Lena Dunham's HBO series, Girls, premiered last night, and like (I'm guessing) every other urban-dwelling twentysomething with creative aspirations, access to HBO, and an opinion about Dunham's indie hit movie, Tiny Furniture, I watched it.
Some people are already calling Girls the best show on television (they clearly don't watch America's Next Top Model), and even though others have jumped in to criticize the new series for its all-white cast and the relative socioeconomic privilege of its characters and creators, nearly everyone agrees that Dunham's portrayal of young, white Brooklyn is nuanced, subtle, and emotionally true. Hm.
Girls does tackle almost all the issues which make up the lives of post-college women: friendship, sexual missteps, professional ambition, and financial insecurity. Even better, the show gets the details right: on the "totem" of social media, GChat < Texting; narcissistic Brooklyn boys like to blabber about the inherent "honesty" of woodworking; the world is divided into people that do and don't know how to style a fedora.
Other touches feel a little broad for a show created by a 25-year-old New York City girl (pink velour jumpsuits are deeply uncool? Please tell me more), but that could well be due to the problems of making pilot episodes or the cruder instincts of Girls producer Judd Apatow.
I can't in all honesty say I wanted to like Girls (yes, fine: I am jealous of Lena Dunham) but I did expect to: as Dunham observed both in Tiny Furniture and in last night's premiere of her new show, girls like me are super self-involved and can spend a sickening amount of time talking about and thinking about themselves. But even though the pilot was pleasant to watch, I came away from my half hour with Lena Dunham and the girls feeling a little cold: this did not feel like My So-Called Life for my current so-called life. In the pilot episode, the friendships seemed to operate mostly on the level of banter, every romantic pairing was utterly vacant at its center — and to some extent, those are satiric strokes and the point of the show, but they're also the stuff of my nightmares. In My So-Called Life, Angela Chase, like the Girls' protagonist Hannah, made mistakes, pursued boys that were no good for her, laughed with her friends, was disappointed by her parents, but the stakes of her every decision were impossibly high, because they were grounded in a depth of feeling — it was that feeling which justified Angela's self-absorption, which made the show seem true. And that's what I can't help but expect from a show which claims to be speaking directly to me, and I hope Girls might still deliver on its promise.
Image via HBO