Lena Dunham and HBO get it right

Girls, girls, girls
By SHARON STEEL  |  April 13, 2012

MILLENNIAL BLUES Writer, director, and star Lena Dunham has created a fully formed character who
is both hopelessly self-congratulatory and miserably insecure.
When a new television show chronicling the lives of young women arrives, it tends to come packaged with the promise that it will expertly define them, both as a generation and a gender. But most of these television shows are terrible. Girls (HBO, Sundays at 10:30pm) is not that. Girls is made for us, by one of us, and it has been saved from being bastardized by Hollywood's conception of what we need. Underneath the pure pleasure of the experience of watching Girls is a lingering astonishment that something this good was allowed to exist.

Girls' writer, director, and creator Lena Dunham (writer/director of the indie hit Tiny Furniture) stars as Hannah, one of the show's titular characters, an Angela Chase of the Millennials. Hannah is joined by a circle of girlfriends, some of whom are frenemies. They are responsible gallerist Marnie, boho free spirit Jessa, and Sex & the City-obsessed virgin Soshanna. Our girls are recent college graduates and adopted New Yorkers who are sarcastic, sensitive, at once naive and deeply cynical about love and work, and terrified that they may not actually be as great as they occasionally allow themselves to think they are. We are all Hannah, but not like we are told we are all Carrie Bradshaw or Bella Swan, who are basically just empty vessels we have been urged to project ourselves upon. We are all Hannah because Dunham, who is 25 and a brilliant writer, found her sweet spot in developing a fully formed, flawed, and endearing character who, like so many young women of a certain age and class, is both hopelessly self-congratulatory and miserably insecure. "I have work, and then I have a dinner thing, and then I am busy—trying to become who I am," she tells her parents, who refuse to financially support her as she pursues a dead-end internship in publishing while working on her memoir.

On Girls, Dunham explains what sex is actually like when you are around 24 years old, which is nothing like Sex & the City and usually more like an awkward reenactment of a the dirty parts from a Judy Blume book. "That was really good," Hannah says gratefully, after getting done doggy style by her gross non-boyfriend Adam, who offers her nothing by way of foreplay. "I almost came." But it must be said that one way Dunham (and Judd Apatow, her fairy godmother/producer) got Girls to levitate above and beyond most of the garbage pawning itself off as relatable is the fact that sex and relationships are only one piece of the larger mystery here. Dunham prefers to focus on what usually goes unsaid. It's kind of like how nobody wants to talk about how, when you give birth, you often wind up taking a crap on the delivery table: the idea that your 20s are a pure and beautiful experience is, quite literally, bullshit.

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