Saying Goodbye to GIRLS

I’m rewatching Girls, since I’m now the same age as Marnie, Hannah, and Jessa were in the pilot. I’ve always had a somewhat complicated relationship with the show — I, like Lena Dunham, grew up in New York, had cool activist parents, and attended Oberlin. People say my speaking voice sounds exactly like hers (which is maybe just because I have some millennial up talk going on?), and during the first season on the same exact day I had two different friends, who didn’t know each other, tell me I reminded them of Hannah. I was actually super excited when on her book tour, Lena Dunham came to visit Oberlin in my junior year. Struggling with my own creativity and how to channel it, I asked her at a panel how she knew she had a voice that was unique. Like a total gal pal she gave the most Lena kind of answer. “You know like, they say the first time you have an orgasm, you’ll know? Like, you’ll know.”

The series started airing in my freshman year, and among all the think pieces and criticism, I’ve begun to consider what it really means to identify so strongly with this show. The show’s creators have called the characters on it self centered narcissists, which is a little hard to swallow when I also feel like some of the lines came directly from my head, like: “so any mean thing someone’s gonna think of to say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour.” And unlike the show it was said to have copied, Sex and the City, no one wants to identify as a Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, or even a Shosh, because these characters seem to have so many unsavory qualities. While I was in college, Girls felt like a blueprint of what “life after” would look like, and I’m not sure I would have felt as justified in dating shitty men or taking jobs I didn’t like had I not had a show of girls behaving imperfectly to sort of back me up. Now if I do things like wear heinous crop tops, eat at Crif Dogs in Williamsburg, or have a loud and inappropriate conversation in public, these actions feel like a weird barometer of how much my life is actually Girls.

Whenever backlash around Lena Dunham or the show happens, I try to recognize both sides of the argument: she has a habit of speaking her mind, which comes from a place of privilege, and her large social media following means her work gets doubly scrutinized, with good reason. I’ve had a bunch of girls tell me they just “can’t with her,” and I totally get why. They feel hurt by her careless seeming actions, and she has spoken publicly about her desires to overshare, and how she has said things that have hurt people. But though she can’t speak for everyone, I’m happy to say that Girls has spoken for me and empowered me as a creative young person who’s trying to figure it out.

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