There has been a lot of media criticism of Lena Dunham’s GIRLS. There have been pieces on how it is overwhelmingly classist and about privilege, following the “groovy lifestyle” of a 24 year old college graduate in New York City who was financially cut off from her parents. There have been numerous pieces on how it is racist–not showing any friends of color, or hardly any people of color in a show that takes place not only in New York City, but in Brooklyn, New York. There are those who say that GIRLS is exactly like them and their friends. There are those who say that GIRLS is nothing like them and their friends.
Still, in the first episode, Hannah claims that she is a voice of a generation–and due to the massive media critiques and hype over the show, Lena Dunham–intended or not–has also become the voice of a generation, and plenty of people treat her as such.
I am not denying that there are plenty of girls in New York City and Brooklyn who get help with their bills–sometimes too much help–and attend bizarre parties and have drama within their friendship circles. Many times they are competitive, and invest too much of their self-worth in what under mentally developed men in their mid twenties think of them.
However, my girls are not like this–and many others are not. My girls–some that come from privileged backgrounds, and some that do not really are scrappy. Despite the economic climate, many of my girls (myself included) work a variety of jobs, in many cases working far more than the normal 40 hour work week in order to fund what they were passionate about. After nights of waiting tables, days of juggling social media gigs with nannying jobs we use our hard-earned money–that we earn by ourselves–to fund the production of art, writing, activism and music that we want to give to the world. Sometimes between all this, we still even manage to see each other for a cheap beer or two.
In GIRLS, Marnie is painted from the start as the “relationship girl”–perfect, desirable and then crumbles when this falls apart. Hannah is in a classically confusing sex buddy situation that becomes a relationship–and with that, consumes her life, conversations and self-presentation. Jessa is forever sexy and desirable, using it to stoke her confidence and Shoshana is the neurotic virgin, seeing the world almost exclusively from this angle. Real girls aren’t like this. My girls aren’t like this. While we have sex and relationships, and talk about these experiences, we define ourselves and each other based on far more than whom we are sleeping with and whether or not we see ourselves as objects of desire. This is fairly easy, seeing as how casual sex and attempts at dating are something that most of us squeeze into the wee hours of the night, somewhere between making a living and making a contribution to the world.
In GIRLS everyone is so fucking selfish. No one seems to care about actually being there for one another, and no one seems invested in anything other than their own petty and simplistic life’s happenings. There is no discussion of larger themes–or even taking on the world together or being allies. The moments of friendship seem to be no more than going through the motions.
I am not saying that GIRLS is not entertaining or even well-written—everyone’s tastes are different, but I found the first few episodes interesting and even bold (the later episodes are very boring, in my personal opinion). However, many are using this as an opportunity to talk about the millennial plight, lifestyle and how every 20 something aspiring writer or artist is a “daddy’s girl” (not even acknowledging that most of us now come from two income households) who doesn’t know what real work is, only talks about boys and doesn’t know how to confront real problems.
We are scrappy, interesting, multi-faceted and making it work. We work our asses off. We still manage to see our friends–and when we do, we are supportive, loving and excited about each others success. We have sex–but it doesn’t begin to define who we are. We talk about sex–but we also talk about foreign policy, economics, work and how we navigate the world as women. We are the real GIRLS and together, in solidarity–working our asses off through these tough times–we will probably take over the world.