Girls on HBO is Awful on So Many Levels

HBO's GirlsI will admit from the start that, being a Gen X man, I am probably not the target audience of HBO’s new series, Girls. Regardless, the incessant hype leading up to the series had duped me into thinking that it would be a witty and insightful look into the lives of Gen Y women — something that anyone with a brain could like. I actually looked forward to its premier. After watching the first three episodes (I had allowed for the possibility that it would improve), however, I can only conclude that Lena Dunham, the show’s creator and star, is a witch who must be burned immediately to break the spell she has apparently cast over those who somehow have a positive opinion about this god-awful show.

The “Girls” in HBO’s Girls Are Unlikeable

When critics call Lena Dunham the “voice of her generation”, they are delivering the most scathing condemnation of a generation possible. The four main characters in Girls, Hannah (Lena Dunham), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Marnie (Allison Williams) have such boring and obnoxious personalities that anyone who can relate to them should be ashamed. Aside from all four being privileged white girls, each brings her own unforgivable personality defects to the table.

HBO’s Girls – Hannah

The worst of the four lead characters, we learn in the series premier that Hannah has been mooching off her parents for more than a year after she’s graduated from college (she’s held an unpaid internship during this whole time). She lives in Brooklyn in a fairly nice apartment with Marnie, her only roommate, so you know it has not been cheap for her parents to fund her lifestyle thusfar. Her parents cut her off, which would trigger most reasonable people to frantically search for a paying job so she doesn’t stiff her roommate for next month’s rent. Not Hannah. By episode three, Hannah still appears to be in no hurry to find a job, having blown her only real interview by making a clearly inappropriate “date rape” joke at her single job interview. This total lack of concern for impending financial disaster makes it hard for real people to relate to her, especially in this economy.

Hannah’s love life generates even less sympathy. She has what appears to be a purely sexual relationship with Adam, who can only be described as a “tool with a good body” (unlike Hannah, who’s kind of pear-shaped). Adam doesn’t return Hannah’s phone calls or texts and seems to acknowledge her existence only when she shows up on his doorstep. He freely admits to her that he is having (mostly) unprotected sex with several other women. While this would lead some people to feel sorry for Hannah, I can’t help but blame her for being shallow enough to stay with this asshole just because of his looks.

Hannah does not appear to enjoy having sex with Adam — she basically remains still, making snarky comments with a bored expression on her face during their sex scenes — so one has to wonder why she is with him at all, except to claim the “good looking guy” is her lover. In the third episode, she states that sometimes Adam likes to hit her in the side during intercourse (I’m assuming she means a form of “donkey punch”). Oh, and by the way, he may have also infected her with HPV. For a character who is supposed to be smart, her preference for pursuing a (possibly abusive) good looking tool over finding a nice guy that might be more “attractiveness appropriate” for her just makes her appear even more shallow.

Before the women’s chorus erupts with claims that Hannah is abusing herself due to low self-esteem, let me preempt this argument. Narcissism seems to be a more likely reason for Hannah’s choice of paramour, given the personality she displays throughout the series. However, if low self-esteem is what Lena Dunham was trying to convey, then her Hannah character is just as unlikeable for being pathetic.

HBO’s Girls – Marnie

Marnie is every good guy’s worst nightmare. She has been in a relationship with a genuinely good guy for years — a guy that really seems to love her — but now the poor baby is getting bored. Sex with her boyfriend is portrayed much as Hannah’s sex with Adam — Marnie is completely passive and bored. . . as if her own lack of enthusiasm has nothing to do with the sex being bad. She has such contempt for her boyfriend that she switches from missionary to doggy style mid-act (despite the fact that she doesn’t like doggy style) just so she doesn’t have to look at him during sex.

The show goes to great pains to emphasize what a good guy her boyfriend is — the guy shaved his head in solidarity with a cancer-stricken co-worker. He fawns over Marnie, who responds with utter bitchiness — the way a woman with low character acts when she wants you to break up with her.

The cherry on top of the shit sundae which is Marnie comes in the third episode, during her encounter with a pretentious douche bag artist. She flirts with him, proclaiming that they’re not going to kiss. He approaches her closely and responds “I want you to know, the first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little, because I’m a man, and I know how to do things,” before walking away. Marnie is so aroused by this arrogant douche that she needs to run to the gallery’s bathroom and rub one out.

Really? I guess the message Girls is trying to send is that good guys are boring and douchebags make you soak your panties. Are there really women out there who will see this and say “I’m such a Marnie!”? For the sake of Gen Y men, I sure hope not.

HBO’s Girls – Jessa

Jessa is the worldly “free spirit” character, whom the other girls admire for her attitude, beauty (though she seems a little bottom-heavy to me) and impeccable fashion sense (impeccable I guess because it really makes it hard to see if she’s bottom heavy). Girls’ second episode focuses on Jessa’s appointment to get an abortion, which she appears to face with a cavalier attitude. Of course, it turns out that she really does take it seriously, but just in time to end the episode, Lena Dunham whips out the most overused “deus ex machina of abortion plots” and has Jessa get her period. What a creative way to resolve that crisis! I guess Lena flipped a coin to decide between “not pregnant” and “miscarriage” when writing the resolution to what could have been an interesting crisis for Jessa to face. God forbid Jessa actually get an abortion. That might make her unlikeable to a large number of viewers!

Of course, Jessa, like Hannah and Marnie, is already unlikeable. She flits through life without a care in the world. Apparently she can afford to live in Brooklyn with a single roommate (Shoshanna) in a nice apartment due to her lucrative babysitting career. Oh, and by the way, she also apparently has HPV — multiple strains of it. I guess that didn’t prompt her to use protection; otherwise, how would she have a pregnancy scare?

Jessa’s “too cool for the room” attitude, along with her “not a care in the world” lifestyle, make her thoroughly unlikeable.

HBO’s Girls – Shoshanna

By episode three, the only things I know about Shoshanna are that she’s a virgin and she likes to watch “Baggage” on TV. Maybe Lena intends to eventually get around to developing this heretofore milquetoast excuse for a character in later episodes. For Zosia Mamet’s sake (who is excellent in a recurring minor role on Mad Men), I hope so.

There’s really nothing to hate about Shoshanna — or like. She’s just kind of . . . there.

Girls — What is it Supposed to Be?

For the life of me, I can’t tell what this show is supposed to be. Dark comedy? Drama? Dramedy? There’s only one word I can use to accurately describe it — boring. Despite shoehorning in multiple sex scenes, a pregnancy-scare-with-abortion plot and an STD story line into the first three half hour episodes, Girls just seems to meander and drag along without any direction. How long will an audience be interested in the (mostly self-inflicted) problems of privileged white girls?

If you don’t care about the characters, it’s hard to care about the plot — and it’s really hard to care about these characters. It’s not just that they are flawed (all good characters are flawed). It’s that their flaws generate little to no sympathy, because these Girls aren’t even trying to be good people. You can’t root for someone who doesn’t try. Unless these girls get a major personality overhaul in the future, I have a feeling that the target audience for Girls will show the same apathy for the show that its characters show towards life.


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