Lena Dunham’s ‘Girls’ Doesn’t Need to Be the Voice of a Generation

I watched the pilot of ‘Girls’ last night and before writing my thoughts about it I wanted to read several other reviews first. Bad idea: I’ve spent the better part of today hopping from one link to another and scrolling through dozens and dozens of comments. What bothers me about all of the coverage of Girls is that people take it SO seriously. Somewhere someone decided that Girls is the second coming of Sex and the City and the show that every woman everywhere is supposed to be able to relate to and how disappointing that it could have been all of these things when it’s really just thinly-veiled white-girl-problems sitcom.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 04:  (L-R)  Actress Zosia...
April 4, 2012 in New York City. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

As a twenty-something, I find a lot of the generalizations about people my age inaccurate and offensive. Yes, many of us are social-media-savvy, but there’s also the stereotype that we’re just obsessed with documenting our lives on Facebook and less inclined to do any work.  The sense entitlement I’ve witnessed among people my age makes me sick, but it’s important to remember that many young people in New York  are not supported by their parents, myself included. If my mother gave me more than the $20 Hannah picked out of that envelope I would keel over from shock, no opium tea needed. Just because the characters I see on TV aren’t a dead-ass-accurate representation of me doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy watching them.

If there’s one issue I have with Girls, it’s that it’s presented as THE twenty-something post-grad New York City experience when in reality it reflects quite an insular (read: privileged and all-white) point of view. People are angry about itReally angryLena Dunham pointed out in her interview with The Huffington Post’s Chris Rosen that Hannah is on drugs when she declares that she is the voice of her generation – or a voice of a generation:

Our generation is not just white girls. It’s guys. Women of color. Gay people. The idea that I could speak for everyone is so absurd. But what is nice is if I could speak for me and it’s resonant for people, then that’s about as much as I could hope for.

It’s unfair that just because a show surrounds the lives of female characters and is created by a young woman, it should be subjected to excessive criticism – from the sex scenes to the privileged backgrounds of the actresses. I liked Ryan O’Connell’s ThoughtCatalog article, “Dumb Reasons Why Some People Don’t Like Girls,” and think she makes several valid points.

I guarantee you if someone like Harrison Ford’s son made a show called Boys about he and all of his privileged friends, it would not be under the same scrutiny Girls is. Since so few (read: almost none) progressive female shows actually make it on the air, the ones that do are put under a magnifying glass. They need to speak for all the voices that didn’t make it through, which is a totally unfair and unrealistic expectation to put on something that’s just one person’s voice.

Another point O’Connell made was that a lot of the criticism comes from a place of jealousy because Lena Dunham comes from a privileged background and is the only child of two successful parents.

Yes, Lena did have a leg up on a lot of twentysomethings because of her privileged background. She had the luxury of moving back into her parents house and working on her scripts. I’m assuming that she didn’t have to get a barista job. But you know what? She worked her ass off. She made two web series, Delusional Downtown Divasand Tight Shots, and wrote two movies, Tiny Furniture and Creative Nonfiction, all while basically still in college. You know what I was doing in college? Coke and Bravo marathons.

Point taken.

‘Girls’ is aware of how insular it is. Much more offensive is New York Magazine’s October 24 cover story, The Kids Are Actually Sort of Alright touted as an actual representation of the Millennial generation, when it is in fact a slew of interviews with the writer’s white, privileged, Brooklyn-dwelling, parentally-supported friends.  (See my reaction: Generation Y: Only the Hardworking Survive.) Still, despite having a job and my own apartment, not to be confused with the job and the apartment, I found that I could relate to Hannah’s experience on Girls: feeling lost, angst-y, and insecure. I can only speak for myself, though. Not my generaton. Either way, Girls a conversation starter about the lack of diversity on television, our awkward hookup culture, and other uncomfortable truths. What I find most ironic about it, or maybe not, is that it airs on HBO. I can’t even afford cable TV.

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