'Girls': 'Sex and the City' for Generation Y
Published: Friday, June 1, 2012
Updated: Sunday, June 3, 2012 23:06
When Georgetown releases us, many of us will become 20-somethings in New York. “Girls,” one of HBO’s newest comedies, explores just what being a girl straight out of college and on her own in a big city means in a 21st-century context. If you haven’t started watching yet, you should.
Like HBO’s “Sex in the City,” a six-season bombshell of a rom-com series, “Girls” centers around four women who hope to find their footing in the Big Apple after graduating from some unnamed college. In the pilot episode, Hannah (played by Lena Dunham, who also serves as the show’s director, executive producer and writer) loses financial support from her parents. In this conflict, the show introduces Marnie (Allison Williams), Hannah’s best friend and roommate in an almost-chic New York apartment, and their quasi-exotic friend Jessa (Jemima Kirke), who is temporarily living with her cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), who can’t quite let go of her teenage years.
Of course there’s sex — the four ladies have a wide range of experiences with both genders, ranging from the use of sex as a form of empowerment to feelings of insecurity about being a virgin. It wouldn’t be a show about women in their 20s without this topic, and it certainly wouldn’t be an HBO show without scenes that would make you cringe in front of your parents and younger siblings.
Yet where “Girls” diverges from “Sex and the City” is that — unlike Samantha, Charlotte, Carrie and Miranda, who have distinct, decisive personalities — the ladies of “Girls” are still figuring out who they are. While they each have unique qualities, hobbies and outlooks on life, none of them quite have a firm grasp of their own identities. It’s like the precursor to “Sex and the City” where no one is really sure what normal adult life is supposed to look like.
According to Dunham, who talks on HBO about the plot of each episode after it airs, the show intends to be a funny look at what happens when you have almost-adults making childish decisions. It hopes to be realistic to a degree but slightly exaggerated, like any show. Though the encounters aren’t quite up to the contrived stories of a situation comedy, they are definitely believable and awkwardly humorous. There’s a chance that it could be one of us catching our parents in an intimate moment when we’re home for the weekend, deciding whether or not to tolerate a lenient boss’s handsy tendencies in the office or refusing to break up with a long-term, sweet boyfriend even when the relationship annoys us. Though the girls may not make the most mature decisions when they’re forced to confront their problems, their errors are understandable as characters still flirting with adulthood. Despite the protagonists’ immature natures, all of the characters have distinctive personalities. The result of the character clash is a wonderfully quirky comedy (better than Zooey Deschanel’s “New Girl”) that doesn’t feel the least bit scripted.
Critics were quick to point out the lack of diversity within the cast. It’s true: In the seven episodes that have aired so far, there is not one important black, Latino or Asian character. The four fine young ladies are Caucasian and clearly face what can only be deemed white girl, first-world problems. Though “Girls” addresses a wide array of issues that affect 20-somethings, it fails to identify characters of different races as part of this narrative, presenting an unrealistic view of life in New York.
In order for “Girls” to surpass the success of its predecessor “Sex and the City,” it will have to evolve outside of the standard upper class, white girl narrative. But it’s still early. Like its characters, it’s still naive. I have faith that “Girls” will be able to grow up — and grow into — a show that can create a more comprehensive picture.
For now, I encourage you to sit back and take a lesson from Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna. They’re funny and smart young adults, still controlled by childish tendencies and hormones left over from puberty. But they’re trying to learn, just like we are. And if that’s the case, we may as well take a leaf from their book and laugh along the way.
“Girls” airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.