HBO series Girls shows 20-somethings as they really are – not the good little human beings that society wants them to be
“I hope Girls represents a moment in which it became OK for women to show the full range of their complexity — messy, inappropriate, sexual, having dark urges, or acting like a f**king bitch.”
This is what Lena Dunham – creator of the HBO series Girls (2012-17) – says about the show. Her fearless comedy revolves around the lives of four 20-somethings as they attempt to navigate the unpredictable waters of adulthood in New York. Dunham is not only the writer, but also the protagonist and co-director of the series, also starring Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke and Zosia Mamet.
I was introduced to the show by my sister. Knowing how I might find these messed up characters intriguing, she suggested that I must see it. Also, she thought this show portrayed female friendship in an accurate manner. And after watching it, I must say I agree with her – completely!
Female friendships are flawed, and mostly complicated. And Girls gets it right. Here, Hannah Horvath (played by Dunham) bitches about her girlfriends now and then – even when they are the ones who stand by her when she had a bad breakup. She does not even acknowledge Marnie’s (played by Williams) efforts when she helps out during her pregnancy. But yet, somewhere there is an unsaid bond, an understanding which binds them.
Same with Hannah’s friendship with Jessa (played by Kirke) – they both parted ways when the latter started dating Hannah’s ex Adam (played by Adam Driver). But then again, they cared for each other and reconciled. Similarly, the dynamics between the other girls are too real – they talk behind each other’s back, they are jealous of each other’s success yet they are there for one another when no one else is.
Apart from this, the show stands out because it does not shy away from showing a woman’s body as it is – be it flaunting stretch marks or pubic hair. In one scene, Hannah hooks up with her ski instructor and while she dresses up – the guy asks why she has so much hair down there. To which she boldly says, “That is how a real woman’s body looks like.”
Also, the characters here – like any 20-something – mess up often, are confused, impulsive and end up making bad choices. Hannah is flaky and loses her focus, but then she lives her life to the utmost. Marnie is too uptight and appears to be an emotional fool, yet has the courage to end up marriage when she realises it was a mistake.
Jessa, even after going through so much in life, tries new things – be it studying a new subject or filmmaking. Shoshanna (played by Mamet) – who was naïve and appeared more like a shadow to the main characters initially – grows as a person and comes out as a dedicated individual with a sorted mind.
While watching the series, there were innumerable moments which made me go: ‘Oh my god! I’ve been here.’ It was so relatable! And what made me feel good is that the show is all about ‘It’s okay to mess up! You are not alone!’ It gave me a lot of clarity in that sense – for instance, mistakes are a part of life, especially when you are young and probably naïve. But what matters is you should own it up, and not regret.
In a world, especially if you have grown up in a strict environment, you must have seen how that “good girl” or “topper” in your family was portrayed as the “ideal” person. He/she was “sorted” and “disciplined” – had a plan in life and literally never messed up. But this series shows that even the most “sorted” of all envy the one who is messed up and lost – because they are living their life to the fullest.
This was beautifully captured in one episode where Hannah goes to her hometown when her grandmother is in the hospital. She meets her “topper” cousin – who is a medical student – and realises how her life is not what Hannah would ever want to have.
What I liked most is that none of the characters were ‘larger than life.’ Even the men were just like the ones you get to see around you – not a Mr Big from the Sex and the City or a Mr Grey from 50 Shades of Grey. Even the four women – how they dressed, and the places they used to hangout in, the jobs they had – all were pretty normal and thus seemed real.
Not just the characters, the entire series just seemed too real for reel. From how a woman’s body was showed onscreen to how the sex scenes were portrayed – the show seldom hesitated to show what it actually is. From discussing HPV to UTI – it spoke about all taboos with so much ease, that it all seemed very natural.
Moreover, the obsession of every film or series to give a “perfect ending” was not here – at all. The protagonist always ends up with her ‘dream man’ or ‘dream job’ – but in Girls, such is not the case. And all this happens organically. The show never tries too hard to look real – it’s just how raw it is. The credit goes to Dunham – as she was the one who created it, and her aim to show women in all their complexities and flaws has been undoubtedly captured at its best!