I loved the first season of Girls in the same way I love all the seasons of Sex and the City: a lot. I have been on my annual pilgrimage back to Sex and the City for the past few weeks, spending my weekends in bed with snacks (because eating delicious treats in bed is a stereotypical trait of women two reasons: it happens all the time and it's awesome). I finished watching the seventh season last week, and in lieu of a new television program, I've moved onto the first Sex and the City movie (I will not proceed past this point because the second film ruins everything good in the world via casual traits like misogyny and racism). In the first film, Carrie and Miranda get into an argument on Valentine's Day, because Miranda told Mr. Big "you're crazy to get married, marriage ruins everything" on the eve of Carrie and Big's wedding, which Big then didn't show up to. In said fight on said Valentine's Day, Carrie tells Miranda: "Do you know what hurts the most? It's that you kept a secret from me, and I've never kept a secret from you." This quote stuck with me because it personifies what Sex and the City is: a story about four best girl friends.
Girls promised to be our Sex and the City, only better, or so we thought. Girls was where Sex and the City and reality were supposed to merge: four best girl friends who lived in New York, but had realistic sex and worked shitty jobs and had real boyfriend problems. It succeeded so well at being our better version of Sex and the City in the first few episodes of the first season ("why do we need lube?") that we started to expect it to do things it never really promised to do, namely be socially, economically and racially aware and diverse at all times. We, the Internet, criticised the hell out of it for being primarily (almost wholly) about white, middle class women, even though we knew it to be based on the experiences of one white middle class woman. As Roxanne Gay said at All About Women (and she doesn't even like Girls), "Lena Dunham has dealt with an abhorrent level of bullshit because she has privilege and still dares to think her opinion matters". I'm a middle class white woman who thinks my opinions matter, too. I think I criticised Girls for lacking diversity because it showed how my life lacks diversity, and made me feel a little bad about it – *insecurity*.
Girls didn't promise to solve Hollywood's problems, it didn't promise to be better than Sex and the City, but it did promise to be our Sex and the City: a story about four best girl friends. As the third season progressed, our vitriol about the show's lack of diversity began to wane and we started to become hell-interested in, like, Jessa's job at a store selling tiny, expensive clothes or The Story Of Hannah And Adam, we started to think that Girls wasn't really a story about four best girl friends, it was a story about four girls, who pretend to be friends, who didn't seem to have anything in common or to like each other very much. It wasn't anything like Sex and the City, because the girls in Girls were very good at keeping secrets from each other, and actually seemed to quite like doing it. Our vitriol shifted again: we now officially didn't like girls because it wasn't about four girl friends.
But that's not true: Girls is about four girl friends, four real ones. At PaleyFest, a culture conference that occurred in LA recently, Lena Dunham sort-of responded to this criticism when she said that, "We have an essential belief that being complex, annoying and multifaceted is the right of women on television, so therefore to see characters you don't necessarily adore all the time is hopefully in some ways an inherently feminist action, because it's a form of representation that we've been lacking for a long time". She's right, too: women can be total dicks, but that's never represented on TV. I think we're (by which I mean I'm) kinda guilty of shooting the messenger: Lena Dunham held a mirror up to twenty-something women, and we didn't really like what we saw. We love Sex and the City because it's an aspirational fantasy (apparently some women actually think they can go to New York and live on one newspaper column per month and buy enough $500 shoes to have to use their oven as extra storage), and we started to dislike Girls because it's kind of who we actually are.
As Girls and the girls on Girls have grown up over four seasons, we've come to like them less, and criticise them more. The girls are more nuanced, their issues are more nuanced, the humour is more nuanced, and there are now no anal sex scenes to really grab on to and giggle at. But being nuanced is good, it's just really fucking difficult to be nuanced and funny (see "knock knock" jokes). The third season felt heartless because of this, and while I originally thought it was because hate had replaced heart at the centre of the show, I now think it's just that the heart is super complex. It's taken Girls until now, the end of the fourth season, to make all of the nuance funny. The heart is back, and if it's back via anyone, it's back via Ray Ploshansky.
In the last episode of the fourth season, which aired a couple of nights ago, Ray tells Desi that "I fucking hate you" and that it "isn't about where you're from, this is about that distressed shirt you're wearing, this is about the fact that you have eye-liner on your face right now", which is the first time I've backed the shit out of the writing on Girls in a while, because Desi (is that even his real name?) is a 100% douchebag. Because he's fake.
In the same episode, the four girls are embarking on separate adventures: Marnie may be (horrifyingly) embarking on a solo singing career (not very realistic if we're honest really), Shoshanna is moving to Japan, Jessa is going to become a counselor, and Hannah is in a new relationship with a nice, dorky young man who is nothing like Adam. They're less caricatures and more real people than they've ever been before – all the women I know are currently considering settling for "normal" careers and nice (and not "bad") boyfriends. Girls isn't bad, or mean, it just is.
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