Why women love (Lena Dunham's) Girls

By Rena Galanis

The girls on HBO's (Lena Dunham's) Girls have been pretty much decimated in terms of criticism of their characters on the show. Lena Dunham has come under crossfire many times for depicting a selfish, self-centred, privileged, whiny world of 20-somethings coming of age in Brooklyn, New York. For me that's exactly what makes this gang of girls, well - loveable.

I think the reason other generations (read older) enjoy Ms. Dunham's show is because it reminds us of a time when we didn't have everything figured out and it was going to be highly likely we were going to screw things up and end up looking the fool. I suppose with age and distance it's easy to have compassion and fondness for the younger ones just going through the hoops.

And it's that depiction of girls behaving badly/stupidly, that is probably  one of the big draws of the show for all of us who watch. Sometimes it's not even bad behaviour but just a glimpse into a world we definitely remember participating in but now seems so far away and long ago, that draws us in.

 Like dancing by yourself late at night when a song moves you and you think you're alone (whoops, still do that on occasion). Like giving an inappropriate boyfriend another in a series of chances. Like being seduced by the fact that someone who reads successful/confident might be interested in you. Like trying to get validation via physical intimacy with someone when you know it can't possibly evolve into an actual relationship. Or bounding into a new relationship way too fast.

There's a raw vulnerability in showing how these young women start to draw boundaries around what they want to explore  in regards to their bodies and sexuality, that is also a part of growing up.

 

The girls have an appetite for sexual adventure, they masturbate, they get STDs, they sometimes have lewd, unsentimental sex with hot (and not so hot) guys, they wrestle with demons (addiction, OCD) and they try to fashion a template for intimacy. And on their journeys, they stumble, they bungle, they make sometimes mortifying (often hilarious) mistakes.

And the viewer gets to be a confidante of sorts, simultaneously privy to the confessional and the sometimes ridiculous world the girls inhabit. Many women tend to be familiar with that level of intimacy that can create a fellowship of sorts. It can be a very special bond not quite paralleled in other relationship realms. Ms. Dunham and company expertly teeter on a high wire  somewhere between Louisa May Alcott/Jane Austen and Anais Nin, as Hannah's one-time editor on the show points out.

 

The relationships in Girls showcase a time when careless experimentation, hurt feelings, wavering and general immaturity are the norm. And we've all been there (or at least some of us have). It's just nice to see it out there, reflected back boldly and pretty much unapologetically.

The girls are trying to navigate with, by the way, little in the way of direction from the adults in their worlds, who range from the neurotic to the completely dysfunctional. Look out for cameos and recurring roles by Peter Scolari, Rosanna Arquette, Rita Wilson, Chris O'Dowd, Jenna Lyons, Richard E. Grant, and Kim Gordon to name a few!

They are pretty much left to their own devices and look to each other for support when they can get it. But so what? For me, this is a time to fail and perhaps fail spectacularly (and then hopefully learn from your mistakes).

 And then there's Hannah (the main character played by Lena Dunham) herself. She is the big ticket draw. It's nice to have a protagonist who doesn't look television perfect.

Ms. Dunham is definitely attractive  but she's not a size 0 with the requisite Hollywood nose job and teeth veneers. No, instead she's talented, introspective, self-deprecating and funny. And she's a risk-taker. Exposing the sometimes shameful, humiliating scenes of youth is not so easy, I would think.

She may not be the role model many want her to be but mistakes, poor choices, developing self-esteem and direction, can be a very real part of growth for some (for many). Sometimes the road isn't pretty, it's rattled with insecurities, and bad decisions are made.

I guess in our Facebook world where many create their own impeccable universes, it's nice to see someone who is not afraid to try to at least approach something real. Even when that something is cringe-worthy (but often very, very, funny).

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