and truly. I could understand not relating to the characters on a personal level but the writing and storyline is superb. I, myself, didn’t love Tiny Furniture, but it was the rough draft of the brilliance and honesty of Girls.
Jill Guccini: OMG, the Girls fight has escalated from Twitter to my Gmail! Holy crap! (But I kind of love it because I feel like it’s a fascinating fight.) OK, here’s the thing: when you say “it’s one of the rawest and most honest depiction of girls of today,” that might be true, IF, you add “WHITE AND ENTITLED GIRLS” into that sentence. Then, fine, whatever, go for it! But the very idea that it’s representative of all girls in their 20s (as the title itself implies) is so offensive. Right? And I understand just writing your own experience; everyone has the right to express their experience in art, and clearly, many many people have related with it, in a way they haven’t seen on TV before, so, great. But Lena has responded with every criticism about it as like, “Eh, whatever, why you so mad?” As a (white) woman of power, you have a responsibility to at least own up to your flaws, and try to make things better on TV. (Not that that’s your only responsibility, but I really think it IS.) It’s not truly representative of girls, and it’s not truly representative of NYC. If you own up to the truth of that, then go for it, but I feel like Dunahm has never owned up to it.
Heather Hogan: I dunno, though. Dunham has never said that the show is representative of all girls everywhere, and, in fact, the show responded to the criticism about race — which Dunham has admitted is a valid concern — in a very meta way this season with Donald Glover. I think women have been so underrepresented on TV for so long that when a show about women, written by women, performed by women, produced by women, edited by women, and directed by women comes along and doesn’t resonate with our own life experiences, we have a tendency to get incandescent with rage. Like, where are the dudes going, “God, I just cannot watch these unlikable assholes on my TV! Get out of here, Don Draper and Walter White and Dexter and Jack Bauer and Tony Soprano and Nucky Thompson!” Those guys are golden age antiheroes and they don’t have to be likeable or fuckable or representative of all men everywhere. How come Girls has to be those things?
Trish Bendix: The L Word is to lesbians is what Girls is to a specific generation of young women. L Word Fans: “We don’t have enough women of color on this show” vs. Girls Fans: “We don’t have enough women of color on this show.” Ilene: “There will be more, give us time.” vs. Lena: “There will be more, give us time.” “Where the butch/bi/poly/not-LA-attractive/real lesbians?” vs. Every other complaint about anything Girls does not have outside of white women.
I can’t even imagine writing a show for lesbians or for girls and having people be happy about it. I could do my best trying to write about multicultural experiences, but I’d probably fail miserably. Do I want to see more versatility? Yes. I’ve been bugging Lena about having a lesbian since I heard about this show, but eventually I just stopped and decided to enjoy it for what it is.
Heather Hogan: I think that’s the exact thing, Trish: Learning to be content with a woman’s artistic expression without becoming complacent about the representative needs of women as a whole. It seems like an impossible task. But I that’s what AfterEllen.com is for.