Television networks are a lot like confused teenagers. Entirely self-sabotaging. The much-anticipated series premiere of indie-wunderkind Lena Dunham’s HBO series, Girls, is the perfect example of this suicidal tendency. For at least a month, clips, teaser trailers, posters and interviews have infested our television, computer, smart-phone and iPad screens. Clips that were absolutely effective in making me want to capture the DeLorean and fast-forward to last night’s premiere.
When a show like this, one destined for cult status, is over-hyped as extensively as this, there is only one direction it can go, and unfortunately, it’s a sharp plummet to basement level. Add to that the flash-before-your-eyes thirty minute timeframe, and in all likelihood, this exciting premiere will feel more like a syndicated repeat, with the majority of LOL moments having already been previewed in commercials or online. That being said, I love Lena Dunham (as you have likely already gathered from “A Love Letter to Lena Dunham”) and in Girls, she has found a voice that is, as her character Hannah puts it, “… a voice. Of a generation.”
Like in her triumphant indie flick Tiny Furniture, perennial over-achiever Dunham writes, directs and stars in the series. The show opens up on her character, Hannah, furiously munching on a plate of noodles, across from her mother and father. It’s not long before the bomb drops, and we, the audience, are let in on what will be the underlying theme of the entire series. Her parental units decision to cut off her financial support in hopes of giving her “one final push.”
“We can’t keep supporting your groovy lifestyle,” declares her over-eager mother as she seemingly basks in the glory of letting her only child loose.
Hannah is quick to come back with a series of quotable retorts, a favorite of which was this gem: “My friend Sophie. Her parents don’t support her. Last Summer she had two abortions. No one came with her.” Someone please remind me to try that one in my next life.
The most important element of a series premiere is to introduce the cast of characters the audience is expected to come to know and love. First up: Hannah’s perpetually charming and strikingly attractive roommate Marnie Michaels, played by the surprisingly cheeky and dry Allison Williams (daughter of the man with the smile at the top of the rock, Brian Williams). We first meet Marnie in the midst of an intimate (and all too familiar) spoon-sesh with Hannah, awaking from a Mary Tyler Moore Show induced slumber. Though seemingly picture perfect, Marnie harbors an unfortunate hatred for her doting boyfriend and highly coveted gallery job. It’s evident early on that Marnie is the proverbial “heart and soul” of this band of merry women.
Next up: Jessa, played by Tiny Furniture co-star Jemima Kirke, the breezy, blonde British beauty that is destined to be the fodder of street style bloggers for months to come. Fresh off the boat from France, after a series of world-travelling adventures, Jessa is one of those girls we all love to hate. Effortlessly cool, exotically accented (well, British) and seemingly able to handle the “fly by the seat of your pants” lifestyle we all secretly envy.
While in New York, Jessa is shacking up with her over-zealous, shockingly bubbly and Sex and the City obsessed younger cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) in her Chinatown “Bachelorette Pad”. For those of us who recall Mamet from her too-cool-for-school role as the token lesbian of Mad Men’s foray into the beat generation, Shoshanna is an impressive departure. However, I fear her character’s high pitched voice, and overly excitable nature may be a bit much for my tortured soul to handle. Here’s hoping she’s got some great one-liners in the works for upcoming episodes.
Considering the fact that Hannah and Marnie’s apartment is a mere block and a half from my own humble abode, and my own personal cast of girlfriends bears an uncanny resemblance to these gals, it’s surprising (and equally unsettling) that the most uncomfortably relatable aspect of the show is Dunham’s pitch-perfect depictions of the male-female dynamic. It’s as though she has reached into the crevices of my “Dear Diary” Google Doc and re-enacted the trials and tribulations of every interaction I’ve had with the opposite sex. If I could count the number of times I’ve heard the, “He’s so good to me. I hate him because he’s just so fucking good to me!” story, or experienced the “Why doesn’t he text me back, we had sex yesterday!” scenario, well… nothing would really happen. But it does make this show cringe-inducingly relatable. And those cringes are ones of absolute joy.
From the depths of the influx of reviews that have circulated the web today, there is one theme that repeats itself over and over, and appears to be the crux of those who love and those who loathe. That crux is the existential crisis of the privileged white girl. Sure, Hannah is undoubtedly a spoiled brat who in no way foresaw the end of her free pass. And yes, it may not be the most attractive quality in a person. But here’s the thing kids; in no way does Dunham attempt to mask that element of her character’s up-bringing. In fact, that quirk, you might say, is the quality which makes her inevitable trials and tribulations all the more entertaining.
I am in no way an over-privileged brat, but I am not ashamed to admit that I have been lucky enough in my life to have parents who were able to support me while I tried to, “Find myself”. Do I wish I had struggled, surviving on ramen noodles while living on a futon and working six jobs? NO! Do I have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do manage to survive entirely hand-out free? Abso-fucking-lutely. And did this temporary hand-out in anyway stop me from working my ass off in order to get whereever it is you might say I am now? HELL TO THE NO. People need to get the sticks out of their respective asses and learn to take things a little less seriously. As our Managing Editor Kat George questioned this morning over our daily gchat session: “What, should every show be about socio-economic sturggle? Hell no! Some shows should be about white girl problems. Did anyone get there knickers in a knot over Friends?”
In short, the first episode of Girls is exactly as advertised. It’s a funny, poignant and unbearably relatable show, featuring women (sorry, girls) going through the same issues, navigating the same adventures and mishaps (especially the sexual ones) as their audience. With enough opium-infused parental visits, uncomfortably silent sexual escapades and “White girl problems” to keep me fully awake as I watched from my laptop this morning, this show is undoubtedly worth a second look. For those of you willing to listen to the plight of the Brooklyn-dwelling creative souls of Lena Dunham’s world, you’ll be happy to find a quippy, sarcastic and undeniably amusing way to take up 30 minutes of your week for at least ten more. And that, my friends, is perfectly alright with me.