I got in a fight once about the HBO series Girls. It’s true. I was living in Brooklyn and hanging out with my wife at a friends board game drink up. I may have had a couple of beers and we were all talking about TV and the much heated (at the time) subject of Girls came up. This was at the beginning of season 1. The hype machine had been in full swing and I believe that part of me was just tired of hearing about it. What I said that sparked a fight came from an honest place, I stated plainly “I don’t think the show is aimed at me, I’m a 30 year old dude.” The response that this elicited was along the lines of the fact that all shows are aimed at 30 year old dudes, which I don’t entirely agree with, but that is besides the point. The reality is that many shows are aimed at 30 year old dudes. White dudes to be more specific. It’s a shameful reality that most shows that prominently feature females or ethnicities were at the time and continue to be few and far between. I argued for a little while that what she was saying was not entirely my point, but more that while the show was receiving quite a bit of hype, I was not said target of the hype, so I didn’t know that I would watch it.
To be fair, my point didn’t matter, but I also don’t feel like I was trying to provoke a fight either. I did end up giving the show a chance, and I have to say after binging season 1 in a couple of sittings, that I was mostly right. Season 1 was a mess of tropes about things I couldn’t have cared less about, warehouse parties, sexting, etc. It didn’t connect with me emotionally because even the male figures in the show felt like they were written as annoying caricatures of what a real person would be like. Adam? Please. Ray? What am I supposed to find appealing here? Not that characters are supposed to be 100% real, or that Girls was created to make you love everyone on the show, but as I struggled to find redeeming qualities in the characters or something to connect on, the closest I usually came was moments of fleeting shittiness in my 20s. Not that I can’t be plenty shitty now, just that the connections weren’t there for me, the experiences weren’t equivalent. I didn’t find myself laughing like I do at the bizarre selfishness in Seinfeld or Louis, but more cringing at behavior that I couldn’t rectify in my head. There was no central character that you felt connected to peaking in on the lives of these people. It was just what it’s title states. Girls living in Brooklyn. That is not to say that I was acting as a protestant, wondering how these people could be so naked and sexual, as is usually the complaint on the show. That wasn’t my issue at all. More so it was a layer of selfishness and general shittiness to each other so thick, it made me wonder why my friends and I were so nice to each other, had something been wrong with us in our twenties?
That was season 1, then came season 2. I didn’t watch Girls as it was airing. I gave up on it for about a year and a half after season 1. I turned on season 2 as a bit of a lark, to check in on the ladies of Greenpoint and see if they were still being assholes to each other. After binging season 2 and 3 I can say that I will happily and willingly eat my own words. Girls has grown into a show with characters that are multi-faceted, flawed yes, but who wants to watch perfect people being perfect. The show has humor that feels less generational and issues that feel more broad. I can understand, that taking the longview of this show, this may have been Lena Dunham’s goal all along. Introduce us to characters that we want to root for but can’t and then as seasons progress give them reason to become living, breathing humans, instead of vapid half adults.
The point at which I knew something special was happening more so than any other was S2E5, One Man’s Trash. Hannah meets a man at work, sort of oddly follows him home to apologize for something and ends up having a long one night stand with him. In the middle of which she has an emotional breakdown and admits to wanting things. Wanting a nice apartment, stability, people and men who treat her with respect. She questions her motives up to this point and wonders why she values herself so little. It’s a moment of heartbreaking honesty that cracks the “whatever” shell that had so long been portrayed. There had been good moments leading up to this, but nothing so powerful in one sharp moment. The reality soon comes sweeping back in and she ends up back in her same old spot, by having her honesty rejected by the man she chose to tell. It was a dagger and it hurt, but she got up and moved on. This blow leads to another with her impending book falling apart and one of the most brutal season finales I’ve seen titled Together.
The third season continued it’s growth with the awkwardness and consistent failure that has become Marnie as well as the slow breakdown of Shoshanna, who is finally growing up. I won’t ruin much from season 3 if you have not yet caught up, but it has been mostly following the themes of growth and what happens to friends when you get out of your early twenties and start having to figure things out. I feel like the plots and story lines have gone after the idea of relationships more. The need to be co-dependent or an individual. The push and pull of long term relationships. The awkward moments are still awkward, the selfish moments can infuriate you, but now they do so because you know these are people going through things that you have. Dealing with how friends grow up together, how relationships change over time. Things you can look back and regret you didn’t do differently or embrace the change they brought you. If you, like me, didn’t give the show a chance after season 1, I highly recommend you give at least the second season a shot. I’m excited about what the end of season 3 could mean, it’s nice to watch a show not because it has some killer hook but because the characters have slowly endeared themselves to you. To care about the growth of a show and to always, always be let down when Marnie does something absolutely cringe worthy.