The Many Charms of HBO’s “Girls”


By Billie Mandelbaum & Sander Lutz

Sander Lutz

I would like to disclaim that I thought I would be the first person in a line of many to hate “Girls” with a vengeful, spitting, furious passion. Everything it stands for, from the sickly sweet hipness of a youthful Brooklyn to the hopes and dreams of idyllic, starry-eyed liberal-arts graduates, nauseates me just past the point of vomiting into my ironically-labeled reusable tote bag. However, my experience one afternoon, secretly, shamefully watching the pilot episode, led to the harboring of one of the darkest secrets I’ve kept in recent memory: after that sitting, I consumed every episode of “Girls” that had ever been created.

SanderOnlineSo, for better, or certainly for worse, take my word for it: this show is something special. The subject matter certainly isn’t my typical cup of tea, but the show makes up for that fact ten-fold through its method of storytelling. “Girls” offers what is rare in television: not a great story arc with fantastic twists and turns, but an engrossing slice of reality, in a way that doesn’t try too hard to keep viewers attached.

In a way reminiscent of such shows as “The Sopranos” and constrasting sharply with such hits as “Lost,” the appeal of the show isn’t to see what happens next, but to live within the show itself. The characters become a part of your life that can only be fulfilled with recurring contact. I peer in every week, less intrigued by the plot than amazed at how attached I’ve become to these superbly-crafted characters, who are well-designed to mirror many personalities I’ve come to know (and love and despise) in my own life. The girls’ personalities run the gamut: from the hyper-self-critical, paranoid blogger, to her self-righteous indulgent socialite best friend, all the way to a rebellious Brit/partial narcotic enthusiast and her fantastically dysfunctional, neurotic college-aged JAP (Jewish American Princess) cousin.

Though “Girls” centers on the über-modern present, its appeal lies in its exploration of topics and ideas that are timeless, particularly the transition from adolescence into adulthood, and the nature of both romantic and personal relationships. It has an additional layer of interest in this regard, coming from a male viewer. The show is, as the name suggests, completely tilted to the female perspective; and much about how women actually privately interact and dissect social situations holds entertainment value.

For guys, this show is worth the psychological agony of admitting they like it. I’ll be in my room crying over the fact that my existence is now obsolete.


Billie Mandelbaum

In the first episode of Season 1 of HBO’s drama-comedy series, “Girls,” the show’s protagonist, Hannah Horvarth (Lena Dunham), a twenty-something aspiring writer, urges her parents to read the early chapters of her memoir, telling them, “I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.” Therein lies the genius of “Girls.” While Hannah’s declaration is lofty, her character does indeed have a frank, humorous voice that members of Generations X, Y or Z can relate to.

Created and written by Dunham, “Girls” details the lives of Hannah and her three female friends as they navigate the adult world of New York City. The girls’ varied personalities provide for a group dynamic that is often hysterical, but also dysfunctional. Hannah is self-deprecating and neurotic, while her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams) is sensible yet controlling. The free-spirited former heroin addict Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and her prudish cousin, Shoshana (Zosia Mamet) round out the group.

BillieOnlineThough, little happens in each episode in terms of plot, the show is far from banal. Within one 30-minute episode there is drama, whether that be between the girls or their on-again, off-again boyfriends; the humor of Dunham’s smart writing; and touching moments of love and friendship.

While the show is comedic in nature, Dunham grapples with complex themes such as ambition and the challenges that come with pursuing one’s passions. Dunham explores this through the show’s adroit realism. Though often compared to “Sex and the City,” “Girls” is by no means a glamorous coming-of-age story. The show’s atmosphere is gritty, with the characters (except for Shoshana, who is still supported by her family) working dead-end jobs and living with little money in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The girls lead stumbling love lives with men who are anything but chivalrous — sex scenes are awkward as they are frequent.

What’s so great about “Girls” is that it isn’t a show defined by gender. Though the show does center around female characters, “Girls” is a show that can be enjoyed by males. None of the dialogue could be considered “girly” and Dunham’s humor verges on crude.

With “Girls,” Dunham has proven that she can, in fact be a voice for “a generation.” She teaches us about ambition, unrealized dreams and coming of age. Though the series can be a bit grim, each episode ends with a hint of hope and optimism. Adulthood may not be easy, but, as we learn from Dunham, with friends, determination and some self-deprecation, everything might be alright.