"I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice of a generation."
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 the other Four Girl Ensemble
that previously aired on the channel.
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
- Hannah Horvath (Lena 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.
- 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.
- Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke), a drifting, Bohemian Brit who returns to New York after a bit of travelling 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.
The show's tone is difficult to encapsulate, engendering a Love It or Hate It
response from a number of people. It relies on Cringe Comedy
and tongue-in-cheek humor, portraying its characters as lost and flawed—people who are lovable but not necessarily likeable. 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 that award has ever gone to a woman.
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.
- 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?"
- California Doubling: A rare example of New York doubling for something else. One of the more suburban areas around the city (Mamaroneck, in Westchester County) was used as a stand-in for East Lansing, Michigan, in "The Return". The production staff tried to cover it up with the profuse use of Michigan State paraphernalia.
- Averted in a regional way with the scene at the beginning of "Video Games". The Manitou Metro-North station is almost 50 miles up the Hudson River from the city. Most shows produced in the city rarely go that far away within the metropolitan area for such a short scene and would try to fake it somewhere else; here they went to the actual station and made it rather obvious that they did.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 flat 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.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: By the taping of the second season's seventh episode, Jemima Kirke was noticeably pregnant, so she spends much of the episode with bags or something else covering her mid-section.
- Hipsters: Hannah and her friends fall somewhere between being these and Bourgeois Bohemians.
- Hollywood 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!
- 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 has been signed on for 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
- 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.
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
: 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."
- 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 behaviour and refusal to stop acting like a reckless addict despite being sober.
- Relationship Upgrade: Hannah and Adam in the first series. 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: Shoshonna'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.
- 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. Shohanna 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.
- 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.
- X Meets Y: Sex and the City meets Freaks and Geeks.
- 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.)