Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Much has been said about Girls, but by and large, people fall into two camps: they love the show or they hate it. I’ll be honest, when I first saw the show, I was firmly on Team Hate. I think my initial problems with the show stem from the constant Sex and the City comparisons when it first came out. As a huge SATC fan, even nearly a decade after the show stopped airing, I was excited for that void to be filled with something that wasn’t another terrible movie. Unfortunately, this left me with expectations that were not going to be fulfilled. Over-the-top puns and even more over-the-top outfits were nowhere to be found; instead, there was a lot of awkward humor and more rompers than I’m generally comfortable with. SATC made me want to move to New York after college, Girls made me incredibly glad that I didn’t.
I didn’t dislike Girls just for what it wasn’t, I also wasn’t a huge fan of what it was. ”How is this even TV? If I wanted to see 20-somethings being broke in Brooklyn, I would have just moved to Brooklyn after college like everyone else,” I told a friend after watching the show. I think my real problem might have been just that I started with the wrong episode; the first one I watched was “The Return,” where Hannah heads back to Michigan for a weekend. When you have no knowledge of the characters, hearing someone tell herself, “You are from New York, you are just naturally interesting… the least interesting thing you say is more interesting than the most interesting thing he says” makes you wonder who this deluded, self-involved character is, and why you’d want to spend any time watching her. Based on that episode, I felt some degree of outrage that this self-centered but not even remotely self-sufficient character thought she could be the voice of my generation.
Some combination of boredom, discovering HBOGo, and continued hype caused me to give the show another shot last month. Seeing the show from the beginning made all the difference. Watching the pilot, I was taken in by Marnie’s character, with the way she thought she had all the answers because she had a job, her ambivalence about her college boyfriend, and her caring but sometimes condescending friendship with Hannah. She gave me something that I could relate to, because at 23, I was Marnie. Maybe Girls does get me, I thought.
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Of course, this isn’t some simple Shoshonna “OMG! I’m totes not a Carrie or a Miranda, I’m a Marnie!” situation. While her character was what drew me in, what kept me watching was the relationships between the characters. Of course, there are still elements of the show to which I’ll never relate or understand (why Hannah’s so into Adam, for instance), but that’s true of most shows. What stands out for me about the show is its brutally accurate depiction of early 20s female friendship. Sure, it’s not middle school, but it still can be an ugly, awkward, mean time, when everyone’s trying to figure out what life looks like after college, there’s a lot of secret competitiveness and judging, everyone’s changing and there’s a lot of wondering if the people who meant the world to you for four years still fit in your new life. Cruel things are said. People drift away or even disappear.
I like that the show lets this happen and doesn’t try to wrap up the girls’ fights in 30-minute sitcom, “let’s hug it out” situations. Things fester and get drawn out. It’s not pretty, but it’s true-to-life, and it’s nice to see that played out on screen. The scene in season two where Marnie’s just ended things with Booth and Hannah calls and it’s obvious that the girls need and miss each other, but neither one can actually bring themselves to say it, is so real it breaks my heart.
It turns out Girls isn’t so different from Sex and the City after all, because at the center of both shows is an unbreakable bond between four very different women. They have their fights and their differences, but at the end of the day, they’re going to come through and make their boyfriend rent a car so they can rescue you from rehab. Yes, they make mistakes in their friendships and in their lives, but they’re still figuring it out, just like the rest of us.