Series / Girls

"I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice of a generation."

Girls is an HBO dramedy about the exploits of four young women living in New York City. To most, this concept sounds very familiar, but the result is decidedly less glamorous (and probably a bit more realistic) than that other Four-Girl Ensemble that previously aired on the channel. The show ran for six seasons from 2012 to 2017.

Co-produced (with Judd Apatow), written by, and starring Lena Dunham, the show follows the lives of four young women transitioning into full-blown adulthood. The girls are:
  • Hannah Horvath (Dunham), The Leader of the group and a recent college graduate who, after being cut off by her parents, is fired from her interning job after demanding full-time employment from her boss. She finds employment as a writer.
  • Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams), Hannah's best friend and art gallery assistant. A bit of an Ice Queen, she's in a long-term relationship with a loving boyfriend, but finds herself bored with him. She settles on a career in music.
  • Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke), a drifting, Bohemian Brit who returns to New York after a bit of traveling around. She has a reputation for being unpredictable and flaky.
  • Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet), Jessa's American cousin. An excitable ingenue, Shoshanna is extremely insecure about being a virgin, and has the least clear idea of what she wants from her life.

Supporting characters include Adam Sackler (Adam Driver), an awkward carpenter and actor; Ray Plochansky (Alex Karpovsky), manager of a coffee shop and about ten years older than the rest of the cast; Elijah Krantz (Andrew Rannells), whose Last Het Romance was with Hannah; and Tad and Loreen Horvath (Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker), Hannah's long-suffering parents. Cast Calculus being what it is, basically every character except Hannah's parents has had a flirtation with at least two of the girls. (Yes, even Elijah.)

The show's tone is difficult to encapsulate, engendering a Love It or Hate It response. It relies on Cringe Comedy and tongue-in-cheek humor, portraying its characters as immature, flawed and often deeply selfish—Designated Heroes, in short, who may be lovable but are not necessarily likable. The show also catches flak for being almost comically hipsterish, privileged, white, and New York-centric. Critics, however, have come down pretty strongly on the "Love It" side; the show's won a number of "Best Comedy" and "Best Performance" Golden Globes and Emmys, as well as a "Best Comedy Director" for Dunham from the Directors' Guild of America—the first time a woman has ever won that award.

This show provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: The four girls all have them.
  • Badass Boast: Booth Jonathan delivers one when hitting on Marnie, informing her that he's going to have sex with her at some point and might scare her when he does, because "I'm a man, and I know how to do things". Subverted, because though they do hook up eventually, it turns out he's not nearly the Sex God he implies he is.
  • The Beard: Maybe. Hannah dated Elijah for two years in college, but it's not clear whether he was knowingly using her to hide his sexuality or still figuring it out himself at the time.
  • Best Years of Your Life: One of the key things about the show is how it deliberately subverts the recently popularized notion that early-mid 20's are this. Lena Dunham directly mentions this in one of her episode commentaries on the Season One DVD set. Hannah's parents (especially her mother) appear to hold this view in The Pilot. This is later shown to be not the case, as throughout the series, they prove to be surprisingly in tune to what she's going through.
  • Beach Episode: "Beach House," appropriately enough.
  • Binge Montage: The opening to "Role-Play". Reality Ensues when Hannah throws up all over herself and one of her work friends has to take her home and clean her up.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The girls start drifting apart, which ends up permanent in the final episode. Shoshanna moves on with her life after cutting ties with the rest of the group, Hannah moves upstate with a steady job and preparing for her new baby, and though she and Marnie reconcile, things will never be back to the way they were, but Hannah has more or less grown up and finally put someone else above herself.
  • Broken Aesop: After being involved in a semi-adulterous situation, Jessa is told "You're doing it to distract yourself from becoming the person you're supposed to be." Jessa plunges into commitment by marrying Thomas-John, a guy she's barely known and who had one cameo on the show until their wedding. Because nothing says committed like a Vegas style wedding.
  • But We Used a Condom: Hannah: "But what about the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms?"
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When Jessa visits her dad in "Video Games."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The show's gotten significantly darker and more dramatic in the 2nd season
  • Chubby Chaser: Hannah accuses her co-worker, Joe, of behaving this way in the midst of her scathing speech to her co-workers and boss at GQ and then quits.
    Hannah: Joe, what do you want from me? Does it, like, make you feel good to have a chubby girl paying attention to you? I am not the right conquest
    Joe: What?
  • Convenient Miscarriage: An inversion; Jessa has her period on the day of a scheduled abortion.
  • Coolest Club Ever: The warehouse rave in "Welcome to Bushwick."
  • Cringe Comedy: Marnie's singing in "On All Fours." She doesn't have an awful voice, but the song choice coupled with the awkward dancing makes the whole thing both hilarious and hard to watch.
    • A good portion of the sex scenes fall here, since one or both participants will find a way to make it extremely awkward.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Frequently, both male and female.
    • Hell, the second episode of the fifth season shows Adam and Jessa doing it individually on opposite ends of a sofa.
  • Deconstruction: An absolutely scathing one of both Sex and the City and romantic comedies in general, mostly with a touch of Reality Ensues. In particular, we have the following:
    • The characters for the most part look like above average, yet normal people. Adam for example has the physique of someone who works out consistently, but not that of a movie star with a person trainer. Hannah is not unattractive, but definitely does not have a perfect figure.
    • It's All About Me: This has incredibly harmful effects on friendships and relationships in general, and cause many recurring characters to actually despise the protagonists.
    • Idealized Sex: Averted. Everyone Has Lots of Sex, but it's easier to count the number of times people have good sex.
    • "Friends" Rent Control: Several arcs and motivations are kicked off because people can't afford their lifestyles.
  • Discriminate and Switch: When Hannah goes by to pick up her father's wallet from a guy he met online and the man claimed nothing sexual happened, Hannah says "Well, I can't trust you people" and states she doesn't mean gay men but white men over 50.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: In-Universe, Hannah gets this reaction after making a joke implying that the guy conducting her job interview is a date rapist. Needless to say, she isn't hired.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After spending much of the series being dumped on by characters and the plot alike, Shoshanna ends the series with a fiance, good job, and plenty of nice new friends. Though she uses all of these things to coldly suggest that the group permanently disband, as their dynamic has been destructive and toxic.
    • Hannah in the final scene of the show with her baby latching on to breastfeed. The look on her face makes it clear that she's finally, unequivocally put someone above herself.
  • Either/Or Title: "Welcome to Bushwick, aka the Crackcident."
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Though mostly not good sex.
  • Expy: The Girls easily have their own Sex and the City counterparts, all while acting as Deconstructions; Hannah (Carrie), Marnie (Miranda), Jessa (Samantha), and Shoshanna (Charlotte). Hilariously, Shoshanna views herself as being mostly Carrie but with Samantha elements.
  • Fan Disservice: This show has LOTS of sex scenes. Most of them, far from being titillating, are squirm-inducingly awkward, and/or hilarious.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: The group begins to drift apart later in the show, and in the final season, a meetup without Hannah just feels awkward and forced. This culminates in Shoshanna's engagement party, where she gives an icy, devastating "The Reason You Suck" Speech in the bathroom in the penultimate episode, stating firmly that the group's dynamic has become so toxic and tiresome that it would be better to just "call it [quits]". The fact that half the group doesn't even appear in the final episode underscores this.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: See above.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Jessa (Sanguine), Hannah (Choleric), Marnie (Melancholic), Shoshanna (Phlegmatic).
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Jessa and Thomas-John the venture capitalist, in the first season finale. A definite deconstruction, since it doesn't end well.
    • Implied with Shoshanna and Byron, the former stating at the engagement party that it hasn't been long since they got together, with the relationship not developing onscreen. It's portrayed as being at least somewhat more optimistic than the above marriage, with the latter a Nice Guy.
  • Friends with Benefits: Hannah and Adam have this type of arrangement at the beginning of the first season. Possibly a deconstruction as their relationship later gets complicated.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Hannah's and Marnie's apartment, which is in the most expensive part (India Street) of Greenpoint, would rent for about $1,500 to $1,800 per month. Marnie is forced to pay the full rent after Hannah loses her parental funding. While paying half would be possible, it's way too much of a stretch for Marnie to pay the full amount given that her art gallery job would pay no more than $30,000 per year and she gets only limited family support.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Jessa's and Marnie's surprising makeout session in Episode 8.
  • Godiva Hair: A topless Marnie, in the Season Two premiere.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Jessa, inadvertently, after finding out she's pregnant. Out of anxiety, Jessa purposely avoids making it to the clinic where she is scheduled to have one done, but it soon turns out that she's actually not pregnant when she gets her period at a bar.
  • Headbutting Heroes/Vitriolic Best Buds: Marnie and Jessa. It's not completely clear whether they are actually friends or not. In Episode 8 it's made clear that up until then they had a mutual friend in Hannah but really weren't friends with each other. However, their friendship develops - REALLY develops - in this episode.
    Marnie: See, this is what you do. You act like I'm uptight, and then, I follow suit. I become uptight. It's the most frustrating dynamic on the planet. It drives me crazy!
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: When Hannah's boyfriend breaks up with her, she goes to her apartment and hits the fridge, taking out a pack of ice-cream.
  • Heel Realization: Subverted. Alpha Bitch Marnie can't see her own faults. At the end of season 1, Marnie tells Hannah she's the bad friend — even though Marnie was equally culpable in the breakdown of Marnie and Hannah's friendship.
  • Hipsters: Hannah and her friends fall somewhere between being these and Bourgeois Bohemians.
  • Idealized Sex: So averted.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Hannah and Elijah, which is something Hannah discovers after their relationship.
  • Intoxication Ensues: "The crackcident" in "Welcome to Bushwick" — Shoshanna smokes what she thinks is pot, but turns out to be crack. She freaks out and runs away, forcing Ray to chase after her, which just freaks her out even more.
  • Important Haircut: Hannah cuts off her hair on-screen after she breaks up.
  • Instant Humiliation Just Add Youtube: Marnie's "What I Am" music video. Oof.
  • Jerkass: All of the characters have plenty of this.
  • Large Ham: Ray is usually a Deadpan Snarker, except when he has to chase down a high Shoshanna.
    Ray: Shoshanna! Come back! I'm your crack spirit guide! STOP!
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The whole point of Sandy in Season 2 was to address the criticism of the show's lack of diversity. This is particularly evident when he admits to not liking a piece of Hannah's writing by saying "It wasn't for me."
  • Lesbian Jock: Discussed and averted in Females Only when "fat gay Laura" tells Jessa she hates it when people assume that because she's a lesbian, she likes sports and she really dislikes playing them.
  • Look Both Ways: Adam in the season 1 finale, in a non-fatal example. Episode 8, as well.
  • Men Don't Cry: Averted in episode "Boys" when Ray is depressed, having spent a day trying to return a dog to its owner, having an argument with Adam and generally feeling like a giant loser. He just loses it, covers his face and cries.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: On a couple of occasions Marnie has been clothed in situations that in real life would have involved nudity. Shoshanna too, though it could be argued that her summer camp friend was in too much of a hurry to have removed her bra. A modesty bedsheet makes a literal appearance when Shoshanna loses her virginity in the season 1 finale.
  • Monochrome Casting: One of the major complaints about the show. It's set in Brooklyn, albeit in a largely white part, which makes this fairly striking. This was addressed by Lena Dunham, who apologized for the show's whiteness in several interviews. Perhaps to offset this criticism, Donald Glover was cast in a recurring role in season 2.
  • Mood Whiplash: It's mostly a comedy, but there are lots of awkward and uncomfortable moments mixed in, as well as some straight drama, and often times they follow comic scenes rather suddenly.
    • Especially notable in "Welcome to Bushwick", which starts out as one of the straightest comedy episodes in the series... before Jeff gets beaten up, Marnie gets chewed out by Elijah and Hannah gets in an argument with Adam.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Judd Apatow and the people he works with have always dealt with this, and Girls is no exception. Hannah's "I think I may be the voice of my generation" line was heavily pushed by HBO's marketing department when the series premiered. However, in its corresponding episode, the line (and, thus, that entire notion) is immediately subverted. Specifically, Hannah says it while high on opium. And she immediately retracts it once she realizes, through the dirty looks her parents give her in response, how stupid it sounds. Lena Dunham herself has openly stated that Girls is not at all a Generation Y manifesto but simply a look at the trials and tribulations of four specific twenty-something year old women trying to make it big in NYC. The show's surprisingly broad fanbase (encompassing everybody from 18 year old girls to 55 year old men) speaks for itself.
  • No Bisexuals: Discussed with Elijah when he has sex with Marnie.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Marnie and Hannah swap stories about the regularity (Marnie) and irregularity (Hannah) of theirs, and then there's Jessa's very convenient one.
  • One-Word Title: Girls
  • Out of Focus: Shoshanna largely fades from the narrative in the last couple of seasons.
  • Percussive Therapy: Booth breaks at least two bottles of vintage wine in a cellar when he has an argument with Marnie in "Boys".
  • Potty Emergency: Hannah's urinary tract infection, when coupled with the lack of a restroom at a remote train station, leads to an embarrassing situation.
  • The Quiet Game: Adam asks Hannah to play this because of her awkward chatter while they're having sex.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: These are delivered to various characters with surprising frequency (or perhaps not so surprising, given the note under 'Jerkass').
    • Hannah gives one to Charlie in "It's a Shame About Ray"
    Charlie: (about Marnie) She's a cunt.
    Hannah: You're a jerk.
    Charlie: What?
    Hannah: You know the kind of year that she's had, okay, first you guys break up, then her dad loses his job, then she loses her job, then she has sex with a gay man, and then she has to come over here and deal with your needs and your whining, I'm sorry, you're a fucking jerk!
    • From the same episode, Jessa to Thomas-John:
    Jessa: I know what you are.
    Thomas-John: Oh do you?
    Jessa: You're just some scared guy who didn't get laid until they were sixteen. No one liked you in high school, and no one likes you now. I'm embarrassed when we walk down the street because you're so fucking average. I tell my friends you were born a test-tube baby, just so you have a little edge.
    • And then in "Together," Hanna calls Jessa out for bailing on all their friends when she doesn't answer her phone.
    "Oh, hello. YOU FUCKER! Where did you go? And who am I supposed to talk to if you won't answer your fucking phone? That anorexic Marnie? Fucking Shoshanna? My stalker ex-boyfriend? It's not like any of them want to talk to me! I don't blame them because I cut off all my FUCKING HAIR! And now you're off somewhere, just living it up, wearing a crop-top. You probably got your vagina pierced. And you're not answering your phone. And you're forgetting about everyone who's fucking it up here! SO I HOPE YOU'RE HAVING A GREAT TIME! LOVE YOU!
    • Hanna delivers an epic one to Marnie at the end of "Bad Friend."
    • Adam's sister delivers one to Hannah about her and Adam
    Caroline: You and my brother deserve one another, you know that? You selfish little pricks! And you will never write a thing that matters because you will never understand the true struggles of humanity because you just slipped right out of your motherís pussy like a nice little golden egg, you spoiled little fuckin brat.
    • Shoshanna, of all people, puts all three of the others in their place in "The Beach House."
      • She also gives another group-wide speech during the penultimate episode when Hannah crashes her engagement party in overalls and a bad attitude and effectively dismantles the group while asserting her own growth and independence.
    • Adam delivers one to Jessa in "Female Author" after her flippant response to getting them both arrested after refusing a citation for public urination, calling her out for her toxic and self-involved behavior and refusal to stop acting like a reckless addict despite being sober.
    • Ray gives one to Desi in "Home Birth" about the way he treats Marnie.
    Ray: Desi, this isn't about where you're from. This isn't about geography. This is about that distressed shirt you're wearing. This is about the fact that you have eyeliner on your face right now. This is about the fact that your musical sensibility is insufferable. Don't ever think that you get onstage anywhere where a vast majority of the crowd doesn't think "douche. You know how you feel when you watch Imagine Dragons play? Well, that's how we feel about you... I also know that you absolutely do not deserve her. Even remotely. You string her along for months and now you've proposed to her in some desperate bid to make it seem like you're not the most selfish person in the western fucking hemisphere, but you know what, Desi? I'm onto you.
    • Elijah, learning of Hannah's pregnancy, telling her he has no interest in helping her raise her fatherless baby and flatly telling her that she'll be a terrible mother. It hits Hannah hard.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Hannah and Adam in the first season. It doesn't last long though. However, they later get together and they remain together.
  • Roommate Com: Four women in their early-to-mid-twenties live in New York City. Their life is depicted a bit more realistically, as their apartments are less glamorous than usual in fiction, they happen to have shitty jobs, they have to rely on their parents' income and have almost no money.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Shoshanna's a virgin, and very insecure about being such, so this is bound to come up. In the finale of season one, she finally loses her virginity to Ray.
  • Sex with the Ex: Jessa hooks up with an ex-boyfriend at one point, and Marnie and Charlie consider it when both are forced to attend a wedding dateless but decide against it.
  • She's Got Legs: For the promotional photos for the first season, the main girls show off a lot of leg....
  • Shirtless Scene: Adam has these very frequently, to the point that Hannah lampshades this in one episode.
    Hannah: I don't think I've ever seen him with a shirt on...
  • Shout-Out: There are several to Sex and the City.
    • Jessa's blue shoes at her wedding.
  • So Okay, It's Average: In-Universe the girls' artistic talents are portrayed this way.
    • Hannah's writing varies between quite good and quite pretentious, but never takes a definitive swing in one direction.
    • Marnie is a decent singer, but not even closely as good as she thinks. The folksy indie pop music she makes with Desi doesn't make one's ears bleed, but neither is it interesting whatsoever. invoked
  • Spiritual Successor: As a Four-Girl Ensemble dramedy set in New York that airs on HBO, it's naturally one to Sex and the City. Shoshanna even has a poster of the SATC movie in her apartment, and designates Jessa as a Carrie/Samantha.
  • Stylistic Suck: The delightfully corny music video to Marnie's cover of Edie Brickell's "What I Am", which to her disdain found its way to Youtube.
  • Super OCD: Hannah has had obsessive-compulsive disorder since her teens, and suffers a major relapse as a result of her breakup with Adam and her nervousness over her e-book deal.
  • A Threesome Is Hot: Thomas-John tries to persuade Marnie and Jessa into this.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: While all of the characters have their sympathetic moments, all four leads and especially Hannah often veer into comically inappropriate narcissistic behavior.
  • Wham Line: Jessa's employer in the middle of a Mercy Killing:
    Call 911, I don't wanna die!
  • World of Snark: Hannah, Jessa, Ray, and Adam live in this world the most — but really the entire cast slides into it.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Right as Shoshanna is really becoming comfortable, happy, and fulfilled in her job in Tokyo, she gets laid off.
  • You Have to Have Jews: Shoshanna, Adam and Elijah due to surnames (Shapiro, Sackler and Krantz). Also...Shoshanna, by virtue of being called Shoshanna. Word of God states that the four main girls are "two Jews and two WASPs", but it's not clear who the other is. (As for the actors, Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet, and Jemima Kirke all have a Jewish parent.)