By Rebecca Sims
“Let’s have the type of night where it’s 5 am and one of us has definitely punched someone who’s been on a Disney channel show.”
Girls fans will know by now that season four is set to begin on the 11th January, which gives us plenty of time to go into hibernation and re-watch past episodes in preparation. Or, if you’re curious, now’s the time to catch up and see what all the fuss is about.
The concept of Girls arose after Lena Dunham’s 2010 independent film Tiny Furniture, which she wrote, directed and stared in. The positive reviews caught the interest of Judd Apatow, who admired Dunham’s portrayal of “realistic females”. This led to their collaboration and the creation of Girls, a series about four women in their twenties trying to stay afloat in New York. The lives of these women are inspired by some of Dunham’s own experiences, and it makes brilliantly entertaining viewing.
Like with Tiny Furniture, Dunham remains in control, she stars, writes, directs and executive produces. Her character, Hannah, and Jemima Kirke’s Jessa, are extensions of their roles in the film. Hannah is deluded, spoiled and ridiculously unprepared for life without her parents’ money. She is an aspiring writer who is too busy doing nothing to get anything written. She knows what she wants to do, but she doesn’t know how to get there. And she’s suffered a pretty severe bout of unrequited love with man-child (Adam Driver) she can’t ever say no to.
Jessa is the beautifully exotic bohemian friend who’s been everywhere and done everything you only wish you could do yourself. Little is known about her life, other than her aptitude for drugs and her ability to suddenly flit from place to place. After being relieved to learn she isn’t pregnant, Jessa settles in New York and obtains some ironically child-centered jobs, working as a nanny and then in a designer child’s boutique. Jessa’s cousin Shoshanna is a cute, innocent student at New York University, the “Charlotte” of the group if you will. She’s adorable, trusting and naive.
Marnie is Hannah’s best friend, she is sensible, responsible and appears to have everything under control. Though, over the course of the series, she loses her boyfriend, job and has a tough time maintaining valued friendships. Really, inside, she’s falling apart like everyone else. And that is why these women are so relatable. We like them, we have difficulty at times, but we like them. Dunham’s flawed characters are a fresh contrast to those who try to make likable women we all end up hating anyway (Carrie Bradshaw).
Though, the similarities to Sex and the City cannot be ignored. In fact, it does sound like a younger generation’s alternative. But Dunham tackles the unavoidable comparisons head on, including positioning a terrifyingly large film poster in Shoshanna’s apartment. Shoshanna fantasises about the lifestyle of Carrie and co., something that many twenty-somethings grew up wondering about the possibility of. But, for me, Girls seems more realistic, we see a less glamorous New York, the side you’ll see if you don’t have the money for designer clothes and fine dining. Dunham described it as something for those who realised “there were no Manolos” and “they had to wear mismatched sneakers on the subway”.
The thing I love about these four women is that I don’t love them all the time. They act impulsively, selfishly and don’t seem concerned about consequences. For instance, instead of appreciating the fact her parents have supported her all her life, Hannah throws a tantrum when they cut her off. While being tested for STDs, she makes agonizingly flippant comments about how she may benefit from contracting AIDS. In instances like this they don’t engage their brains. They’re too wrapped up in themselves. And it’s infuriating, but also understandable. They say and do things most people have filters to prevent and through this they normalise the abnormal tendencies of us all.
A major element of Girls is sex. Awkward sex, funny sex, gratifying sex. And alongside sex is nudity. Many have hailed Dunham “brave” for baring all, though all she is doing is displaying the human form. We all have a naked body, yet it’s something that can be a taboo to expose, especially if you don’t fit the slender, petite female mold audiences have become accustomed to seeing. Yet Dunham defies her critics and regularly disrobes in order to portray the reality of sex and the interactions that follow.
If I had to summarise Girls using one word, that word would be “raw”. Nothing is idealised, we see it all, no matter how uncomfortable that may make us feel. And that’s the beauty of it, it has the ability to make us laugh and cringe and feel better about our own misfortunes, something that I hope will continue in series four and beyond.
Rebecca is a third year English and Creative Writing student. Follow her on Twitter @_rebeccasims