In Defense of Girls

664
Illustration by Caetano Santos.
Illustration by Caetano Santos.

Cable television led me to believe sex is an act reserved for ridiculously attractive people, one that involves the perfect man and the perfect moment. Your perfectly tousled curls and sheer white gown stay perfectly in place as a 200-year-old vampire makes love to you on a sheepskin rug in front of a roaring fireplace — “True Blood,” anyone?

Unfortunately, for most of us 20-somethings our sexual experiences resemble nothing like that description and instead can be described as impetuous, awkward or even non-existent.
HBO’s “Girls” wrapping up its second season reminds us that our sexual experiences — and life, for that matter — are sometimes nothing short of awkward, complicated and downright cringe-inducing.

“Girls” is centered around four 20-somethings who are in or just out of college trying to survive New York City. The show gives us a look into the lives, experiences and struggles of these four characters, namely Hannah (played by actress Lena Dunham).

The show has received its fair share of praise and criticism, but the controversy surrounding the show attests to the fact “Girls” is groundbreaking and one of the most truthful shows of our time.

Many critics point out the fact that the cast is not diverse enough. However, as Dunham points out, she is not the “voice of a generation,” she’s just a voice of a generation. Dunham acknowledges that she’s representing a small demographic and therefore a small slice of culture. I believe, while her demographic can represent a relatively privileged perspective, the girls’ experiences are still insightful and relatable to on some level.
While I do have my issues with the series (for instance, how does she have the disposable income to furnish an apartment that looks straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalog?), “Girls” continues to raise previously unaddressed issues some members of our generation face. Many of the characters’ experiences may be strikingly similar to ours or someone we know — and this is refreshing and empowering to see on the screen.

One of my favorite moments from the second season is Hannah’s struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). As a way to cope with her current anxieties, Hannah’s character returns to her compulsions to do things in multiples of eight. It was refreshing to see OCD portrayed in a new way — one that is neither its most extreme form nor a cute odd habit of organizing your sock drawer. OCD is not always a crippling, 24/7 disorder characterized through incessant hand-washing — it comes in many forms and many degrees. Having dealt with OCD personally, it’s exciting to see OCD portrayed in this new light. This portrayal of a mental health condition is just one of several issues this show has brought to our awareness.

Another important aspect of the show is Hannah’s struggles with her body image that consequently affect her confidence and relationships. The show has multiple sex scenes that often involve nudity. What is groundbreaking is not nudity airing on cable television but the conversation it provokes. Hannah’s nude body has been called too “fat for cable television”, as Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker points out. Criticism surrounding her body brings attention to the narrow range of bodies our eyes are used to seeing on TV. Watching the multiple sex scenes in the show, I found myself a bit uncomfortable. This level of discomfort is a criticism for many, but instead we should be asking why does it make us so uncomfortable? The show provides important commentary on our society’s body-policing and the media’s role in it — intentional or not.

I believe this show is groundbreaking for our generation. “Girls” introduces us to a set of characters that are fresh and original to TV viewers. Whether or not you like them, it’s possible to see ourselves in these characters — or atleast recognize someone we know in them.