On Where (My) Girls At?

Jenna, I must respectfully disagree with your analysis.

For one, you noted that you were only three episodes into the series. It seems a little early to write the show off on these grounds, not knowing where it will go by the end of the series (or even the first season). I understand that blogs (including the Hairpin) typically rush to review a series upon its debut, but you might be getting ahead of yourself here. Let’s wait to see how the story unfolds.

Second, I think your argument that “these girls are like me...and not like me” makes the mistake of reflecting the media’s response on the intentions of the author. As you pointed out earlier in your post, people on Twitter and in the media said things like “Absolutely perfect portrayal of living in NYC.” It seemed that a lot of people have read the series as some sort of complete description of life in the hipsterized world of NYC, which I don’t think is the case.

I would recommend you watch Tiny Furniture. When you take that together with the first few episodes of Girls, you’ll notice that Lena Dunham’s style of storytelling isn’t about trying to “nail” certain types of hipster personalities, or the lives of 20-something women in general. What you have instead is an extremely personalized narrative. For instance, most of the characters in Tiny Furniture are played by Dunham’s real-life family members, with their roles and occupations reflecting their real lives. As one commenter pointed out, you see this in Girls as well, with Dunham’s personal friends playing the character Hannah’s friends.

Girls may not have any significant minority characters in it simply because Dunham may not have had any significant friendships with minorities. I find that to be an unfortunate fact in itself, but I don’t think inserting a minority character into the mix remedies the problem. If she did, it’s possible that it would work, but she also runs the risk of pretending to understand the unique experience of women of color in this particular bubble of affluence and privilege. I could understand her not being comfortable with that, since she might end up presenting the sort of “magical negro” characters you see throughout white American storytelling.

All that said, I really don’t think Girls is meant to be a sweeping history of “our lives,” be we women, 20-somethings, hipsters, or New Yorkers. It’s a story from one person’s perspective in a particular time and place that happens to highlight what’s going on in a larger society that we might identify with in some ways. Can we really fault Dunham for trying to tell her story in a way that is more or less accurate, according to her own experiences? We should be careful not to let our own biases or those of the media enter an author’s storytelling, as uncomfortable or exclusive as that story might be.

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm 0