Girls – Does it warrant the hype?

BY TARA McEVOY

Unless you’ve been hiding under a television signal-barring rock for the past few weeks, you can’t have failed to notice the arrival of the latest HBO export to UK Screens – Lena Dunham’s Girls. Billed as this generation’s answer to Sex and the City, Girls centres around four female twentysomethings living in NYC’s hipster capital, Brooklyn, ambling along towards adulthood under the shadow of the financial crisis. So far so ordinary, but Dunham’s realisation of this concept has attracted praise and consternation in almost equal measure. As the creator, producer, director and writer of the Girls, she also manages to squeeze in time to portray the series’ protagonist, Hannah Horvath, with her astronomic assent to fame on the show having already secured her a seven-figure book deal. That isn’t to say, though, that her journey to the top hasn’t been controversial. Accusations of the racism of Girls have abounded – how is it that the main characters of a show based in a famously diverse city are so totally unreflective of this diversity? Whether it’s Hannah, Dunham’s well-intentioned but clueless aspiring writer, Marnie, her control-freak BFF, the fantastically flighty Jessa or wide-eyed college student Shoshanna, none of the show’s leading ladies offer a representation of New York’s multiplicity, trapped as they are in a middle class white bubble. But one just has to look at the characterisation of men to realise that this series’ purpose isn’t to speak for the experience of everyone. From the saccharine sweet boyfriend, to the inappropriate employer, no male character (save, maybe, Hannah’s beau Adam) ever achieves the depth of their female counterparts. Girls isn’t purporting to offer a sweeping cross section of the city, rather an honest snapshot of the lives of a group of friends, as open as you’re likely to see on TV this autumn. Everything from its treatment of sexuality to its dissection of communication in the internet age is on the money. And above all else – Girls is bloody funny. Dunham’s razor sharp writing is a slap in the face to anyone who’d have you believe that women aren’t funny and Americans can’t grasp satire. It’s always embarrassing to label something as ‘important’, that description

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conjuring up images of over-earnest types sitting in a semi-circle at a book group. But Girls warrants that title – it’s a pitch perfect expose of the neuroses that dog our early twenties. The show may even be responsible for sparking a new wave of feminist discourse – swinging the lens onto the efforts of urbane young women to break through the ever-prevalent glass ceiling, setting out their flaws and fears, shot through with an underlying hopefulness about the future; a kind of American Dream 2.0. At the end of the series’ first episode, Dunham’s protagonist boldly declares, ‘I don’t want to freak you out. But I think that I may be the voice of my generation’. Hannah mightn’t be quite there yet, but as is becoming increasingly obvious, Dunham already is. Lena Dunham – David Shankbone – Flickr

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