A show that could be described as divisive, Girls created a cultural maelstrom, spawning tons (at times correct) criticism ranging from the lack of diversity on the show to those painfully awkward sex scenes. Dunham, herself, has been simultaneously celebrated and ravaged in the media with television critics loving the show, feminists loving her body-positive attitude, to jerks like Howard Stern calling her “a little fat girl,” and claims of nepotism for her successes.
While it’s easy to write off Dunham’s work because she’s young, white and rich—doing so is a simplistic, feminist-policing act—because Dunham’s work is well-done and important to the media landscape. Yes, Girls is not representative of a generation of millenials and yes it could be much more race/class conscious (although Dunham has taken this criticism and incorporated into season two) but it still is a woman-created, woman-centric portrayal of young women struggling to figure out who they are. At times they aren’t likeable, their bodies aren’t perfect and the sex is awkward. But they are real, flawed, complex female characters—ones we desperately need on television.
Clearly, there is a demand and desire for these kinds of women on television. As of late, Los Angeles (and I assume even more so in New York) has been littered with billboards, buses and benches with Dunham’s face on them. I even went to a “surprise” party thrown by Flavorpill and HBO to celebrate the new season. It had an open bar, cupcakes and a special screening of last night’s season 2 premiere. And it was packed. People (the audience was mostly female) were sitting on each other so they could be in the room where the episode was shown. During the episode itself, there was screaming, cheering, gasping and a huge round of clapping at the end.
Girls satiates a thirst for a certain kind of show that women -- both young and old -- didn’t realize they needed until they saw it. It also in both good and bad ways garners conversation about a variety of issues—race, class, feminism, body image, the dismal economy, among others mostly filtered through the rabid bloodlust of the internet. The fact that we have a 26-year-old woman creating her own content for women of her age group that is also creating conversation and simultaneously influencing media is important. Networks are recognizing the growing importance of having women created and centric content. Within the last several months, a good amount of television development news has been dominated by women. And during the TCA’s these past two weeks, the importance of having a women audience was stressed upon in multiple panels.
The first episode of season two (which I’ll also be recapping weekly for Bitch), plays upon many of the tropes that the show became notorious for—extremely awkward relationship and sexual encounters, being unsure of your next step and complicated friendships. However, it also feels as if the show has hit its stride. It is apparent that Dunham has taken critiques and incorporated them into the fabric of the show—which makes it stronger. Also the characters (with the exception of Jessa, thus far) are put in new places in their lives, allowing for more complex character growth. If this first episode is any indication, I think we are in for another excellent season of television—one that will enrage some -- but we're thinking the love will win out.
Girls airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.