Why I Watch: Girls

No show is without its problems, and Girls is probably one of the best examples of this. The show, and creator/executive producer Lena Dunham have come under a lot of fire recently for the inability to incorporate diversity into the show’s cast. There have been several other criticisms for the show as well, which begs the question: why do I even watch it? Well readers, here is my plea.

The characters on Girls are not easy to love. Hannah (played by Dunham), at the forefront of the show, is selfish, judgmental, and not always a beacon of the goodness of humanity. Similarly, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna (Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet, respectively) all have their faults and are not exactly righteous. But which of us are? Who among us hasn’t acted the way the girls of Girls act? Who among us can say that we haven’t screwed up royally at one time or another? The show cuts these characters down to size and doesn’t play them up to be perfect women who go through life gracefully and maturely. We all have pitfalls. We struggle with our employment and living situations, as well as our love and social lives. I believe that Girls chooses to focus more on these ongoing issues than on the more positive victories in life.

girls

(from left to right) Marnia, played by Allison Williams; Hannah, played by Lena Dunham; Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke; and Shoshanna, played by Zosia Mamet.

Another much-discussed topic on Girls involves the consistent nudity in almost every episode. Here, Dunham takes gutsy steps in the right direction. By physically exposing the characters on the show, they are essentially stripped down to their vulnerabilities, just as we all are. The sex on the show can be quite awkward at times; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that sometimes it is a bit out of my own comfort zone. However, this can be seen as a good thing. By watching these scenes, we are able to acknowledge that sex isn’t always great. Sometimes it is messy and awkward. Sometimes we don’t look attractive when we’re naked, much to the contrary of many other shows that portray nudity as a flawless and perfectly achievable concept.

In terms of nudity and acknowledging body image, Hannah Horvath is a strong figurehead for girls in our society. It is important that we see a woman who is not thin, yet is still happy. Hannah has relationships, sexual and otherwise. She doesn’t hide her body simply because she does not look the way the world expects her to look. After being bombarded by our culture’s uniform images of model-thin girls, it is refreshing to see someone who doesn’t look that way and who shows her body unashamedly. Of all the messages on the show, I believe this one to be of utmost importance, especially since the target audience is in fact girls and young women.

lenaIf I want you to take away anything from this it is that, yes, Girls is problematic. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to like things that are problematic! In fact, I encourage the viewership and acknowledgement of TV shows with heavily debatable issues, only so that we can better educate ourselves on morally controversial topics such as lack of diversity on television. Casting people of color is incredibly important, and by actively viewing shows like Girls, we can take a step in the direction of understanding that the world we live in is colorful, and it’s time we reflected that on television.

I of course don’t want to completely discredit Dunham, who has created a show that examines what it is to be a girl, nay, a woman in her 20s. While Dunham may not be “the voice of our generation,” as Hannah believes she might be on the show, Dunham is still a vital female voice that speaks directly and honestly. Quite frankly, hers is a voice that deserves recognition. Girls may not be as progressive as we would necessarily like it to be, but it definitely takes a step in the right direction, and for that I applaud the show.

Do you watch Girls? What’s your opinion of the show and the criticisms against it? Let us know what you think!

About Neda

Lover of food, feminism, and television. I walk the fine line between devoted fan and crazy person.

One Response to “Why I Watch: Girls”

  1. Thanks for this post Neda! I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only obsessive tv viewer out there who thinks the show is good. Girls/Dunham has come under so much scrutiny lately, particularly in the social media/pop culture circles I engage in online, and I think it deserves a lot more credit than it’s getting. You’re right, the show is flawed. I don’t feel like the show gives us a perfect character we are supposed to identify with (like so many shows do), but rather it gives us an array of flawed characters that can validate us as we stumble through our 20s. Do all of these girls look pretty similar? Sure. But I’m not convinced that people who don’t look like them are incapable of relating to these characters. These characters bring a very specific demographic to the table, but their stories/misadventures are relatable outside of that demographic because they are PEOPLE. Young people. Young women. I also agree and think it’s a positive thing the way Lena exposes herself on the show. This is HBO. People take their clothes off. This is only sparking conversations because she looks a bit different from the naked bodies we are used to seeing. People, young women, need to know that it’s ok to be both comfortable and uncomfortable in their own skin, and the way Lena writes her character definitely lends itself to that. I like seeing someone who is both confident, and vulnerable; accepting of her body and somewhat self-conscious. These are the feelings that so many women my age are dealing with every day, and seeing the characters in the show portrayed as flawed, selfish, naive, confident, silly, smart, shallow, etc gives them authenticity and relatability. Thanks for focusing on the positives of a flawed show, because I think you’re right, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

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