A bit on Girls (yeah, I know, another one)

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I’ve severely neglected my poor blog. It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted anything. I could say I’m going to make a concerted effort to post more, but whenever I do, I disappear again for awhile. Anyway, dear readers, all 5 of you, I have been spurred on by the continued conversation about HBO’s new series Girls to finally take to the interwebs and post some of the thoughts that have been jumbled around in my head about it. While a lot of the discussion has focused on issues of representation and the not too hidden sexism behind calling Lena Dunham, the show’s creator, writer, producer, lead actress, etc., out for these faults in a way most other TV shows made for, by, and about men are not. I’m mostly going to talk about the emotional aspects of the show, specifically my emotional engagement (or lack thereof) and how in way I’ve learned a bit about myself from it. Which is cool, yes? And I know that the Girls talk has reached levels of beating a dead hipster horse, but, I had to, and really this is a post more about me than it is about Girls in the end.

I was inspired to finally write something by the smart post here by princesscowboy (wait, handles or names? ack! the internet is so weird – anyway) and her observations about the tone in the first episode and her later thoughts about being in one’s 20s. She writes:

The Girls pilot did not make its tone clear. If you take that ambiguous tone, couple it with the show’s overblown hype and claims to authenticity, and then look at the blinding whiteness of its cast, then that is the best way to explain why I (and so many others) did not react favorably to the pilot.

I did not react well to the pilot at all, mostly for the above reason. I had no idea how I was supposed to feel about these characters. I mostly wanted to punch Hannah in the face. Indeed, I knew there was something amiss when the character with whom I identified the most was Hannah’s mother. I felt, probably in part due to the marketing, that this show was going to have something profound, if not at least interesting, to say about the (white, middle-class) female experience, but I didn’t recognize any of my life in Hannah’s (or Marnie’s, or Shoshanna’s, or Jessa’s). Full disclosure, I am a middle-class white woman and by all accounts, some aspect of one of these women should ring true to me, right? And I’ve read here and there of young woman or older woman who recognize themselves in these portraits. But, what has been happening on screen is so far from my own experiences. In fact some of it I’ve found completely horrifying. And then I realized, this is because I’ve never been a single woman in my 20s.

In the same post quoted before, princesscowboy also writes after a great comparison of Hannah to Angela Chase, another character I always wanted to punch in the face,

In fact, people in their early twenties are really no better than people in their early teens. In many ways they are worse because they are now equipped with college degrees that lead them to believe that they “understand” things about “the world.” A 23-year-old is like a very independent, very entitled toddler who can drive a car and is legally allowed to drink. We say and do very, very dumb things when we are in our early twenties, and that seems to be what Girls is about.

Some probably overly “sharey” stuff for the blog, but well, it is a blog. I got married when I was young, a week before my 21st birthday actually, for a variety of reasons, none of which were because I was pregnant. In fact, I had little intention of ever having children. But that changed, again for a variety of reasons, and when I was 24, I had my kid (the existential crisis I had at turning 25 while being the mother of a 7-month-old was awesome!). By the time I was 23, I was a homeowner. I stopped being regularly helped out by my parents while still in my undergrad years. Oddly enough, it’s only now that I’m my mid-30s that I’ve scored my first full time position, though I’ve been working since I was 16, so I came later to that than all the other social markers of adulthood. I find our culture’s pushing back of adolescence well into our 20s (again if you’re privileged enough to do so) a bit baffling. If this is a show about being a typical 20something, I’m glad I didn’t have to go through it, because it seems pretty awful at times. My experiences brought with them a whole bunch of other issues, but dealing with horrible man-children wasn’t one of them, and for that I am grateful.

So maybe this is why I can’t relate emotionally and that seems to be a big part of the show’s appeal. That glimmer of recognition just isn’t there. Dunham has talked about how all the characters are some part of her and there’s an emotional honesty about it which, while I see the appeal, is wholly alienating to me. I just can’t relate for the most part. I intended to write more about specific scenes and things but as I started to do this I realized it was a bit more personal than I really want to get on the internet. I continue to watch Girls because I’ve been enjoying the broader conversation happening around it, and it’s interesting enough for me to see where it’s going. I think I’m the only one who is interested in Shoshanna, bless. I think the sexual politics of the series are both refreshing and puzzling, and so I’m curious to see where it all goes.

3 responses »

  1. Earlier today, I posted this over at Amanda’s/princesscowboy’s blog, but I think it works here too:

    As someone who has worked since the age of 16 (two jobs while working on the M.A.) and who paid for her own education, cars, food, cell phones, and rent, I do not identify with, like, or care anything about the characters on this show. Don’t get me wrong: I’m intrigued and am still watching (for now at least), but at this point, I don’t care — if that makes sense.

    In other words, I understand where you’re coming from. And, no, it’s not “overly ‘sharey’ stuff; it’s your experience, which nicely supports your reactions. :)

  2. Kelli, I get it. I wouldn’t say I care either, not about the characters. But as far as the series is concerned, I care and am invested in the show because it’s about women, and I want it to do well. If only because maybe it might mean more will someday get made.

  3. Thanks so much for posting! Glad this got you back to blogging too! In many ways, my work life parallels yours: I worked consistently through high school & college, then finished a Master’s and was a full-time professional by the time I was 25–not necessarily a happy one, but still, identification is difficult for me in part for all these reasons. I’m in my 30s now, but I talked to a friend recently, a younger woman who just turned 23 and finished her undergrad degree a little over a year ago, who said she was having a hard time relating to the characters and storylines as well. She cited both the work and the relationship issues. So it seems like even when the ages and maybe experiences would seem to be closer, identification’s still not necessarily there. It’ll be interesting to see how things shape up, and what does or doesn’t change by the end of the season for the show and the audience. Thanks again!

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