Saturday, June 30

Girls: A TV Show You Don't Wanna Miss

Summer is here! For some of you (if you are like me), this might mean something more than beach trips, lemonade, and sunglasses—it means no new episodes of our favorite TV shows for a few long months. While this is always a sad realization for me, it does give me an excuse to step away from the television (or, more likely, laptop) and go outside!
Lena Dunham, Creator of Girls

...Or to stay inside, on my computer, and write about the TV shows I am unable to watch. 

One of my absolute favorite TV shows this year is HBO's new series Girls. Created, written, and directed by its own leading actress Lena Dunham, Girls has attracted a lot of attention this year—and for good reason. This realistic and unapologetic show portrays the lives, struggles, and personalities of four post-graduate girls living in New York City. Girls addresses issues that face real-life girls every day: boyfriends, break-ups, being overweight, fighting with friends and parents, losing a job, being a virgin, getting an STD, and everything else. It's not so much the specific struggles these girls have that make the show so real; it's the characters themselves. They are not your typical stick-figure, Hollywood-beautiful people. They are not perfect, nor are they evil. They make mistakes, they're kind, they're arrogant, they're selfish, they're smart, they're rude. They're real. They're girls.

The show primarily follows the lives of four friends: the insecure yet vivacious aspiring writer Hannah (Lena Dunham), pretty and confident Marnie (Allison Williams), the free-spirited and eccentric Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and the silly but sweet Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).

In a sense, each girl represents a different aspect of almost every girl's personality. Hannah is broke, overweight, and, for much of the first season, she is unemployed and in an unstable and confusing relationship with Adam (Adam Driver). Despite her insecurities and bad luck, Hannah is an artist who dreams of becoming an influential writer. Every girl alive has her own self-doubts, but every girl also has a dream. The important thing isn't to ignore or completely erase all worries and uncertainties; the important thing is for every girl to focus on what makes her special, and to use her unique abilities to pursue her passions and her dreams.

Marnie is probably the most stereotypically “pretty” girl on the show, and even she is a realistic-looking girl with a realistic-looking girl's body. Marnie has a stable job and a boyfriend who adores her (for most of the season, anyway). She knows she is prettier and smarter than a lot of people, and she assumes everybody else knows that, too. In Episode 7, she complains to an uninterested stranger at a party something along the lines of: I'm not a girl somebody just gets over, you know? Marnie's character shows the dangers of being too arrogant and self-absorbed. A lot of girls find themselves thinking that they are better than other people: richer, smarter, prettier, more athletic. While all girls should love themselves and appreciate their own unique qualities and abilities, no one girl is inherently better than another. Despite her pretty face and put-together life, Marnie ends up alienating those she is closest to with her overly-inflated ego. 

Marnie and Jessa
Jessa is a world-traveler from London who has seen and done it all. She is impulsive and independent, and she is always open to trying something new. She is highly charismatic—people are continually drawn to her confidence and unconventional charm. However, sometimes her rash decisions and carelessness produce unpleasant consequences. Jessa represents a girl's desire for independence—to be one's own person, to travel the world, to have sex shamelessly, to feel powerful and free. But independence comes at a price. With independence comes greater responsibility for one's actions and their consequences.

Finally, there is Shoshanna. Shoshanna is sweet, if somewhat ditzy and shallow. She can hold a full one-sided conversation about Sex and the City (which, coincidentally or no, also revolves around the lives of four female friends in New York City). Very different from her cousin Jessa, Shoshanna's most pressing concern in the first season is that she is 21 and still a virgin. Sex, sexuality and virginity can sometimes be sources of stress, doubt and confusion for girls and young women. Besides her chastity, however, Shoshanna's character also shows a sillier, more (for lack of a better word) “girlish” side of a girl's personality. Sometimes girls, like Shoshanna, just simply like to watch trashy TV shows, gossip with their friends, and wear too much makeup. 

From left to right: Marnie, Jessa, Hannah, and Shoshanna
Many of the actors of Girls are not big-names in the TV or movie industry; most of them are fresh faces. Some of the more well-known actors on the show include Zosia Mamet (Shoshanna) who played Peggy's lesbian friend Joyce in AMC's Mad Men; Kathryn Hahn (Katherine, the mother of the children Jessa babysits), who I most recently saw as Jennifer Barkley, the rival campaign manager in NBC's Parks and Recreation and the comically pregnant woman in Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator; The IT Crowd and Bridesmaids's Chris O'Dowd; Peter Scolari; and Freaks and Geeks's Becky Ann Baker. All of the the first season's ten full episodes can be viewed on HBO GO.

Great quotes from Girls:

“I don’t like women, telling other women, what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Every time I have sex, it’s my choice!” - Jessa

“I know and he’s always liking my Facebook statuses, it’s always such a weird, aggressive move, like, 'Oh I passed you an STD but I enjoy your quirky web presence!'” - Hannah

“I'm like the least virgin-y virgin ever!” - Shoshanna

“I pay all the bills in this apartment, does that not give me one night off from talking about you and your problems?” - Marnie

"You know what I'm gonna do from now on, I'm gonna ask people if they're gay before I have sex with them." - Hannah

"Jessa has HPV, like a couple of different strains of it. She says that all adventurous women do." - Shoshanna