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HBO’s “Girls”: More of the Same, or Just Different Enough?

Earlier this week, the trailer for the new HBO series Girls was released (check it out on Slate), and while there are some aspects of it that are appealing, a lot of it just felt like the same old same old.

Here’s an extremely brief synopsis: created by and starring Lena Dunham of Tiny Furniture fame, Girls is about twenty-something women who move to New York City and try to make it on limited funds and employment. Groundbreaking territory this is not, but there are a few good elements.

Let me start with what I like about the show (which of course is just based on the trailer). Dunham isn’t your typical glamorous Hollywood type, and looks like your good friend from college or co-worker from your first job. The dialogue also seems more realistic than shows like 2 Broke Girls, where every other word is a double entendre or dripping with sarcasm.

Now, the issues. Isn’t it time for these shows to be set in another city? I know, New York City is fascinating and the city where dreams come true and blah blah blah, but really, young people actually do live in other places. Want to keep the setting a big city? Try Chicago, Miami, Boston, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver… there are tons of major cities that are rarely featured on scripted series. Or, think outside the box and set it in some small, rural location, or even the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. The possibilities are endless, but television shows never go there.

Also, I don’t know if you know this about New York City, but there are so many cultures represented by residents that it’s actually pretty astonishing. Why then do all of these New York City-centric shows pretend they don’t exist? If I take a look at my core group of friends who still live in New York City (all of whom I met while at grad school), there’s a Hungarian, a Jamaican, a Pakistani, two Texans (one Asian, one Black), and a Caucasian from New Jersey. Throw me and my California-born self in there, and you have quite a mix of people. The beauty of it is, most groups of friends that I know in NYC are quite diverse, which is why seeing white people hanging out with white people and dating white people sticks out so much: it’s not really the norm.

So that’s that. I really can’t decide, based on this short trailer, if it’s more of the same or different enough to make a statement. I’d like to think this is a step in the right direction of having more women create television shows, but the things I took away from the trailer that bug me, really bug me. What do you think?

By Catherine

Catherine is a Southern California based freelance writer, whose work has appeared in everything from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. The highlight of her life (so far) was being featured on MSNBC for a story she wrote on Hello Kitty wines...she knew one day her love of all things HK would come in handy.

6 replies on “HBO’s “Girls”: More of the Same, or Just Different Enough?”

I just saw Tiny Furniture, which I liked, but had A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH. Sure there were a few lines I could relate to and I liked that it focused on the mother-daughter, sister-sister relationships of Lena’s character/probably her real life situation (as her mother and sister were played by their real life counter parts).

BUT OMG RICH PEOPLE ALERT. That whole movie is check out my awesome career in the arts, you know the one that was basically handed to me! Check out my mom’s sweet Manhattan loft! DON’T MAKE ME PUKE. Some of us have to work hard for the shit we have, kthanks.

I have a very tenuous relationship with my mother, but I could see aspects of our relationship portrayed in the relationship presented in the movie. The only difference (and its huge one) is that we’re middle/working class and my mom is very Polish-American (emphasis on the Polish) and would have bounced my ass if I acted half as foolishly as Lena’s character (named Aura too, WTF?) did. I would be forced into a job, just to make my mom happy, and I wouldn’t be able to quit on day 2 either.

Also: I’m sick of the lack of diversity. It’s just lazy. How do shows set in NYC get away with it? I mean any of them? There are never any minorities on How I met your Mother either. Or Friends… I could go on for days. There are hardly even an white ethnic actors/characters either, at least none that aren’t caricatures (looking @ you, Joey Tribbiani!)… It’s disgusting.

I really really hate the narrative of the directionless, upper-middle class, twenty-something who is sponging off her parents, and it’s use in this series as a comedic tool. While I find the other “broke in NYC” show, Two Broke Girls totally obnoxious and contrived for other reasons, I feel like at least it acknowledges the financial realities of our generation a bit better. I’m 26, and I would say 80% of the people I know (including myself who teaches in her PhD program and works another job) is working two jobs at a heck of a lot less than my parents made when they were my age. At the age I am right now, my parents were able (despite both working for the government at fairly entry level jobs) to buy the house they still live in.

Almost no one I know is getting money from Mum and Dad, though I do  know a few people who have moved home, usually after some sort of major financial problem or a really rough breakup with a live in partner. Shows/larger narratives like this, that we are lazy, directionless, bums totally fail to acknowledge the financial realities of the times we live in.

exactly. It just seems like manic pixie girl sex in the city.  For all I dislike about 2BG (and I quite dislike it), it does acknowledge financial ruts like the bombed out living space with oddly placed roomates or working a shit job like waitressing. Girls acknowledges that, but it seemed like the women had entry level white collar jobs and it also seemed to gloss over the financial aspect lot by having characters who can spend money the way they want.  I’m also not really digging the “girls” trope thats being used to describe grown women on tv. It just comes off as a bit patronizing.

Also, as a NYC resident, I’d like to broadcast a message to TV Land – NEW YORK IS NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE. Please stop making it so.

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