TV / Women and Gender

Lena Dunham’s HBO Series ‘Girls’ Preview: Why I Can’t Wait to Watch

Originally published at Bitch Flicks.

I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to see Lena Dunham’s new HBO series Girls. I mean, April 15th…hurry up and get here already damnit! After the first 3 episodes received rave reviews at SXSW, the buzz swirling around the indie darling’s new show has grown even louder. And with good reason.

From the trailer, here are just a few of the clever lines that made me laugh out loud:

“I’ve been dating someone who treats my heart like it’s monkey meat.”

 “I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least, a voice of a generation.”

“This is why you have no friends from pre-school.”
“I have a lot of friends from pre-school. I’m just not speaking to them right now.”

“You could not pay me enough to be 24 again.”
“Well, they’re not paying me at all.”

Created by the ridiculously talented Dunham, who wrote, directed and starred in Tiny Furniture, and executive produced by Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner, some have called Girls a “game-changer” and claim it “solidifies Dunham’s place as a bold new voice in American comedy.” Considering there’s so few leading roles for women, so few films or series that showcase female friendships and even fewer women in Hollywood write and direct, it’s refreshing to see Dunham spearhead an HBO series.

Explaining her motivation to create Girls, Dunham said:

“I felt like there wasn’t a pop culture mirror reflecting girl my age experiencing the trials and tribulations of being female at this specific time.”

Dunham plays editorial intern and aspiring writer Hannah, “a post-college Brooklynite with big if uncertain ambitions, a perpetual lack of money and a coterie of friends with personal lives as jumbled and complicated as her own.” While Dunham’s vision – she writes, directs and stars in Girls – this appears to be very much a female ensemble. The other female characters include Marnie (Alison Williams), Hannah’s “seemingly perfect,” “more put-together roommate” working at a PR firm looking to practice environmental law; Jessa (Jemima Kirke), a “headstrong,” “loosey-goosey free spirit” who yearns to be an artist/educator; and Jessa’s “innocent” cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).

Discussing the characters, Dunham said:

“These characters are a really funny mix of sort of highly educated and very naïve…Every woman I know is such a bundle of contradictions. It was so important to me that there could be a girl who was confident but sex made her incredibly anxious, or a girl who respected herself but was using sex to push boundaries to understand herself better.”

As to why the show is called “Girls” and not “Women,” which I gotta admit is probably the one thing that irked me about the show (I hate the infantilizing term “girls” for grown ass women), Dunham says the female characters wouldn’t self-identify as “women” yet and occupy “that specific in-between space (not a girl, not yet a woman).” Okay, that makes sense.

But haven’t we seen this before? What about Sex and the City or Gossip Girl? Or 30 Rock and Parks and Rec? Or the new slew of female-centric comedies like 2 Broke Girls, The New Girl, Whitney or Up All Night? Well first of all, that’s sexist (and just plain stupid) to assume all shows featuring women are the same. I mean, how many shows feature vampires in love triangles or middle-age-men-who-act-like-boys or DNA-examining crimefighters?? But nope, Girls looks different. And here’s why. In all those shows, women have established their careers and/or relationships or at the very least know the direction they want to go. Most of them also sound painfully forced, lacking any shred of authenticity. Dunham wanted to address that confusing, nebulous time in women’s post-college lives when they don’t have a clue as to who they are or know what the hell they want to do (for some of us, this continues into our 30s…). It’s about trying new things,
fucking up, and finding yourself along the way. Talking about Girls and other shows, Dunham said:

“I really like all the new network “girl” shows. But someone once described the attitude of women on network TV as “Check it out, guys: ladies be talkin’!” And I think we were really careful about anything that rung false…

“The stuff that I’m naturally drawn to writing is stuff I’ve felt but haven’t seen. I’d seen “Gossip Girl,” which was an aspirational high school story. And “Sex and the City,” which I grew up on and completely respect, was about women who had figured out the career, figured out their friendships and were really trying to lock the love thing down. To me there’s this time of life where you don’t even know what you want, and you don’t know how to want it. It’s much more abstract and wandering.”

Exploring female friendship, sex, dating douchey guys, abortion (SO few shows deal with abortion…huzzah!) living in the ridiculously expensive yet awesome NYC – it looks like Girls contains awkward, painful yet ultimately funny moments that “resonate” with many of us. I may not be 24 anymore and I’m not financially privileged. I supported myself after high school, paid my own way through college and don’t live in NYC (yet). But watching the clips – hearing Dunham’s thoughts and the way the female characters interact with one another – feels like A LOT of my life. In the trailer, Hannah says,  “My entire life has been one ridiculous mistake after another.” YES!!! I mean, aren’t we all trying to figure shit out and find ourselves or our path in life??

Dunham clearly looks at the world through a feminist lens (does she call herself a feminist? I hope so…that would be badass) as she wants to focus on female relationships. In addition to Girls and Tiny Furniture, she curated a film series called “Hey Girl! Lena Dunham Selects” (running April 2-8) for the BAMcinématek, the film program of the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Lena Dunham possesses a fresh, hilarious, intelligent and raw voice. Buoyed by funny dialogue, her must-see film Tiny Furniture makes astute commentaries on gender, body image, sex, dating and female relationships. But I also found myself irritated it didn’t move at a faster pace. I eventually realized I was partly annoyed because Dunham makes you witness uncomfortably awkward moments and doesn’t let the audience off the hook. She forces you to squirm right alongside her compelling characters, feeling their pain. After reading interviews and watching the trailers, it sounds like Girls will continue her theme of candor, humor, poignancy and self-discovery.

We desperately need to hear more feminist voices. I’m delighted Dunham’s getting a bigger stage in which to share her hilarious observations and vision of the lives some women lead.

Girls premieres on April 15 on HBO.

4 thoughts on “Lena Dunham’s HBO Series ‘Girls’ Preview: Why I Can’t Wait to Watch

  1. I like the way it’s shot, sort of a grainy, artsy type filming.
    It looks like it could be a promising new show.

    Speaking of “Girls,” the last few “2 Broke Girls” episodes, have
    been amongst the most funny (and they are all funny).
    It’s very rare for a show to make me laugh out loud, but this one does.
    I literally had tears in my eyes!
    It reminds me of those great sitcoms from the 70’s.

    • I’m excited to see it too! I know you love ‘2 Broke Girls’ but I just don’t like it. While I’m glad to see a TV series focusing on female friendship, every time I watch, I’m annoyed by the racially stereotyped secondary characters and the incessant rape jokes.

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