When we first moved into this house, we signed up for a cable/Internet/home phone package that included premium channels because Charter is a maelstrom of bullshit that makes no fucking sense and only makes packages cheaper if they include HBO in conjunction with a home phone, which we never use. It was supposed to be a 6-month thing that Graham keeps talking about cancelling but hasn’t yet, and although I hardly ever watch the premium channels at all, I did get locked in to watching season one of Girls on Saturday.
Even if you don’t have HBO, you’ve heard of Girls. It’s the show written, usually directed/produced, and starred in by Lena Dunham, who I recently learned is the sister of Jeff Dunham, that guy who does the puppets and is terrible but has nothing to do with Girls so let’s not hold that against her. A big deal has been made about Girls because in TV World, it’s super feminist to have a show written by a woman who also stars and sometimes gets basically naked in the same show, even though she’s not a pneumatic female specimen who weighs like 110 pounds and can’t imagine how bacon donuts must taste (I can imagine how bacon donuts must taste, and I think they probably taste like shame, delicious shame).
So everyone has made a big deal about Girls because it’s made by a girl, but really, it’s just a show. It’s not particularly groundbreaking or terrific, although it is good show and it’s nice to be able to watch stories that aren’t about an impossible person pretending to be just like everyone else (can you hear me, Zooey Deschanel?). It would also be nice to be able to have a show like Girls in the world without everyone making a big deal about if a girl can possibly be responsible for such a thing like we’re all chimps who’ve learned to use sticks as eating utensils, but overall, Girls is a decent show. I watched the entire season and didn’t get bored, and although I’m not a superfan, if we have HBO when the second season comes out, I wouldn’t mind watching more episodes.
As I watched Girls, I thought about Sex and the City. Back when Sex and the City came out, it seemed like every woman who saw it could identify with at least one of the characters (“I’m a total Charlotte!”) and was convinced that it was supposed to represent real women. And I guess for some women it did, or else they wouldn’t have identified so strongly with the characters in the first place. And maybe Sex and the City is more of a time capsule now, because I started watching it in maybe 2000 and for a time, it seemed perfectly reasonable to be a columnist in a local weekly and still spend $600 on shoes. Of course, I was 18 and didn’t know any better, but a lot of other people my age and older didn’t, either, and why not be a fiscally irresponsible airhead who dates extremely inappropriate men and doesn’t talk about anything else with her friends? We were all doing that. Of course, we were considerably younger than the characters on the show, but they had great apartments and vague career titles that made a lot of money (explain “PR executive” exactly, please), and that seemed much better than my receptionist job at the Y. Now I look back on Sex and the City and realize how incredibly full of shit it was and how loathsome the characters were even when they were supposed to be the most lovable. So during Girls, I tried to recognize this kind of thing, and tried to imagine myself watching it years from now when nothing about it is relevant to me.
In this way, Girls succeeds. Some characters are lovable, some are terrible, and most are a combination a lot of the time. Two characters share a studio apartment with bad lighting. The lead character, Hannah, is not very thin, and although her weight (revealed during a visit to the gynecologist) is still a lot lower than mine, she has really small boobs and wears clothes that don’t cost a whole month’s rent. Girls isn’t the kind of aspirational show that was easy to get on premium cable in the late ‘90s, it’s a show about how actual girls think, behave, and, usually, fail. Consistently. While I can’t speak for all viewers, do we really need a lesson learned at the end of every show? Nope. I’d rather watch something that tells a story instead of a formula, where the characters keep moving along and doing things rather than magically regenerate at the beginning of each episode. I’d like to think that I’m drawn as much to characters as I am to plot, but I write, too, and I know that stuff has to happen in order to drive the story and its characters forward. I don’t want an epic but I don’t want things to be purely episodic, and I think Girls is good for this kind of thing. I think it’s also good for having characters who aren’t wonderful people, and who have bad personalities and who do bad things. Will it date itself in ten years’ time? Yeah, probably, but much less so than Sex and the City, Friends, and everything else that supposedly represented the mid-20s demographic once.
Girls isn’t a big deal because it’s made by a girl, or because it’s better than the predecessors that aren’t even that similar but for which we have no other basis for comparison. It’s not a big deal at all. It’s a show that some of us like for pretty uncomplicated reasons, and now Robin doesn’t have to comment in all caps at me anymore.