I missed the Sex & The City phenomenon and so I decided to tune into HBO’s Girls. It was not high on my priority list, so I didn’t actually watch it until yesterday. It can best be described as 35 minutes of my life that I will never get back. As a thirty something, Black, disabled mother of two, I am not the target audience for Girls, but if I were to wait from something to actually appear on television to be marketed specifically to me, I wouldn’t need to own a television. Being marginalized means having to deal with dominant bodies being universalized as typifying the human experience, no matter how ridiculous the roles they take on are.
Twenty-four year old Hannah, played by Lena Dunham is supposedly the voice of her generation. Though she has been out of college for two years, she still has not found a full-time job and is dependent upon her parents for financial support. The show opens with her eating dinner at a restaurant with her parents, while they inform her that they are two college professors and refuse to pay for her life anymore. Hannah throws a tantrum worthy of a three year old, and refuses to see her parents again before they leave New York.
Hannah has been working as an unpaid intern for two years, but when she asks to be paid, she is fired. This could have actually been interesting because in many cases internship is exploitation. Companies know that young college graduates don’t have the experience to compete for many jobs and internships allow them to add experience to their resume, while the company in question gets free labour. A good internship can in some cases lead to a well paying job however, the hours of free labour are never recouped. I could have easily embraced a conversation about this and how this is problem that largely effects young people entering the job market. Alas, it was not to be.
In the interactions with other women, Hannah spends most of her time whining about being fat and hating her body, while her friends attempt to reassure her. One of these conversations happens while Hannah is in the bathtub and her friend is shaving her legs. All this time I thought that women interacted in social situations like maybe sharing a glass of wine on a couch together, working out at a gym together, watching a movie together etc., how could I have missed the opportunity to shave my legs with my BFF? Clearly, I am not performing my female friendships properly.
We were also treated to a scene in which Hannah had pathetic sex with a man that clearly only cared about getting off to soothe her disappointment. Was I supposed to see her as empowered because she was so completely disconnected from her selfish partner and still chose to have sex? Not only was her partner selfish, he has a history of ignoring her text messages. Is this supposed to teach us that unless you are in romantic forever and evah love that you are destined to have shitty sex?
At a dinner party, it was suggested that she get a job at McDonald’s but this was deemed beneath her, though she cannot afford to cover her half of the rent. She has an English degree after all. She got high on some opium tea and went back to her parents hotel, with a partial manuscript of her memoir in the hope of convincing them to cough up eleven hundred dollars a month, which she declared a sacrifice on her part, because she is living in New York. A memoir from a spoiled twenty-four year old woman, even the suggestion is enough the environmentalist in me to scream, please God don’t let any trees die for this nonsense. Thankfully, the parents do not back down and they leave unannounced in the morning. When Hannah awakes in the morning, she learns that because her parents have closed their account that she cannot order room service. She finds an envelope with 20 dollars in it for her and a 20 dollar tip for the housekeeping, and the ever so generous Hannah, takes all of the money. Clearly this self indulgent unemployed young woman needs the money more than the working and most likely poor housekeeping staff.
As she leaves the hotel you finally see the first Black person. A homeless Black man in New York after just being inundated with thirty-five minutes of the most navel gazing, spoiled nonsense I have seen in a long time. According to Huffpo, in an HBO live chat, Dunham has the nerve to claim that “the racially homogenous cast was a “complete accident.” Is anyone buying that? Ooops, they did it again. It’s yet another all White show, but because they didn’t mean for that to happen it’s okay. Why am I even complaining, when they did after all find a Black man to act as a homeless person in New York city, one of the most diverse cities on the planet? I suppose I should feel thankful that they managed to scare up a Black man ’cause they most certainly didn’t find a single GLBT person.
As a writer I found Hannah’s character so offensive. I don’t even have the benefit of a room of my own to sit with my thoughts. This is something that is not unique to me. Poor women and women of colour have always struggled for our art, it is only the most privileged who think that a simple scribble on the page defines them as artists and therefore requires support. The marginalized have to fund themselves and then deal with critics who complain when we dare to tell our stories. If art produced by a woman is subsidized in any manner, she is most likely to be White, straight and cis, while the rest of us struggle in obscurity.
I was absolutely grateful when the credits ran, I knew that my torture was officially over. Girls is quite simply about spoiled White girls. They have so much privilege that they have developed a sense of entitlement. Meritocracy, which is continually applied to historically marginalized people is something that simply does not apply to them, though they do negotiate sexism. This a show about a privileged group of vapid women whining about being forced to be even remotely responsible for themselves.
I agree that we need more images of women in the media, but Girls is not the solution for the erasure. ‘Woman’ should not simply mean White woman. If we have to have a homogenous cast, would it have been that hard to make even one of these characters likeable? I cannot think of a single area that Girls is successful in. If you missed the pilot episode consider this your warning.