Our resident sci-fi nerd Andrew Findlay apparently took issue with Jonathan May’s coverage of hate-watching the Girls season finale enough that he wanted to gush about it here. Here’s the opposite of hate-watching, which might just be watching? Here’s the first in our 46,750 part series “Counterpoint.”
Girls is an amazing television show. It is a perfect comedy of the awkward: the discomfort and hilarity rolling off of each episode in waves is a great accomplishment. Within this comedy, the writers also attempt to explore authentic reactions and emotions that actual people, not sitcom approximations, have.
A lot of people are annoyed by how ridiculous and terrible the main characters are, but honestly, have you seen people lately? Most of them are ridiculous and terrible. Think of your own friends: some might be paragons of virtue, but how many have some terrible habits and make dumbass decisions? How many don’t, God love ‘em, annoy the shit out of you sometimes? I posit that if your best friend’s actions have never filled you with rage, you might not be best friends. The show deals in hyperreality. It takes actual personality patterns, exaggerates them until they become semi-caricatures, and then explores the emotional ramifications of human behavior. Yes, all of these people are terrible. Yes, they are too much. The thing is though, that’s the point. Taking Girls to task for being filled with terrible people is like taking the Ernest movies to task because the main character is implausibly stupid.
Come now, a man of his intellectual ability could not save anything, much less Christmas
Even within this implausible framework, the show inserts interactions and situations that are startlingly real. The foundation of the fights between Adam and Hannah might be absurd, but the language they use in fighting and the way they deal with emotional conflict matches reality very closely. I have no firsthand knowledge of this, but my wife informs me that not all, but many of the conversations among the girls reflect how women really do talk to each other, which is “fucking refreshing” when compared to the SATC ladies discussing dick size over mimosas. Also, Girls has a realistic portrayal of post-coital conversation and body language. After sex, Hannah walks around talking naked, because why would you hide your body from the person you just fucked? Think about it – if you had sex with someone in real life, and they immediately tore all your bedsheets off your bed and wrapped them around themselves to hide their nudity, wouldn’t you be a little freaked out? This brings me to a point that isn’t really part of my main argument, but I feel it needs to be mentioned: Hannah is not conventionally attractive and walks around naked, ew! Well, sorry that modern culture has led you to expect only flat-bellied, buxom goddesses to be inflicted upon your vision. Seriously – Hannah’s body type is how a lot of women look, and there is nothing wrong with it. Check your privileged expectations.
Speaking of expectations, Girls is a comedy from HBO, the only show on television that passes the Bechdel test, and because of that, people heap a mountain of expectations upon it, expectations the showrunners never outright claimed or even hinted at. The people saying Hannah represents the voice of a generation, and the other people getting enraged at how bad a picture she paints of the current generation? Dunham never said anything about any generation. Yes, the main character of the show muses whether she may be the voice of her generation, but the main character of the show is remarkably narcissistic and was also high on opium at the time. Oh, all the show’s main characters are privileged and there isn’t enough diversity? Ha! I’m not laughing because that’s not true, I’m laughing because it’s true of nearly every television show. Again, for some reason, Girls is held to higher expectations than other shows, expectations no one set up aside from the people complaining about them. Where is the diversity on Friends or How I Met Your Mother? Where is the exploration of underprivileged characters on Sex and the City, where the four main characters go on endless brunches and shopping sprees, where one is a Harvard-educated lawyer, another grows up rich and marries extremely rich, another is a successful PR executive, and the last is a successful columnist with an on-off relationship with a man of fantastic means? Fuck’s sake, at least some of the characters on Girls actually struggle with unemployment. I’m not saying these criticisms of Girls hold no weight, I’m simply confused as to why Friends, SATC, and How I Met Your Mother get a pass for the exact same problems, whereas the response to Girls is virulent hatred.
This show is really great. My wife and I laugh during every episode, feel feelings for most of them, and are just generally amused and glad this show exists. If you hate-watch it, of course you’re going to focus on all these terrible people doing terrible things, but your perspective will suffer from confirmation bias, where you only see the bad and draw conclusions to support your preexisting idea that the show is terrible. Check it out. It’s great, and unlike anything else I watch on television.