By E. Max Bonem, Esq. (Yes, I’m still alive. Have no fear, the Bonman is here)
“I think I’m the voice of my generation… Or at least a voice, of a generation.” After being told by her parents that she’s going to be cut off financially (effective immediately), Lena Dunham’s character “Hannah” from her new show Girls, the Judd Apatow-produced and HBO-backed magnified look at modern day post-collegiate survival in New York City, tells her parents these ethereal words as a last attempt to get them to continue to pay for her Brooklyn apartment that she can’t afford as she continues her role as an unpaid intern at a publisher’s office in Manhattan. This, my dear friends and readers, rings eerily true in this day and age.
Although few assumed that a show backed by Apatow and written/directed by and starring the 25-year old Dunham, whose only notable acting credit was her indie film Tiny Furniture (which she also wrote and directed), about four girls between the ages of 21 and 25 living in present day Brooklyn would reach much of an audience, well, it has – BIG time. Unfortunately for Girls, it has been labeled by many as something that it surely is not: a younger version of the ultra popular four-gals-living- (not always so) large-in-NYC, Sex and the City. However, that is not to say that there aren’t some rather obvious similarities. For instance, each of the four characters from Girls does share a variety of similarities with each of the four women who made Jimmy Choo a household name and the Cosmopolitan the drink of choice for so many groups of women out on the town, hoping to encounter an adventure that would rival that of Carrie & co.
We have: a neurotic writer who has problems being honest with the men in her life, the hard-nosed (and hypocritical) best friend who is, above all else, afraid of change, the sexually awakened and outspoken skeptic, and the innocent, sheltered prude, dying to shed an inescapable image of purity. Yet, what makes these four girls so enveloping and interesting to watch is how immensely accurate each of their roles on display really is.
There have a been a whole slew of attempts at capturing the volatile and terrifying post-collegiate years on TV and in movies, however, very few have placed as much emphasis on the accuracy of the reality that’s being created as the level of scandal and overt-promiscuity that occurs in the lives of each central character (although there’s PLENTY of that in Girls as well). In just four episodes, Girls has already handled a whole barrage of topics, most of which almost every 21-25 year old can identify having experience with (either personally or through a friend).
These would include: experimenting with drugs, abortions, STIs, sexting, wondering about the stuff that gets outside the condom, being a virgin, having sex with someone you met less than an hour prior, weird roleplay, cheating, being absolutely broke, working a job you hate, being told to be realistic about your future, and not being offered a job based on your lack of experience with Photoshop.
As many of you HBO watchers (or more likely piraters/Netflix whores) know, this isn’t the premium cable network’s first attempt at capturing the Lost-In-New York saga mindset about twenty-something. The other, How To Make It In America, (unfortunately) started losing it’s audience when the main characters started to succeed and, although watching the pitfalls and sacrifices that come with success can be great theater fodder, it’s not something that most recent college graduates in this day and age can identify with. Rather than seeing each of the four girls’ dreams coming true through hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, we see each of them succumbing to our generation’s national past-time of just floating in space.
Hannah (Lena Dunham) is working as an office clerk while she continues to “become a writer,” something that an endless number of people in their mid-twenties aspire towards. Her roommate Marnie (played by complete smoke-show (thank you for that term Matt Jared) Allison Williams) works as a receptionist at a super posh Manhattan art gallery and finds herself so unhappy in her current four-year relationship with an overly-supportive and kind boyfriend that she finds herself getting off to the thought of a much more aggressive co-worker screwing her brains out. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is the witty, vagabond cousin of her complete opposite and over-the-top neurotic cousin Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), who fits every Jewish American Princess stereotype that one could imagine (except for the whole virgin thing, but then again that could be a stereotype that I’m unaware of).
Each character is immensely identifiable with and possesses traits that you immediately place with a friend from college or work or the other side of your apartment building. Each subsequent scene or character development immediately makes you think, “Fuck, that’s true.” The show is so incredibly accurate that I’ve at times found myself thinking, “this happened to so and so and I was THERE.” (Note – I’m a dude, but with the hyperrealism seen throughout the show, it’s not hard to identify with, regardless of sex or gender.)
What is polarizing and quite interesting is the way males of the same age group are depicted through the first four episodes. Hannah’s interest Adam is an aspiring actor/model that only brings Hannah around for sex and accidentally sends her dick picks (and then apologizes using the acronym “sry.”). Conversely, Marnie’s boyfriend Charlie is overly nice and supportive to the point where their rather boring sex scene is almost painful to watch as he pounds her from behind while she looks as though she would rather be bathing in fecal matter then staying in the moment. Oh and there’s the guy who wants to bone Shoshanna, but of course withdraws his attempts once he finds out she’s a virgin because, well, (almost) no guys between 21 and 25 really want to be anyone’ first or last for the time being.
During a visit to the gynecologist, Hannah’s doctor tells her (while her patient is spread eagle in the stirrups mind you) that you couldn’t pay her to be 24 again and it’s that sentiment that makes Girls so incredibly enjoyable and (at times) hard to digest. The harsh truths that Dunham puts on display in scene after scene of each episode paint our generation as sex mongering, space cadets that don’t understand what it takes to make it in this world, but that (in essence) is what keeps the exact audience that Dunham’s trying to explain coming back for more.
We, as a generation, might not yet have a voice that can articulate to the masses what it means to be young in this day and age with the influx of Social Media, Cell Phones, and the “I deserve more, but I’d rather talk about it than actually act on it” mind set, but Lena Dunham is certainly on the right track – even if that track does include a few accidental dick picks and impromptu, drug-infused family moments along the way (those are the best).