If you want to escape to the glamorous side of being young, wild and free, you watch Gossip Girl. For how to be thirty, flirty and fabulous, retreat to Sex and the City. But for a generation of women trying to navigate a discouraging job market and the confusion of their twenties, there’s nothing to watch on TV. Not until now, at least. Thanks, Lena Dunham, for Girls — the best show on television for a lost flock of soon-to-be women.
I’m raving about HBO’s newest half-hour comedy (produced by Bridesmaids’ Judd Apatow) that follows four twenty-somethings who are “living the life” in NYC: Hannah is penning a memoir and hopes to become the voice of her generation, Jessa is a British bohemian who travels the world without a care or a budget, Marnie is in a perfect relationship and works at an art gallery, and Shoshanna is a virginal nerd who remains naive and enthusiastic about everything. A few of these characteristics echo those of a very successful HBO show, one whose lead character eventually wrote multiple books on love and has become the voice and fashion icon of this generation.
But be warned, Sex and the City fans: this show is nothing like Carrie Bradshaw’s search for love in the Big Apple.
In fact, these characters aren’t even really looking for that kind of thing at all — Hannah’s sadly content with a grotesque friends-with-benefits situation, while Marnie is disgusted her too-touchy-feely boyfriend. Even more so, these characters are too busy simply trying to pay skyrocketing rents with low or nonexistent paychecks, and are complaining — heavily — along the way. Why won’t Hannah’s parents just give her $1,100 a month for two more years? Don’t they want her to write that great memoir? Doesn’t a year of interning at a company mean anything in NYC? Should she just get a job at McDonald’s or should she go through life as a starving artist and fulfill her purpose?
Yes, these questions sound like they were lifted from the #firstworldproblems feed on Twitter, and since the show debuted on HBO this past Sunday, its critical acclaim has been clouded by a ton of backlash — mostly saying that the show isn’t the least bit escapist but is just a bunch of entitled white girls whining about money. Even more so, these complaining characters are played by privileged people themselves: Hannah is played by the daughter of photographer Laurie Simmons, Marnie is played by NBC anchor Brian Williams’ daughter, Jessa is portrayed by the daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, and Shoshanna is played by playwright David Mamet’s daughter. The haters say it’s hard to watch, connect with and feel sorry for characters who are as spoiled and provided for as the actresses who play them.
And as much as I agree with the critics on the point that this show seems absolutely ridiculous, I also hate to break the news that today’s generation of graduating females appear as ridiculous and entitled as the girls of Girls. We spend our undergraduate careers searching for our passions, for a way to be unique. We party hard on Thirsty Thursdays, spend hundreds of dollars on a weekend at Coachella and consider ourselves invincible to inevitable hangovers. We adopted “YOLO” before the phrase was an acronym, because we value the pleasure of an immediate moment over the security of our futures — which is why we move back home with our parents or couch surf until creativity strikes. We are Gen Y, and we look crazy, wasteful, entitled and spoiled to every generation who walked the earth before us. We really hope we don’t have to resort to careers in fast food — we feel like we’re entitled to something better, after working our asses off for our degrees and looking up to the ladies of Sex and the City for so long now (maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all). Because we really only do live once, and we want to experience as many highs as possible before we’re buried six feet under — whether that be trying opium tea, eating cupcakes in the bathtub or becoming the voice of our generation. This is what life looks like when young people are still trying to figure it all out how life is supposed to be.
All of this doesn’t mean that we, like this show and its lost, poor and unemployed lead character, won’t be great. In this new type of economy, coupled with the digital age, the emerging remote workforce and the decline of traditional life goals, we twenty-somethings seem to just need a little more time to get there. And though it’s no reality show or documentary, being able to finally see an incredibly accurate representation — literally, since not everyone onscreen is a size zero, for once — of our confusion on television is simultaneously awkward, comforting, hilarious and therefore, entertaining. Because now we know — we’re not the only ones going through all this.
And that’s exactly what producer Judd Apatow was going for:
“It was built to be a show that you’d have to defend or argue about — for some people, it would make them angry,” said Judd Apatow on the backlash over the past week. “There’s funny things to hate about it, because it is about people who are self-entitled and smart and screwing up their lives. It’s supposed to be about people who are a disaster and privileged, and every time you do something about people like that, people go, ‘Why are they like that?’ Well, because that’s the point of the show. The joke of it. People go, ‘Why are men immature in your movies?’ Well, because they are immature and it’s funny to see them try to figure it out.”
The first episode of Girls is available online for the next month — watch it below and see for yourself. Warning: the episode is definitely NSFW — it is HBO, after all — so don’t have this streaming while bored in your next lecture! Until you’re back in the privacy of your dorm, watch the super safe trailer below:
Whose side are you on — is ‘Girls’ just a justification for complaining about non-problems, or is the new HBO show going to be the voice of our generation?
Ashley is a UC San Diego grad who is holding on way too tightly to a potential career in magazines and goes to Vegas all too often. She’s fascinated with celebrities and strawberry beer and doubles as a pathological texter/emailer/blogger. Feed the addiction with tweets @cashleelee. Thanks in advance.