HBO’s Girls: Yeah, I know those people

If you haven’t been reading the incredibly intense amount of press around HBO’s new half-hour dramedy, Girls, here’s a primer. It’s a show about a bunch of people you probably know, doing stuff and having relationships very similar to the things you do and the people you sleep with.

I was skeptical at first. Because really, how could life as 24-year-old girl possibly be made into a television show that’s at once believable and entertaining. No one (not for lack of trying… I’m looking at you, Broke Girls) had yet succeeded in capturing the 20-something je ne sais quoi of the Millennial generation, and I didn’t have high hopes for this show, despite Judd Apatow’s involvement. But goddamn was I wrong.

Sitting down to watch, I armed myself with a pen and paper, ready to jot down all the inane things that happened, so I wouldn’t have to re-watch in order to bash the show in this review. Well, I stopped writing about six seconds in when writer/director/star Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, gets financially cut off from her parents and begins what is basically a 34-minute panic attack. By the end of the episode,  she’s been fired from her unpaid internship, has terrible sex with a terrible boy, and demands that her parents continue to subsidize her tragically hip/New York City/un-paid internship lifestyle with $1100 a month while stoned on opium tea.

I chucked the notebook and actually laughed out loud through the majority of the episode. Because as ridiculous as some of the antics of the characters are, they’re real. We are like that. This generation is incredibly honestly written by Dunham, and it is hilarious – the best example of which is Hannah’s insistence that she’s “the voice of her generation… or a generation” when handing her parents her memoir, which is all of six pages.

Jezebel has had a string of wonderful articles about Gen Y in relation to this show specifically, and has said about it, “Girls is a television program about the children of wealthy famous people and shitty music and Facebook and how hard it is to know who you are and Thought Catalog and sexually transmitted diseases and the exhaustion of ceaselessly dramatizing your own life while posing as someone who understands the fundamental emptiness and narcissism of that very self-dramatization.”

Truth. This isn’t your average show about wealthy white girls trying to make it in New York. And yet, it’s exactly that, which is what makes it so great – they’re not wearing Manolos, living in huge apartments on waitress salaries, or chilling at VIP tables at exorbitant nightclubs. It’s shockingly realistic, both in its portrayal of young women as well as, in general, the lives of young, affluent jobless Americans.

Hannah is both a unique character, and an embodiment of a newly emerging archetype. She’s an English major, working an unpaid internship, living with a girlfriend, sleeping with an idiot, and covered in tattoos that are “illustrations from children’s books.” She’s the quintessential entitled single, white female of the post-9/11 generation.

The other characters, Hannah’s roommate Marnie (the one with a boyfriend), is a wholesome, normal girl, with what appears to be a normal 9-5 job; Shoshana, a student, wears a pink Juicy Couture sweatsuit, lives in a $2100 (admittedly parent-subsidized) apartment with Sex and the City posters. (She’s a Carrie, a Samantha, and a Miranda!) The fourth one is British Jessa, Shoshana’s cousin, who is full of wanderlust, travels the world, and wants to eat dinner at 1 am. Together, they are a pretty well-rounded, multi-dimensional example of what urban post-grads look like in the 21st century.

Even Business Insider has delved into the Girls debate with an article that’s squarely on our side. “‘Girls’ accurately captures the tension between baby boomers and their struggling offspring: Twentysomethings increasingly turn to their parents for financial support, and many have come to expect it,” writes Kimberely Palmner. “Hannah is outraged that her parents would even consider cutting her off. She’s so close to creating the life her parents want for her, she argues—don’t they want to help her achieve it? Why aren’t they grateful that she’s not a drug addict, and that she’s actually trying to make something of herself?”

Besides the general topic of the show, the writing is fantastically droll, and the acting pretty decent.

The fantastic Chris Eigeman makes an appearance as the boss who fires Hannah for asking to get paid, which is great, because once upon a time, he starred in Gen X movies of the wealthy/young/affected genre, such as Metropolitan, Kicking and Screaming, and The Last Days of Disco. 

Ultimately, this is a show for Millennials and their Boomer parents to laugh about a difficult situation that neither side is totally responsible for. It puts a somewhat silly face on the terrible job climate for young people while still sympathizing with the parents who thought they would be able to retire, like Hannah’s mother (“I just want a fucking lake house!” she screams).

Don’t we all.

Watch the trailer, it’s funny.

Alex Pearlman I love the John Adams miniseries, the Disney version of Peter Pan, and 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' My heroes include Aaron Sorkin, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Steinem, Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg. I don't like the two-party system, I do like crossword puzzles. I like red wine, I don't like fascists. I like big ideas, I don't like apathy. I like Wikileaks, I don't like censorship. I believe journalism needs a full-blown revolution to survive. Also, I'm the Editor in Chief of The Next Great Generation. Twitter: @lexikon1

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