Reviews: Girls

Lost Generation

I'm late to the boat on this show. It's third season is over, and I'm just finishing up the first. As a late-twenties male, I have to admit, I really enjoy this show. In many ways, it's a successor to Sex and the City (...I assume); not because of its similarities, but because its about a generation of girls who were raised by that show. Hanna, the main character, is a writer, and moves to the city in the hopes of making a living off of her essays, and is confronted with the cold reality that no, it's not that easy. Her lifestyle isn't lavish, her love life stutters as she tries to maintain a relationship without any real commitment, her job prospects are non-existent, and her writing takes a backseat to trying to make ends meet.

In the first episode, Lena Dunham's character says she might be the voice of her generation. It's a joke, but the irony is that Dunham herself might be just that. Girls is the story of the millenials as they struggle with the prospect of becoming adults. It's a story of quirky misanthropes who really aren't that quirky or misanthropic, who have no idea what they want out of life, just what they don't want. "I don't want a boyfriend. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time, and who thinks I'm the best person in the world, and wants to have sex with only me." Dunham shows remarkable wisdom in her writing, telling the story of a lost generation. People take each other for granted, love each other, and hurt each other and themselves in their pursuit for lives without responsibilities. The characters seem to be learning the hard way that growing up might not be "cool", but it is necessary. It all kind of reminds me of one of my personal favorite movies of the last decade, Juno.

The performances are also top-notch. My personal favorite is Adam Driver, who plays Dunham's "boyfriend". He starts off as nothing but a playful sex partner, but dives into the character as he gains more depth and development. The pain and rage on his face, when he finds that Hannah isn't ready for the kind of boyfriend that she's asked him to be, is so genuine that I was actually shocked.

The only thing that I don't like about the show is when it ventures into cringe comedy, which I am physically incapable of enjoying. Overall, I'm excited to watch the rest of the show.

It's Not Really A Typical Comedy

It may have its funny moments, but having seen the whole first season, I think that calling Girls a comedy isn't really selling it right. It exists sort of at the line between Comedy and Drama, wistfully drifting between the two, as opposed to most other comedy/drama blends which usually have clearly defined comic and dramatic elements/scenes. Rather than doing sharp swerves between the two, Girls somehow manages to be both simultaneously.

I don't like it.

I think the main problem with it is that I don't really find it funny. But unlike almost every other comedy out there, I have the hardest time figuring where exactly I'm supposed to laugh. There are frequently moments where I see the characters acting quirky or saying things that fit their personalities, and I don't really think much of it, apart from "yeah, that's something this character would do". Then I see a list of "Top Laugh-Out Loud Girls Moments" and they'll include all these odd character moments that I didn't realize I was supposed to laugh at. I guess that I can honestly say that I don't get the humor of Girls.

So without laughing at it, the only way for me to like this is to appreciate the dramatic elements, right? Well, we have a problem here too. Mainly, I hate almost all the characters. With the possible exception of Shoshanna and Charlie, none of these characters have any good qualities. They are all egotistical, selfish, and on the part of Hannah, REALLY pretentious. Now, shows have had unpleasant characters before and done great (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Archer), so that isn't a dealbreaker in and of itself. The problem is that Girls expects me to care about these characters. They have all these moments that are clearly trying to make me go "Awww, poor characters! They lead such hard lives!" The shows that I previously mentioned expected me to laugh at their asshole characters; Girls wants me to relate with their asshole characters.

The first goal of any comedy is to make the audience laugh. Comedies can choose to direct audience laughter at heavy subjects, but laughter is still the main objective. The first goal of Girls isn't laughter; it's trying to make me feel/think. It just so happens that the people making the show are naturally funny, so it bleeds out into their work. That's the vibe I get from watching Girls, and it isn't a good one.