In the pilot of Girls, HBO’s acclaimed new series, protagonist Hannah rushes to her parents’ hotel in the middle of the night. She’s mildly hysterical and wholly inebriated after drinking a cup of opium tea; a legal high which tastes like twigs, by the way.
Hannah’s parents have decided to cut her off financially, and in her intoxicated state she attempts to dissuade them by revealing the first draft of her memoirs, which she believes will be the first step into a prolific literary career. “I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a generation”, she says.
And the critics agree. As soon as the one minute promos were released, Girls was already being hailed as a pivotal conclusion to our twenty-something woes, told with remodelled Woody Allen neurosis. This 30 minute programme would be the definitive cultural and social analysis of a time when young women are caught in a beclouded daze of sexual liberation and post-post modern feminism – whatever that is.
Girls was created by the prodigious Lena Dunham who writes, directs, produces and stars in each episode as the aforementioned Hannah. At just 25-years-old Dunham’s uninhibited and culturally prophetic insights were first noticed via a Youtube video in which she strips naked and climbs into a public fountain. She went on to astound audiences with her short-film Tiny Furniture which won best narrative feature at South by Southwest and best first screenplay at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards.
It goes without saying that every female fronted television show will inevitably linger in the shadow of Sex and the City, none more so than Girls with its seminal-moment hype and voice-of-a-generation status. Dunham astutely anticipated the comparison and embraces her predecessor, even throwing a witty reference in the pilot.
Admittedly, Girls is kind of like Sex and the City; if the gang moved to Brooklyn, got rougher round the edges, were made redundant and if the lights blew out and the set fell down around them. But despite being less glamorous, Girls is more accessible because it’s not patronising. It’s honest and awkward, frankly bleak and authentically clever. Frank Bruni, in the New York Times, called it “Sex and the City in a charcoal gray Salvation Army overcoat.”
Girls also tackles the Carrie Bradshaw attitude towards sex, which is as casual, as meaningless and as depersonalised as possible without being physically absent from the act. Dunham undermines this fantasy with candour and sincerity; her characters struggle with idea of casual sex, feeling vulnerable and out of control.
There are certain cosmetic problems with Girls, for instance, the characters aren’t that likeable, it can be unnecessarily explicit and the nepotism provokes the odd eye roll. However this is the blunt and guileless reality that ultimately adds to the appeal, and the lack of empathy breeds intrigue. Give Girls a chance and you’ll see that it mocks the hipster aesthetic and the vacuous laments of a semi-privileged upbringing.
Yet still, the most poignant theme to emerge in the show is the idea that coming of age happens in your twenties, making Girls utterly relatable to our demographic in a zeitgeist-esque way. It depicts the aimless despair we’re met with when we’ve done degrees and should have careers, leaving us to throw our priorities into facebook relationship statuses and twitter updates to pass the time.
Where other ‘teen dramas’ are being written by bitter 50-year-old men who never got a date to prom, Girls fills a chasm with a young writer whose strictly generational content and iPhone-era language, mirrors the lifestyles of the show’s viewers. Of course, Girls isn’t a conclusive representation of young people because it never could be, but it aptly portrays a societal section that, if not relatable, is entertaining to watch at least.