‘Girls’: Perfectly Imperfect

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*Some spoilers for the show may be discussed!*

How do you say goodbye to perfection? Damned if I know.

I’ll start by saying HBO’s Girls was not perfect, not even close. Yet, the imperfections of Lena Dunham’s brain child only ever worked to highlight the perfect parts and the importance of the characters on a well-respected network. Since it’s inception, immediately the audience was introduced to characters with distinct personalities that you can envision yourself being, gone were the days of the Sex and the City girls, the new wave of Girls had hit the streets hard.

The series follows Hannah Horvath (Dunham), Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams), Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) and Shosshana Shapiro (Zosia Mamet), as they navigate their arguably somewhat shallow or self-absorbed worlds, presenting a realistic portrayal of a a female friendship held together only by a shared history. The first season sets up this friendship to be as modern and free flowing as the characters see themselves and from then on out the relationships crumble and are attempted to be pieced together.

Through showing how these twenty-somethings face realistic problems in a self possessed way, that is claimed only to be typical of twenty-somethings, Hannah and Lena Dunham became the face of millennialism, Hannah’s idealism that her passion for writing will lead her to greatness, despite doing any income-earning work led many to quickly write off the series as the whining of a 25 year old film student. But Girls has proven to be enduring with most of the criticism the show received during its early seasons being driven by people overreaching and looking for any way possible to tear it down. From people saying it’s not realistic because there aren’t enough people of colour, or its too liberal with its frank and often unattractive depictions of sex. In response to these, Dunham showed her maturity and credibility as an auteur, making the necessary changes to the show, such as the natural introduction of a more diverse cast, and fighting back against the sexist criticisms, winning her even more praise. While the critical eye fell off the series as newer and more exciting shows began being broadcast, Girls never lost sight of creating an entertaining realistic look at trying to figure out life.

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For me, the most intriguing thing the show ever did was examine the disillusionment of the relationship between the four main characters. Never was this more apparent than in the final season. Many television shows often ask us to overlook the forced nature of television friendships but Girls often asked the question of why? Why are these people friends with each other? Why do they tolerate the shit they put each other through? Despite its prominence in the later seasons, Dunham was asking these questions all along. It was infrequent when we would see the main four interact naturally and when they did it always revolved around the fact they weren’t the ‘normal’ close friendship Marnie desired them to be. This is most clear in episodes such as ‘The Beach House’ and ‘Goodbye Tour’. ‘The Beach House’ begins in the most typical Marnie way –  forcing the girls to the Hamptons for a weekend of healing and closeness that then combusts into one of the greatest television fights ever. The episode shows how little these people know about each other and how unwilling they are to try. However, in the end they stick together because they still generally like each other but it can be acknowledged that gone are those bonds that once held the friendship sacred. Meanwhile ‘Goodbye Tour’ is much of the same as for most of the final season we never saw more than two of the ‘girls’ together in the same room. They had reached a place where they had their own relationships with people that seemed logical and natural. The penultimate episode of the series sees Marnie force the girls into an overstuffed bathroom to work out their differences, but this time it is three years later and the girls have matured. Shoshanna blatantly points out the fact that they aren’t friends and there is a slow realisation amongst all the girls that their lives are all going in different directions and none of them see any of the them on their same path. It’s bittersweet to see this scene unfold and a little sad to see the expression on each of the characters’ faces as they remember what once was, but the audience is left to feel ultimately proud of these girls whom we were introduced to as much younger, lost and immature people who now can make positive and impactful decisions.

The legacy that Girls built is already in effect, but it’s lack of prominence makes it easy to miss. It was a show at the forefront of representing female comedic auteurs, now television is full of them with the likes of Issa Rae and Sharon Hogan making their mark on HBO. Girls must also be given credit for its ability to create excellent TV that defies the limits of genre, as it blurs the lines between comedy and drama so effortlessly; shows like Atlanta, Transparent and even shows that began as more traditional comedies like You’re the Worst are given the ability to not tell jokes so much as more present the humour in tragically real events.

Girls was flawed, but great. Yes, its male characters never being able to match the brilliance of the female ones, but then again it was never trying to. It gave voice to the people who were long underrepresented and shall be missed deeply.

Dom Gorman

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