“Girls” the HBO series created by Lena Dunham is starting to appeal to me. I first watched it just over a year ago at the insistence of my daughter. She applauded it as the first “real” depiction of the life of people her age. After watching two episodes I was terrified for my child. I really hoped it did not reflect what her life was or would be. I found the characters to be aimless, vapid, unattractive, unintelligent, self-destructive and un-watchable.
My daughter and I argued about the merits or, by my accounts lack thereof, of the show. She said I was shallow for being put off by the less than ideal beauty of the characters. She said I was out of touch with the realities of life. She said I was wrong and the show would be a huge hit.
I didn’t think about the show again until last week when, on the flight from NY to LA (following my flight from New Delhi to NY), “Girls” was one of the video options. I still found the characters to be less than attractive but they were dressing better and seemed to have matured ever so slightly. I watched two episodes, that appears to be my MO for this show, and enjoyed them. Certainly I enjoyed them more than I had the pilot and 2nd episode I’d watched. Was I attracted to the people? No. Were the characters idealized Hollywood stereotypes? No. Did the actors feel like people you’d see on the street (or on a flight from NY to LA)? Yes. Was the dialog witty and snappy? No. Was the dialog the way people really talk? Yes.
I suppose that’s the controversy. Do we need to watch a show that gives us real life? Don’t we get enough of that just going about our day?
That was the argument spurred by an article about the show which appeared in an issues of my local newspaper. I was glancing through the stack of papers which greeted me upon my return home when I saw the article. There were letters to the editors following the article. One of them stated that the “Girls” were too self-involved and should show more concern about social issues. But that’s not “real.” I would hazard a guess that the average 20-something is too busy figuring out their own lives and how to survive to care about the “bigger” issues of world peace, the environment, justice, equality, etc. That’s what we, older folks, are here for. Had I become a defender of the show? Was I a fan? No, I wouldn’t quite say that. I still have issues with the show.
Would I prefer to watch good looking people? I would. Do those good looking people make me feel less attractive in comparison? Sometimes. Did the actors in “Girls” make me feel better about myself in comparison? They did (probably because I have an idealized/inaccurate memory of the person I was at their age!).
Given a choice between dialog written by a writer of the caliber of an Oscar Wilde or an Aaron Sorkin or the banal banter of a John Q Public, I’ll take Wilde or Sorkin any day. I like good writing and by good writing I mean writing which uses words that are carefully selected for their meaning, their profundity, and their exactness. The dialog of “Girls” has none of that. It consists of exchanges which feel very real, very natural and very one dimensional.
However, despite the ordinary quality of the writing and the cast, I enjoyed “Girls” because while it did not improve me or elevate me, it did allow me a glimpse into lives of people I would otherwise never know. Perhaps my daughter wanted me to take a peek into her life, or the life she anticipated for herself, and this show was the safest, easiest way for her to do that.
I wonder if her life is playing out like an episode of “Girsl?” Truthfully? I hope not. Besides, she’s far prettier, more motivated and smarter than anyone on the show.