Here’s something that’s annoyed me… at some point in the 48 hours since it premiered on Sunday night, the reaction to Lena Dunham’s new show Girls has turned exceptionally nasty. Not “Hey, I didn’t like this show” nasty, but more like “I’m going to use Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter to tear down this show and everyone involved” nasty. As for me, I liked it. I thought it was fun and light and had moments of excruciating awkwardness that felt very, very real (Adam Driver might be playing the most realistic early-20s asshole of all time.)
But after the deluge of good press the show got, a huge backlash hit today that is very confusing to me. I get not liking the show, but a shocking amount of it has come from people who haven’t actually SEEN it and is directed toward things that are projected onto the show, rather than the show itself. From what I’ve seen, these are the main charges that people are levying against the show…
- First off, the thing that keeps coming up is that people seem to keep wielding the premise of the show against it. The show is about entitled, young, naive, pretentious people. They are self-involved and selfish. Those aren’t flaws in the show. They are what the show is about. That will appeal to a subset of people, obviously. It wont speak to many, many people. But that doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t deserve to be told. If it did, we wouldn’t have Benjamin Braddock or Don Draper or any Whit Stillman character ever.
- The Nepotism claim. Yes, I’m sure being the daughter of artist Laurie Simmons or the drummer of the band that did “Feel Like Making Love” really opens every door in Hollywood. But even if we grant that premise… so what? That has NO reflection on the content of the show. If you don’t like it, great! But to target this show for nepotism rings false to me unless we start making photoshopped Nepotism posters for those layabout, silver-spooners like Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges and Drew Barrymore.
- Let’s stop using the word “Hipster” as if it means anything. It doesn’t. If you can use it to describe equally the characters in Girls, the chicks wearing Indian feathers at Justice’s Coachella set, and 40 year old guys with beards and Pulp t-shirts writing screenplays at Intelligencia, it has no meaning. But it’s being thrown at this show by a lot of people who seem to need some strike against it, but struggle at coming up with something more specific than the modern day “poseur.”
- I don’t think these characters are SUPPOSED to be likeable. If that’s unappealing, that’s fine! Not everything is for everyone. But people need to stop pretending that it was through ineptitude or lack of self-awareness that these characters were this way.
- People keep bringing it up as a sign that Dunham is hyper-pretentious so lets talk about it… The “Voice of a generation” line is a joke. It’s supposed to be stupid, it’s played for laughs. What it isn’t is Dunham actually saying that she’s the voice of a generation. There seems to be some difficulty interpreting the difference between real life and characters here.
- “The show is racist because it is about 4 white girls.” Once again, take a look at the cliques of people who come right out of elite, liberal arts colleges. You’ll find more than a few groups of four, wealthy, entitled white people. To randomly insert a token minority “just cuz” seems to be more offensive to me.
- And lastly, lets not pretend that there isn’t more than a little sexism running rampant in the discussion of this show. Go to any website with a review or article on it. Now read the comments. The words that people (read: guys on the internet) are using to describe Dunham are ugly. No, scratch that, they’re flat out awful. I can’t think of someone who has had more ire directed towards her physical appearance than Dunham has recently. So, gross. Sure. That’s what the internet is. A terrible place. But if it were Jason Segal or Louie CK being presented the same way, would these things be said with the same venom? No. There is a lot more to be said about the sexism that this show is riling up, and I don’t think I’m the person to say it, but it should be acknowledged.
Whether or not you’re into Dunham’s stuff is your prerogative. If you just don’t dig it, that’s fine and I bet a lot of criticisms of THE SHOW ITSELF (not the hype around it, not Dunham’s background, not anyone’s appearance) could be valid.The purpose of this isn’t to convince anyone the show is great and the new best TV show! But rather to just comment on the stunningly fast backlash that has erupted literally overnight.
This ended up way longer than I intended. Maybe I should go do some real work* instead of writing unasked for screeds on nascent TV shows.
*play Draw Something