It’s impossible not to hear about, almost on a daily basis. The encapsulation of “our generation,” perpetuated by a liberal arts graduate who grew up in an elite area of New York City, complete with parents who both have Wikipedia pages.* How the series “speaks” to us, regardless of gender. How its brash depiction of “the struggle” represents something of a higher calling--a fearless introspection into the fact that this is the world we live in, and it may not be the one we imagined growing up. Delusions of grandeur still intact, further deluded through questionable senses of entitlement, deep-seated insecurities, and that under-the-surface feeling of always being trapped, or people not totally “getting” us. First World Problems yes, but also a definition that’s purposely laced superficially--perhaps to lessen the blow of our alternate reality--the one we never necessarily imagined, where we may have to--gasp--compromise. Or "settle". Or be something other than hugely successful for simply being interesting.
*note. one of them has been deleted.
Those statements--many of them laced with bullshit for the sake of trying to do something greater--is what I’ve always felt Lena Dunham’s show has been all about. Why it’s been so successful, and why it’s been so...reviled might not be the right word here, but we’ll take it and run with it. Or “make it up as we go.” Or some other tweetable catch-phrase that makes it seem like every single one of use isn’t not scrutinizing every word out of our mouth to the point of neurotic obsession. Needing to be recognized and praised for our strengths as much as our flaws. It’s an exhausting shtick, but it’s what we’ve all become, in one way or another. “Girls” does it too well sometimes. And for that reason, it’s a show that’s easily infuriating.
You--person who is still reading this, maybe even drinking its self-deprecating kool-aid--probably already know this. And even if you don’t think “Girls” represents the "voice of our generation" (personally, I do not, and wholeheartedly agree with Andy Moore that for Bros especially, that show is ‘Workaholics’) its presence at this point difficult to ignore.
Maybe its the fact that 60% of the audience is male, but for me, ‘Girls’ appears to be a strange derivation of ‘The Friend that Nobody Likes.’ If you care about this whole defining a generation shit, 'Girls' the friend in this convo who you have to hang out with even though there are times when you completely can't stand him (her). 'Girls' is the roommate who doesn’t clean the dishes. Everyone wants to kill him half the time, but for some reason you all keep him around. Yes, to shit on him, but deep down you know that as much as you hate to say it, he does bring something to the table that the group would otherwise be hugely missing.
That said, here’s some important things to keep in mind when watching ‘Girls:’
1. All the Characters are Pretty Much Terrible People (But We Might Be Too)
There is a scene in the first season where Hannah (Lena Dunham’s character), laments over the success of a college writing competitor, who apparently only has a book deal due the fact that she got to write about the death of her self-destructive boyfriend. Hannah, bitter and jealous, notes that if only she’d be so lucky to have a boyfriend that killed himself. Then she’d be like a successful writer, and have twitter followers.
Most of the characters have moments like this one, where a desire to be somebody that matters seems to trump all else. It’s supposed to come off as beyond despicable--at least I think it's supposed to--so it’s impossible, as a human being, not to react to shit like this and hate everything. Maybe that hatred is directed towards Hannah, but maybe it's sorta towards yourself for seeing how that’s actually not too far off. Either way though, it's a feeling that's a lot like that move Gyrados always had.
(Rage. It's rage.)
2. The Guys Aren't Completely Real
Wrote about this recently, but if this is a blog and blogs are supposed to nitpick things to the point of exhaustion, the guy characters--particularly Adam, Lena’s main squeeze--isn’t so much an actual guy as he is a projection of an unfulfillable ideal, and one that’s basically there to represent something that can never be attained by either party. Also, if you find someone who’s half primal, is a woodworker/theatre actor/philosopher, and also masturbates in front of girls he is hooking up with, you are clearly looking too hard.
The other two main male characters, Ray and Charlie, are a bit more “believable.” Ray's infatuation with supreme leader of the sushi 12 Shoshanna doesn’t seem to make sense, but that’s probably the whole point--the opposites attract thing, each party breaking down the other in ways previously thought impossible. As for Charlie, a lot of guys who date girls a few rungs up are nice-guy pushovers. There's certainly more complexity there then just that, but that definitely seems to be the main point of him.
Is not America. Gentrified Brooklyn, particularly.
Like a lot of things in the so-called “creative” world, issues and themes seem to revolve around a select few places, where a select few people have even fewer and more select opportunities. ‘Girls,’ being inherently about this self-important struggle, then inherently becomes about what it’s like to live in New York--a place where people only go to because their overaggressive ego lands them there. So the exaggerated culture, the who the fuck lives like that moments, the and universally oddly artsyish societal practices naturally come built-in. It's a relfexive, unavoidable thing, but it's definitely one that's angersome.
4. Does The Series Actually Embody Our Generation?
Do all of us actually want to become rich and famous and powerful and hilarious for simply being ourselves? Do we all really need to do something that is “fulfilling?”
“Workaholics” doesn’t think so. Though to be fair, “How to Make it In America” (ft. Kid Cudi) definitely did.
So we can conclude that the mindset is definitely pretty prevalent, but definitely not a universal one--and by fish-netting it as a scripture everyone worships, it becomes sort of this somewhat repulsive self-fulfilling prophecy. That those sacking it up to live outside the 9-5 have "failed," or that they're somehow lesser individuals with no purpose for living. This is a mindset that’s at the very least narcissistic, and at the the very most straight ignorant. Lena Dunham has noted that the show isn't supposed to be for everyone, so this point is probably moot. But it keeps getting brought up, so yea.
Point is, this is a show that says stuff. And like anyone else you’ve ever talked to, there’s only so many times you can tolerate listening to someone ramble on about how their day was--how their boss is a terrible person, or how exaggeratedly difficult and important their job is. 'Girls' talks, and we've been listening. So maybe we need to remember that although we certainly should, we don't always have to. Because if 'Girls' gets anything right, it’s that as much as we want to be embraced for our flaws, none of us really are. Nor do we really deserve to be.
Promote Infuriating Self-Importance, and Follow Robb on Twitter