Much has been made of HBO’s new series “Girls,” with critics (including our very own Laura Donovan) unable to come to a consensus as to whether it’s a groundbreaking and real depiction of a floundering generation or a moronic, whiny collection of #whitegirlproblems that didn’t deserve ever to see the light of day.
Personally, I fall, more or less, into the first camp – I think the show says a lot of important things about the ways in which young, educated people are feeling about the bleak employment and cultural and romantic landscape we seem to have been randomly vomited out into. If “Girls,” and for that matter, my life and the lives of many people I know and love, had a tagline, it would be something like, “This isn’t how we expected it to turn out.” And sure, maybe that’s because we were ’90s kids and our expectations were unreasonably high, fueled by the sweet but misguided parenting strategy of, “You can do anything you set your mind to because you are SPECIAL and UNIQUE and the UNIVERSE KNOWS IT.” No I can’t, no I’m not, and no, really, it doesn’t. I am, you are, we all are average and relatively insignificant and by and large unskilled and unspecial in the grand scheme of things (sorry to be such a Debbie Downer but it’s true), and I think Lena Dunham’s writing conveys the gap between who we thought we would be and the normal/sucky people we ended up being brilliantly.
But that’s not what I want to talk about here. There’s no use dwelling on the massive disconnect between who I want to be and who I am, and who these TV characters wanted to be and who they are. It’s the plague of my generation but it’s not really worth harping on about, at least not on this corner of the Web that we’ve set aside for serving tea and, hopefully, some loveliness to one another.
No, what I want to talk about here is what Dunham calls the “real romance” of her show: the relationships between the female protagonists, and especially between Dunham’s character, Hannah, and her best friend Marnie (the ravishing Allison Williams). I knew the show was a direct reflection of my female friendships during two small but, to my mind, heart-stoppingly beautiful scenes in the first episode: first, the shot of Marnie and Hannah in bed together, in deep platonic love, limbs wrapped carelessly together in a posture that spoke directly to the deep, abiding and completely unselfconscious affection the best girl-on-girl friendships are made of. Later, the two sit casually in the bathtub together, Marnie shaving her legs, Hannah naked and eating a cupcake for breakfast. The comfort and tenderness with which the two treat each other, emotionally and even physically, tugged at my heartstrings in a way few onscreen romantic, especially heterosexually so, relationships ever have.
This, to me, is what “Girls” is about, and this is what makes it great television. It’s the same thing that was compelling in “Sex and the City” (a show that bears little other resemblance to “Girls,” save that it is also set in New York City and also starred ladies). I never cared much about the preposterous romances on that show, either (Miranda and Steve were sweet, I guess) but the women loved each other fiercely and eternally, and that, I think, is why so many female viewers stuck around – it was refreshing to finally see a depiction of the true love we felt for our closest friends, the bonds that went so much deeper than the silly, vapid, backstabbing excuses for female friendships that worm their way into most romantic comedies and other films ostensibly aimed at women.
This week’s episode of “Girls” contained another scene that spoke directly to me and made me ache for the days when I lived in a big rundown house with the lady loves of my life. In the last scene, after both Hannah and Marnie have gone through various bizarre, off-putting, and downright hellish encounters with the idiotic men in their lives, there’s nothing left for them to do but dance like crazy people in Hannah’s room, sloughing off the icky feelings of men who treat them badly by reveling in their true true loves – each other. When Marnie backs up into Hannah and the two put their arms around each other, I knew this show had won me over for good, because all I wanted to do at that moment was find my girlfriends and put my arms around them and say, “This is for keeps.”