New series ‘Girls’ chronicles lives of recent college grads.
By Kate Sullivan, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I first became familiar with Lena Dunham when I watched her on an episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman,” on which she divulged to the audience a number of fiercely personal moments, including the details of her spontaneous, in-a-friend’s-living-room-administered tattoos, a la the female roommate of Kristen Wiig’s character in “Bridesmaids” (2011). Dunham’s appearance on Letterman was to promote her independent indie flick “Tiny Furniture” (2010), in which she played a whiny and unemployed girl named Aura who was living with her parents in a TriBeCa loft.
Dunham’s newest project, the highly anticipated HBO television show “Girls,” which premiered on April 15, chronicles the life of a similarly carefree, whiny and nearly unemployed young woman living in New York City. This time around, however, the project is produced by Judd Apatow, well known for the films “Knocked Up” (2007), “Step Brothers” (2008) and “Bridesmaids.” With Apatow’s flair for male-driven comedy that is at once raunchy and endearing, it is easy to see why Apatow signed on to produce Dunham’s project, which features awkward, unsexy sex and a sense of humor in the female characters that is cynical enough to appeal to more than just the “Sex and the City” crowd.
The show stars Dunham as Hannah, a recent college graduate who has worked as an unpaid intern for upwards of a year, and as a result, has been leeching off of her parents for money. Within the first few minutes of the first episode, Hannah’s parents make it clear they are cutting her off: “No. More. Money.” Hannah lives with her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams), who is bored of her boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott), despite his doting affection.
Rounding out the mostly female cast is Jessa (Jemima Kirke), a sexually free, Bohemian world traveler who gives terrible advice to Hannah. Jessa lives with her younger cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), a “Sex and the City”-obsessed college student who looks up to Jessa and her seemingly glamorous personality.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dunham said that her early thoughts about the show stemmed from the lack of coverage of the “uncomfortable middle ground where women are ejected from college into a world with neither glamour or structure.”
For recent and soon-to-be graduates of liberal arts colleges around the country, “Girls” may hit a little too close to home, but Dunham presents dry, honest humor that most people of the Millennial Generation will appreciate.
Dunham’s writing is well-crafted, and the jokes more or less hit the target. One scene in particular, in which Hannah appears in her parents’ hotel room, high and asking for more financial support so she can finish her book of personal essays, finds success because young adult viewers find it relatable: “I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or at least, a generation... somewhere.” Hannah proceeds to fall off her chair while making this declaration, heightening the comedic level of the scene.
Dunham aims to present the unscripted lifestyle of a college graduate sans corporate recruiting, yet “Girls” still presents an extremely privileged and entitled portrait, which viewers might pinpoint as a major criticism of the show. The show seems to make fun of itself, however, and the complaints that Hannah utters are trite and clearly fall under the umbrella of #whitegirlproblems, including her “relationship” with a jobless actor who receives his “income” in the form of monthly payments from his grandmother.
The affair is strictly comprised of sex and texting, but not a combination of the two. Listening to Hannah and Marnie argue about whether she should continue to text him is ridiculous and unimportant, but it is moments like these in which “Girls” does not take itself too seriously, which is why the series works.
Kirke’s portrayal of Jessa is nearly identical to her character in “Tiny Furniture,” but she is one of the best parts of the show as a truly dim-witted philosopher. She seems adamant to be right on all matters, and the fact that she is not right about anything is hilarious.
It is this humor that allows “Girls” to move past its stereotypical view of an entitled cross-section of Manhattan’s young adults. Kirke’s chemistry with the other characters on the show works well, and a scene that takes place with her on the toilet demonstrates why Dunham, through her sharp, well-crafted writing and situational comedy, is a voice of her generation.