A week or two a girl I shot an email off to the Colin McEnroe Show saying they should do an all-girls “Girls” edition of The Nose. Instead, they just did a regular show about “Girls” and were kind enough to invite me. We covered a lot of ground but we were all still bursting at the seams when the show ended. And since I invited the Asian Persuasion and Dr. Gold over for a cram session yesterday, I’ve got so much more to say. So, I’m going to…
So, let’s get this clear: This show is not the voice of a generation, it’s the voice of a very privileged subset of a generation. And another thing: I admire this show, though I’m not sure I like it. I feel, to some degree, the same way I feel about Jack Kerouac. I get why he’s important, but I don’t like On the Road. I admire Lena Dunham and what she’s done. The show is funny, and smart, and fresh. Part of what’s so fresh about the show, though, is that so many of its characters are unlikable, annoying, grating, reckless…I could go on and on. But Dunham has managed to make less than likable characters that we still want to check in on from time to time.
Yes, it confronts a lot of issues that women — especially young women — can relate to. HPV. Unwanted pregnancies. Shitty boyfriends. Money problems. The best way to shave your legs while sitting in a tub with your friends and eating a cupcake.
We should all relate to these characters, right? But there’s a class issue at work here, because these characters deal with all of this with a safety net — something that gets addressed in the later episodes of Season 2. Even though Hannah’s parents have stopped supporting her financially, they are clearly the kinds of parents that will always be there to help her when the chips are really down (even if that means just getting her to a doctor when her OCD resurfaces).
Hannah and Marnie (I think this is less true for Jessa and Shoshannah) are trying to “find” themselves — which for me is probably the most annoying part. Is there any problem more first-world than having to “find yourself?” Actually, it’s not even a first-world problem, it’s a 1% problem, because the only people who get to adulthood without already knowing who they are, are the people who never had to.
What do I mean by that? Well, let’s look at Hannah and Marnie. Marnie is from Montclair, NJ — famous for being a posh NYC suburb that is home to lots of rich people. Hannah is the Michigan-bred only-daughter of two professors. They met at Oberlin College, which is kind of like the Wesleyan of the midwest. It’s where artsy-fartsy types go to spend a lot of money on tuition. They clearly didn’t have to work their way through school, or worry about paying back student loans. So what, exactly, were they doing with their spare time if not figuring out who they are and what they want out of life?
The thing about being poor, or living in a dangerous neighborhood, or having crazy parents is that it forces you to figure all that crap out pretty early. Take Jessa (one of the other girls on “Girls”) for example… She’s flaky, and impetuous, and irresponsible. But she’s not flailing around trying to make her way — that’s just who she is. And why does she know that? Because she had crazy, hippie parents who weren’t always there when she needed them and a problem with heroin that landed her in rehab. She may not be the healthiest person, but she’s OK with it — and more importantly, she isn’t endlessly analyzing it.
I think part of the reason that the Hannah character comes across as the least likable of all, is her helplessness. She’s a 25-year-old woman who doesn’t seem to know how to take care of herself. She practically an infant. She’s like your grandmother who can’t pump her own gas and doesn’t know how to write a check. (Hannah actually doesn’t know how to write a check.) This is a show about growing up… but Hannah is way behind. I’m hoping that by the end of Season 3, Hannah figures out how to write a check properly. It will be a great leap forward.