Girls: Reality or Distortion?

I’m kind of sick of talking about Lena Dunham, but you know what? At this stage, she’s unavoidable.

Back in 2012, I read countless reviews, debates and discussions on the subject of Girls both before and after watching it myself. They ranged from the complimentary to the extremely disparaging, but I did get the sense from all of this media buzz that what I was hearing about was a Very Important Show. (The exact same story could be told about the 2014 release of Dunham’s book, Not That Kind of Girl.)

A note on the negativity. I’m struggling to think of one male in my own recent memory to have received such a litany of abuse for simply writing an honest piece of work. This fact in itself is the essence of why the following is my favourite line from NTKOG:

"There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman."

I couldn’t agree more. Lena Dunham has been dismissed by a lot of writers as excessively privileged and thus unrelatable, and this is also visible in the show, but I think there are a lot of key moments and issues raised in Girls that manage to transcend class and culture. The good, the bad, and the downright embarrassing are all there, in plain sight.

A classic scene is the ‘Cos it’s Wednesday night, baby, and I’m alive’ one. Most have us are familiar with it, right? I think there’s something about the utter ridiculousness of this entire episode that we can all identify with a little. Sure, not so many of us will have had that experience while wearing a string vest, high in a Brooklyn warehouse, but it’s somehow relatable nonetheless. That night when you’re out when you shouldn’t be, knowing you have responsibilities tomorrow, straddling the gap between vague maturity and full-on adulthood. It’s refreshingly normal and a bit ugly – the reality that we’re all a little bit irresponsible, after all.

Speaking of responsibility, Hannah’s problems at the beginning of Girls season one are decidedly first-world – her parents take her out to dinner in order to urge her to, well, get a real job. Safe to say that many viewers weren’t exactly crying her a river. With a good dose of perspective, Shoshanna’s terror at finally exiting university, still healing from a breakup and facing into the real world are similarly ridiculous – but it’s a feeling that so many of us have had. Hands up who’s still pretending that they won’t be working 9-5 for the rest of their life?! I know I am.

On that note, it seems to me that a resounding theme throughout the series is fear. Marnie’s fear upon exiting a serious relationship that has dominated her adult life. Adam’s initial phobia of commitment. Hannah’s continuing terror that she’ll never ‘make it’ – and any time she does make any kind of tangible professional progress, she gets impostor syndrome! It’s hard not to relate on some level.  

I’ve yet to speak to a female I know who doesn’t like the show. Although the scenes and characters don’t immediately speak to everyone, it’s the ugly underbelly of self-doubt and unease felt by so many of us twenty-somethings that ultimately carries this series, and it’s too painfully honest to ignore.

Deirdre Foley is a history grad, sceptic, wearer of red lipstick and self-confessed 'beauty maniac'. She is also the co-founder of fabulous Irish beauty blog, Viva Adonis.