The new HBO series is splitting critics opinion. Is it a little too close to home?
I first started watching the new HBO sitcom Girls because it was described as being “like Sex and the City but scruffier.” I love Sex and the City. I also love television programmes with kooky typography and a jaunty indie soundtrack, so within seconds of watching the YouTube trailer, I was sold.
The show revolves around the life of Hannah (played by Lena Dunham, director, writer and creator of Girls), a twenty-something college graduate, living in New York City with no job, no money, and a terrible sex life. In the first scene of the pilot, we see Hannah being told by her parents that it has been two years since she left college, and they are no longer going to financially support her. Hannah is outraged that they would cut her allowance off, crying, “I could be a drug addict! Do you realise how lucky you are?” before facing the fact that she will have to quit her year long, unpaid internship and actually get a real job.
Meanwhile, Hannah’s flatmate Marnie (Allison Williams) is coming to the end of a relationship with her sickeningly sweet boyfriend who she can no longer bear to even share a bed with, and yet refuses to break up with. And then there’s Jess (Jemima Kirke), the token misunderstood Brit who has just turned up on Marnie and Hannah’s doorstep armed with a cigarette and a whole lot of emotional baggage. The first episode continues on this tangent with a number of female crisis chats conducted in bathrooms and a farcical bender on opium tea.
Ordinarily, this kind of graduate age sitcom would be right up my street, but something wasn’t quite right. Five minutes in and I was already irritated with the protagonist Hannah. From her total reliance on her parents to her inability to stand up to anybody, you are left feeling not only unsympathetic towards Hannah, but downright irritated with her lack of gumption and self-worth. Behind the quick dialogue and deadpan jokes, Hannah’s life is essentially a mess; a string of embarrassing blunders from the workplace to the bedroom make for both compelling yet painfully cringe-worthy watching. Yes, it’s funny at times and the characterisations are spot-on, if a little exaggerated at times. However you sit there wondering whether someone of a supposedly higher-than-average IQ really can put their foot in it this many times in one day.
There is also a lot of sex. Now I’m no prude; I enjoy a good Samantha Jones, Sex and the City quip as much as the next person. However, when your male housemate recoils in horror on hearing the sounds that are coming out of your laptop early on a Tuesday afternoon, you know something is awry. The prolonged sex scenes are so uncomfortably real and awkward that watching borders on becoming unbearable at times. Is this a sign of television breaking the boundaries in its depiction of modern sexuality or just another way of shocking the audience into submission? How much more realistic can television sex scenes get?
In just two twenty minute episodes, Girls has covered: casual sex, boring sex, anal sex, abortion, substance abuse, stealing from one’s parents, exploitation of young interns and STIs. It literally couldn’t be more chock-a-block with “contemporary problems” if it tried. Some critics are describing Girls as a post-feminist depiction of modern life, where we finally see young women in charge of their own careers and sex lives. All I see is an incredibly depressing take on the lives we could be leading post-graduation. It’s all a little too close to home for my liking.