Saturday, 19 January 2013

Girls, Girls, Girls & why I don't like you anymore

How the show Girls by Lena Dunham lost its potential, and why I don't like it anymore.

      Being in your twenties is hard, but being a girl in your twenties is even harder. It's a time when we're all trying to figure life out, trying to fit in somewhere, and we're all in our existential phase, which doesn't really matter actually because nothing matters and life is pointless and our very own existence is irrelevant and devoid of meaning. Right? Add to that a fear of aging and botox, late night texts from drunken strangers and you get our life. Most of the time it sucks and we're trying really hard to figure everything out, but it's  almost never like in the movies where people have sex with their underwear on and STDs don't exist, so our life is a blur of cigarette smell, bad decisions and self-doubt. Which is what I liked about the pilot of Girls. Finally, the main protagonist is a fat college graduate! She is not pretty, not thin, not rich, and most of all she is annoying! She is simply trying to figure out her life and failing because well, life is scary and it's hard to get a job when you have an art degree (which is actually my main concern once I graduate, given that I have an art degree). In the first episode, Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) is high and broke. And unemployed. Needless to say, I recognized myself in her. She even made me feel better about myself because, well, her life kinda sucks. She can't afford rent, eats cupcakes in bathrooms and has a creepy relationship with a guy that is even more creepy. 

My initial response when I first watched Girls was excitement and amazement. It had so much potential! Normal people! Normal girls! Normal sizes! Normal (awkwardly disgusting) sex scenes! Ugly boobs! Eating food in secret! It was the first time someone said on TV: "hey, let's make a series about our life because well, it sucks and that is pretty funny". The show got all the girls of the world on edge; it made everyone wonder: what was gonna happen to the annoying Hannah? And beautiful Marnie? And Jessa, isn't she oh-so-liberated and the perfect image of the modern feminist? Well, at first, yes. There is a scene, before Jessa is supposed to have an abortion, where she is sitting in a park, talking with Shoshanna about what being a "lady" means. This dialogue is perhaps what made me fall in love with the show, because it seemed to me that it had happened to me too many times in my life. Jessa accuses Shoshanna of reducing her to a lady, saying she has to do this and only have sex a certain way. Jessa then says "I do whatever the fuck I want, whenever I want, with who I want" (something along those lines) and I thought that was simply brilliant. Finally, someone said that, on the TV show, and actually meant it, as she later has a miscarriage while a random stranger is fingering her in the bathroom. Go Jessa. This is what life is about.

The part where I started to lose the excitement and the anticipation was when, after 5 episodes, I still couldn't recognize myself or any of my friends in the show. I know the race issue has been tackled by the press and Lena herself apologized for it, but I still find it hard to believe that a woman graduating from an liberal arts college and living in New York has no black, asian or latino friends. I myself am asian, and my group of best friends counts black people, mixed raced people, asians, latinos etc. Not once did I recognize myself, as an Asian who was born abroad, in the series. Oh, unless you count that asian secretary working with Hannah, but that can't count because her english was too bad for her to even say the word 'coffee', and she was a bitch, right? So I had to watch a whole series centered around four white girls, all middle-class it would seem, going on about their daily lives with their casual sex with (once again) white guys. Sure, they're all broke but they all work in art galleries or are actors, so life's pretty cool I guess? Why can't we never see a bored girl working for the government? Why can't we never see someone work as a finance analyst? A lawyer? Why do we always have to give the girls jobs that are so girly?

It is only in the second season that Lena Dunham introduces a black person (fair enough, the girl takes criticism from the press quite well) in the show, as Hannah's boyfriend. Okay. One black person. Fine. What about the rest of us? The rest of the 'girls' who watch the show with avidity, only to find out that its exclusivity lies in the fact that everyone in the show is 'white 'n' wealthy' ? After doing some research about the actresses in Girls, it seemed that they were all there due to nepotism. All of them are daughters of artists, wealthy mean, well-known sculptors etc... Which angered me because the show was supposed to be about normal girls, trying to make it in new york city. Where do us, normal girls, stand when we learn that? What's it supposed to tell us? That the show is actually not about us? But about Lena Dunham and her raging desire to show her boobs every five seconds? I'm all for naked girls of all shapes and sizes on tv (thank you Game of Thrones for doing that!), but I don't know anyone who gets naked that often in front of other people. Hell, I haven't even seen my roommate's boobs yet. It seems to me that the show is not only about Hannah, but a lot about Lena Dunham as well. The characters on the show are becoming whiny, annoying, and irrational (the gay best friend having sex with Marnie? What?). Yes, Hannah, I get that high school was not easy for you because as you like to say it so often, you were fat and ugly, and you are scared all the time, but guess what? So are we. And I don't find myself or any of my friends (who happen to be high as well -and broke, mostly) to behave in that annoying crazy girl way. Granted, the others are not as annoying. Jessa, for example, is the character most of my friends and I related to, because she was so cool and carefree, but even that has changed. Her on screen time quality has declined and her storyline is becoming...weird. I can only guess that it was written by someone who was high on crack and who thought it would be totally coooool to have her marry that irish dude from the IT crowd.

So, Girls, after being an avid fan for the first season and then realizing that you had lost your potential, I can only say that you were fun while you lasted. You made me feel better about myself at times when I couldn't afford milk and couldn't afford to lose my self-respect by texting that oh-so-cute idiot. You made all those hollywood rom-coms cry in shame because no one actually wakes up with make-up and wavy beach golden hair, but sweaty mascara and bad breath. I think it is time for us to see other people, like maybe asians or black people. I hear they're pretty nice. Sorry, it's not me, this time it's actually you. 

1 comment:

  1. I think it's a pretty good review that addresses issues I had never payed attention to, like the fact that all actresses are somehow related to pretty influential and wealthy people. If you think about it, actors in Gossip Girl were everyday people and the show was pretty rubbish. So even if this makes me pretty confused, I think we're still better off with Girls. About the racial diversity, I think you're absolutely right and that it's a shame that only one non-white person has appeared as a main character, even though the media criticized that aspect a lot. Anyways, great job!