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'Girls' on HBO: Lacks diversity, still worth watching
In its first two weeks, HBO's new series "Girls" has been the subject of reverence, disappointment and disgust. And these reactions are all understandable, even (and especially) from someone in the show's target audience. But would "Girls" get so much attention, both positive and negative, if it wasn't worth watching?
Lena Dunham is the creator, writer, producer (with the help of Judd Apatow) -- and plays the main character, Hannah. As a fellow 25-year-old woman, I have to pause to admire her.
...thank you for indulging me.
Back to the plot: Two years out of college, Hannah lives in Brooklyn with her responsible friend Marnie (played by Allison Williams -- yes, she is Brian Williams' beautiful daughter). They're joined by friends Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (Zosia Shapiro).
The girls are honest and ballsy. They say and do things that make me cringe and laugh. Best of all, these are believable 20-somethings in a believable New York.
The spaces and faces are familiar and imperfect (which make them all the more familiar). But that's where the criticism comes in. The cast is all white.
Some argue there is no getting past the show's lack of diversity, while others counter that Dunham is writing about her own experiences, and shouldn't force the show to be something it's not. "What’s a worse fate: clumsy token diversity or honest whiteness?," Jon Caramanica wonders in The New York Times.
And while I think all these arguments hold some truth, I don't think it's fair that one show is suddenly carrying the weight of inequality in the world of television, both behind and in front of the camera.
I'm willing to take the series for what it is -- a dry-witted, smart show written by and about girls my age, living in my city. It's nice to finally see main characters who are little chubby, sex scenes that are anything but polished and apartments that aren't urban myths (thanks, "Friends."). The show certainly doesn't break all the barriers, but I think it's a big step in the right direction for those of us girls looking for something that actually takes an honest crack at being about, well, girls.
So what's it about?
The pilot begins with Hannah, spaghetti stuffed in her mouth, reminding her parents: "I'm a growing girl!" Just seconds later, they announce they're cutting her off. After two years of supporting her unpaid-internship, Greenpoint-apartment lifestyle: "NO. MORE. MONEY."
Hannah isn't the most sympathetic character. She's spoiled and self-involved. She's shocked that her parents no longer want to support her.
But hang with her. She more self-aware than I thought. And she makes fun of her flaws (the source of most of the show's funniest lines and moments) without delving too deep into self-pity.
While Hannah tries to find a way to afford New York for at least three and a half more days (maybe seven, if she doesn't eat lunch), she and her friends navigate their relationships -- between one another, with men and with co-workers. And Jessa announces her unwanted pregnancy (to Marnie, from a toilet seat during a party).
And all along, we see the girls in the uncomfortable, private moments you hope no one knows about -- struggling through horribly awkward sexual encounters, bombing job interviews, admitting secrets in a crowded waiting room, Googling embarrassing questions. But they strive to make these situations lighter and funnier, in a very real way, in a setting that -- thankfully -- doesn't try to jam a caricature of New York down our throats.
And while the pilot is mostly a setup for episodes to come, I can't help but already relate to these girls. My parents may not support me and I may live alllll the way in northern Queens, but I've seen nothing closer to my life on TV before. Let's be honest -- most parts about 24-year-old girls aren't written or even played by 20-somethings.