My mother-in-law is obsessed with Girls and just sent over another article in the New York Times about it. Now that it’s over, she and millions of others are talking about the shows cultural significance, its relevant messages about millennials, liberals, Brooklyn hipsters, race, and so on. My god — let it be over.
I’m not even writing this blog because I have some deep hatred for the show — I think Lena Dunham is incredibly talented and deserves acclaim. I’m just glad to be done talking about this show with people who believe Millennials have some sort of insight into what Dunham is writing about. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t…like pretty much everyone who has ever heard of or watched the show.
My relationship with Girls is complicated, hence this posts’ title. It’s also ironic that my 60 year old mother-in-law obsesses over the show, while I, the young female hipster New Yorker can’t stand the show. It wasn’t always like this; I was a Season 1 advocate. I thought the writing was witty, smart and struck a chord with many Millennials. The problem with the show was that the chord that was struck ended up being an annoying reminder of so many millennials I couldn’t relate to. I felt like the story line became less interesting as the show progressed — I could already see what was going to happen to the characters. Why? Because so many of the characters remind me of people I’ve had to deal with in real life (and will likely still have to). I’m not saying that I hate people like them— I just wouldn’t necessarily spend a long weekend hanging out with them (and committing to watching a show, to me, is a big investment of your time so it better be something you enjoy). The main characters were way too non-fictional for my taste. That last statement, in and of itself, is disturbing. I know people think that the show is an extreme version of privileged whiny millennials but believe me it’s not. I’ve met spent time with them — be it during college at NYU, in the prestigious post college cool job world (insert famous consulting/PR/political/celebrity/brand job here), a dinner party and/or at a local city bar.
I, myself, pretty much have a rags-to-riches story: I was born in a third world country and had little to no money growing up. People ask why I learned to ride a bike in my 20s; it’s because my family literally had no money to buy me a bike when I was a kid. I never lived in a house, nor do I know what it’s like to grow up in one; my family and I moved from apartment to apartment, and my folks worked odd jobs when I was growing up. My parents brought me up to worship one thing: education (well OK I’m Filipino it was education and pork). So, I did. I was the first to go to college and graduate. I got lucky; I got a good education because my parents moved to neighborhoods that had decent school systems (even if that meant a crappy commute to their jobs).
College exposed me to people who had many things in common that I did’t — a home they grew up in, trips they took with their family every year, skiing, summer camp, and the like. I’m not saying I had it bad so please don’t think I’m fishing for pity points. In fact, I’m saying the opposite — my parents gave me the world on a gold plate when they left their country to give me and my siblings a better life. Some of the things that I didn’t get to experience growing up I’m now experiencing as an adult. But, you can see why I (and many others) can’t really relate to the show Girls. Still, I know that no matter what financial background you have, you’ll inevitably have your own set of life problems — it’s just that the show focuses on a set of issues that aren’t really issues to me and therefore the satire behind it is less appealing to me. The SNL skit involving Blerta would be an accurate video about the way I feel.
Let’s not forget about another very vivid problem that Girls had to battle— their lack of representation outside of their white privileged Brooklyn group. My feelings about this issue are illustrated well by the New Yorker’s 2012 article “White “Girls””. It’s very difficult for me to relate to them or feel bad for whatever “hardship” they are going through. I don’t think Dunham created her characters to purposely ignore other classes, races, etc. She admitted to not knowing any better and was quick to address her shortcomings to the public. Her writing does, however, amplify an experience that, again, is specific to her point of view. As the New Yorker article points out, it’s careless of HBO to exclude other POVs given the shows influence and popularity.
If I’m being totally honest, I think Girls became a show for my upper middle class friends to love because they finally got to have their problems screened to the the masses. The issue for me isn’t that their problems aren’t problems (like I said everyone has their own set); it’s that some viewers think that the show is a good depiction of all things wrong in this world. In the “Google fact check” mobile age, entitled know-it-all attitudes can be reaffirmed because of the show. For some people, Girls is satirical and teaches Millennials to reflect on how ridiculous they can be. There are, however, definitely fans who obsess and worship over the main characters’ attitudes towards goals, life, problems and so on. That’s not exactly perpetuating a world of intelligent progress — it’s simply saying, “Hey! We’re idiots that don’t know what we’re doing! LOOK AT US! It’s so hard to be us! #TheStruggle!” I feel like Girls is a an updated, smarter Danielle Steel novel, except people defend it like its message is as epic as that of The Shawshank Redemptions.
To be clear, I have no problem with people who are privileged — I myself became privileged, I have plenty of privileged friends, and I have met people who aren’t privileged but are surprisingly shallow, mean, crass and narrow minded — assholes come in many forms. If you can take your family on a ski trip do that! If you had your college and grad school paid for good for you! Hire a financial planner, learn as much as you can, use your network — do it all. I am lucky to have friends from all wakes of life — rich, poor, middle class, black, white, trans, gay, a combination — you name it. I just have an issue of how siloed the characters in the show are from so many POV’s that they could have included in their story line. Since Girls seems to be advertised and marketed as the go to Millennial show, it needs to more accurately depict a diverse set of views rather than their own. For some, Girls eventually did that, but for me it simple did not. This is likely the key reason I stopped watching the show — I think our future is diverse, bright, and more susceptible to change and different experiences. We’re not as sheltered as you think — some of us have had to work to get to where we are, have struggled, have put in the time, and are proud of it. I think that what sets our generation apart from many is our ability to connect to different points of view because of technology; we are arguably more inclusive than any other generation. I, unfortunately, don’t think the show does a good job of capturing that.
Girls has also become a gateway for older generations to make fun of and negatively judge (surprise surprise) our generation. I am sick of the people who shout at Millennials as if their generation was smarter and never made mistakes. Please, spare me the rhetoric about how it was better during your time and I’ll stop letting you know that our way is better (it’s just different — it’s a different time and behaviors evolve). Let’s not forget that Millennials had to deal with a terrible job market that’s still in recovery, have produced some of the youngest and most influential thought leaders, and created technology that has literally changed the world. In fact, the reason why my mother-in-law is able to even forward me all the Girls articles she reads is because of the work young idiots do to optimize her e-mail server. The fact is, there is no “best way” to live life — none of us know what we’re doing. If it’s anything that Girls does well, it’s showing us that we all have character flaws we’re constantly working on it (and if you don’t think you do think again).
Is Girls a show that will be forever remembered? Of course it is! The fact that the show was able to produce as much discourse around the problems we are having culturally and cross-culturally speaks volumes. Is it for me? No thanks. There are better ways for me to spend my time. Did that statement offend you? Then you probably won’t like Girls.