It’s absurd to realize it’s only been two months since Girls first aired on HBO. It’s since become a mouthpiece for a generation raised on Ritalin, Sex & the City and Dave Eggers. And I mean that in the least repulsive way possible. This show is a Zeitgeist. And the fact it’s on a premium channel speaks volumes; most of its audience probably pirates the show or watches it through a parent’s cable subscription; a generation begging for the best but overwhelmed by the cost.
And Lena Dunham took advantage of the “mainstream going indie” fad and pushed it to the outer edges of TV. She took the best of her 2010 film Tiny Furniture —including a majority of its cast— and revised it into an even more candid, sexually frank, dark-humored misadventure.
From reenacting Beyonce dance moves to blasting Azaelia Banks, the shows teeters between mainstream obsession and indie elitism, through the same sort of fragmented, yet somehow rationalized thought process that its audience is more than likely guilty of, too.
And the characters! Each one seems to be a complex composite of people you’ve met, obsessed over, or bullshitted with at a party. And as familiar as they feel, they’re also organically unpredictable. They all have an immense sense of self-awareness and yet still desperately search for self-identity. They do find a sort of refuge in sex, but within a realm of rawness and realness Sex & the City never could reach.
The show lacks the kitsch found in so many modern day sitcoms; it actually skips right through the surface stuff altogether. And to a generation raised on in-your-face candidness and emotion we devoured through Livejournals, Myspace updates and Facebook statuses, that candidness is warmly welcomed.
I’m not saying Lena Dunham is some sort of J.D. Salinger, but she has succeeded in making some sense of my generation’s aimlessness. Does she make us all look like sex-obsessed, entitled losers? At times, yes. But self-aware sex-obsessed losers, if you’re keeping track.
Self-aware but lacking direction, or any sort of spiritual, sexual, artistic or political renaissance.
But there’s an exciting element to that nothingness we’re spinning through, because, at some point, that cultural ‘boom’ will come. We are just treading through that painfully boring calm before the storm, aimlessly fighting towards our place in the sun…er…a middle class suburb.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Lena carries some golden torch of leadership and truth, but Girls is a reassuring hand to hold during this mess we call our 20s. We can only hope great literature, movies, and albums will follow suit and spring forth in a sort of Post-Bush-era Bohemia.
One of my favorite scenes of season one, which I think pretty much defines our collective thought process, is when —and I’m paraphrasing— Marnie says “I’m really happy with where my life’s at right now” and Shoshanna responds, “Really? Because your stuff is in garbage bags in my kitchen.”
Our lives are a blessed, terrifying blend of uncertainty, mobility, denial and independence. And I learned all that from a television show.
Jon Harthun is a 20-something arts and entertainment writer living in Seattle. He's the creator of the blog, Just like starting over.