From controversial nude scenes to its distinctly feminist agenda, HBO series Girls has been a trending topic for the last year. The popular show is a comedy-drama created, directed and starring Lena Dunham as heroine Hannah, with Judd Apatow as executive producer. This year, it picked up two Golden Globes awards: best TV series – comedy or musical and best performance by an actress in a TV series – comedy or musical for Dunham. The show follows four twenty-something, recently graduated female friends struggling to pay rent, maintain jobs and obtain love lives in New York City, experiencing more humiliations than triumphs along the way.
Similar to Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld and Ray Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond, the show’s premise is loosely based on Dunham’s own post-college struggles with work and relationships. However, because Girls is shown on premium cable network HBO, it can’t be considered TV in the traditional sense. In contrast to free-to-air TV, HBO distinguishes itself by selling cultural capital.
By exploring a subculture, in this instance the lives of twenty-something women as they struggle to find their place in the world, they impact mass culture. In this sense Girls slowly breaks down female archetypes, helping TV shift toward an increased desire for authenticity.
The difference between Girls and similar free-to-air TV comedies, such as 2 Broke Girls or New Girl, is that Girls’ characters are not only more diverse, but also complex, and exhibit a degree of self-awareness which prohibits many female stereotypes often portrayed on television. For example, Girls heroine Hannah wouldn’t be seen having sex on free-to-air TV because she is plain and unshapely in television terms. Moreover, the series portrays a group of friends whose relationships develop over time. The show depicts not only life-changing events, such as break-ups and being financially independent, but also the day-to-day trivia of evolving friendships. Thus, Girls takes on a deeper meaning and allows viewers to mature alongside the characters, while constantly questioning the meaning of friendship.
Shows such as Sex and the City (SNTC) and Gossip Girl (GG) are set and filmed in New York City and both depict stories of extreme wealth. They make it look like everyone in NY is financially stable, Girls show that this not the case. The four main characters barely manage to scrape by, trying survive in the big apple. On the matter, Dunham said that while all three series are connected, being about women in New York, “[Girls] really felt like it was tackling a different subject matter.”
“SNTC was [about] women who figured out work and friends and now want to nail family life while GG was about young adults duking it out on the Upper East Side.”
“There was this whole in between space that hadn’t really been addressed,” She said.
Apatow added “I think it’s interesting for guys to get an insight into realistic females… a 24-year-old girl is not the easiest creature to dissect.” He said he was drawn to Dunham’s imagination after seeing her feature film debut Tiny Furniture and said Dunham has “many tales to tell” that stem from her own embarrassing experiences.
On Girls, he said “it’s brutally honest, there’s pride in being different, and I knew people would really debate it and it would challenge people.”
Things are certainly looking up for Dunham – HBO has green lighted a third series of Girls and she is set to develop a second series about personal shopper and celebrity confidante Betty Halbreich titled All Dressed Up and Everywhere to Go. In addition, Dunham has recently signed a $3.5 million book deal with Random House for her own memoir entitled “Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned.” This girl is certainly one to watch.