I want to like HBO’s Girls, I really do. I’m a pop culture whore; if it’s part of the zeitgeist, I want to be in on it. Alas, try as I might, I just don’t get it—and believe me, I have tried.
Lena Dunham’s show about twenty-something New Yorkers (white, privileged, liberal ones) seems to have struck a chord with the culture mavens and critics alike. Many have lauded Dunham for her frank and honest portrayel of women of her generation, especially when it comes to their sexual proclivities. They’ve also celebrated her decision to appear fully naked (time and time again), since she’s a fuller-figured women with a “real body.”
There’s no denying Dunham has captured the vacuousness of today’s millennials; the white, privileged, liberal ones at least. Indeed, episode after episode we’re entreated to the oh-so-serious travails of Dunahm’s character, Hannah; struggles with her body image, her place in the world, her fledging career as a writer, wanting to do something that matters. Blah blah blah.
That I’m a man makes me ill-equipped to properly review, let alone understand her show. This I know, from her many strident female defenders. Moreover, having crossed the thirty threshold, I sense, too, I’m out of touch with the generation following in mine’s shadow. After all, I prefer email to SMS.
Nevertheless, I am fascinated by my own intense dislike of her show: I don’t simply find it uninteresting; I can’t stand it.
When Dunham won her Golden Globe for best television series, and, upon reaching the microphone, breathlessly invited her fellow award-winners to “get close together” when on stage, I wanted to throw the empty rocks glass I had been nursing across the room.
Suddenly, I understood my rage. And it isn’t about the sex, which I know bothers many older viewers. (If anything, the characters’ sex lives and sexualities are the only mature things about their characters; otherwise, they’re positively infantile, which may explain some reviewers’ revulsion of their allegedly promiscuous behaviour: they’re children.) No, what bothers me about Dunham’s show is that I get the real sense she actually thinks it is the stuff of serious drama. Like the character she portays, she actually believes the lives of the twenty-something New Yorkers on her show (the white, privileged, liberal ones) are weighty, real, raw.
I attempted to float this hypothesis to a group of women with whom I was having dinner a few weeks’ back. I was roundly chastised. Dunham, they argued, was much too smart; she knew what she was doing; of course it was all a big inside joke.
I should’ve known better than to press the issue; I was, after all, the lone male at the table.Still, I pressed on and suggested the acclaim Dunham was receiving from critics—most of which seemed to center on the fact she wasn’t your typical, size-zero starlet—had little to do with her talent and everything to do with her showing her naked body. That a woman with a ordinary body would go nude on camera was, I thought, considered cute by the fawning Hollywood clique among whom she would never, truly, be accepted. To this point, I was simply ignored, the conversation abruptly changed to something else. What did I know?
In the end, I think I’ll skip Girls, leaving it to others, younger, smarter, hipper to enjoy whatever piece of brilliant irony Dunham has created. It’s probably for the best, too. After all, even if I’m wrong and Dunham has masterfully skewered her generation, she’ll still remind me of a plumper Annie Hall… AND I HATE ANNIE HALL.