On Hate-Watching Girls

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Jonathan May

I must admit that I love to hate-watch shows. I don’t apologize for it. Many people love to hate things all of the time: other people, their Facebook pages, movies everyone loves, Republicans. So I claim Girls as my love-to-hate show. Besides the obviousness of it, that these are girls you are supposed to not-like, the show offers little in terms of episode-to-episode flow, the most appalling examples of which fall in the most recent and unfolding season (Adam’s sister, anyone?). For the first two seasons, I also held the show to be a comedy, which it fails at disastrously. The only funny moments involve Shoshanna, a character rendered tangential by her lack of “worldliness”—a quality which Lena Dunham and her ilk hold highest.

The problem with this is that these girls, apart from Jessa (sometimes), live out their petty dramas in the TV-bubble of New York City. Unlike Sex and the City, however, this works against the girls, casting them as Jenny-come-lately poseurs in a city that Carrie and crew embraced full and well years ago. This is more than just a problem of looking at two groups of women in completely different points in their lives/careers; as a result of hipster influx into Brooklyn (among myriad other U.S. locales), these girls don’t even recognize their status as interlopers, which is the root cause of their unhappiness. Marnie spends a lot of time alone; she has no friends because she has chosen to move to a city where sacrifice could mean something greater, but often doesn’t. Hannah never escapes her insular world made up of Adam and the occasional friend and the writing she is literally never doing. Each of the Girls revolves in a world populated by just a few.

Now, back to the hate-watching. I hate-watch Girls not only because I can and am free to, but also because I hate-read a few hundred romance novels when I worked at a used bookstore over the course of nine years. Girls’ formula is unfortunately so formulaic as to be laughable; it follows the exact arc of most good romances, which is lucky because the show fails as a drama and a comedy. So, why is everyone, myself included, obsessed with this new brand of romance? What does it offer? Well, I hate-but-don’t-hate to burst your bubble, but the show offers nothing besides pure romantic entertainment. There are no higher messages or coded morals; there are no expressions of the Zeitgeist or proclamations of culture. We have ripped tank tops and party dresses; we have unanswered texts. What we have is romance, and all proper romances end in marriage. So I guess we’ll see if Girls fails in that regard as well.

Image source: Grantland

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