Girls is over. I have a lot of feelings about this show, if you’re aware of the criticism surrounding it, then yes I’m going to dabble into that. As well as some of the parts I actually liked. If you don’t want to read this whole essay, then it’s fine. To sum up how I feel: I showed up for Adam Driver and developed a love-hate relationship with the series overall. Brace yourselves, this is going to be long.
I didn’t start watching Girls when it first aired. Yet, it seemed like the universe had been trying to get me to watch the show. Let me explain: Season one or two had just ended when Fall Out Boy came back from their hiatus, and decided to play three welcome back shows. I luckily got a ticket to the Los Angeles one. This was the first concert I went to by myself so I did what I’m best at: connecting to other people and chatted up with the two girls in line behind me. We were talking about Fall Out Boy (of course), Pierce The Veil, and then they asked me if I watched Girls. Obviously, I said no, since it was the truth. Then they went on to explain how amazing it was and relatable to young women our age (20s). I lied to them at the time and said I’d check it out, not wanting to harsh the vibe between my concert buddies for the night.
Then two months later in my acting for camera class, two girls did a scene from season 1. Again, the universe was knocking on my door about this damn show. (Or maybe more likely knocking on my door about Adam Driver.)
Another girl, who I briefly befriended in the theatre department, even suggested the show to me. So it’s Christmas Day 2015, and I’m finally seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m loving the movie! And then Kylo Ren unmasks himself, and like a light switch turned on, I instantly knew who he was. “THAT’S ADAM DRIVER!” I screamed in my head recognizing him from the film, This Is Where I Leave You. So yes, I decided to hurl myself into this show because I wanted to watch as many projects that Adam was in.
I didn’t start watching Girls until January 2016 because, again, I was sort of avoiding it. At that point in time, I was very much aware of its many issues: it wasn’t diverse, it was a rip off of Sex In The City (I haven’t seen that either), it was overhyped, etc. I knew how much Sex In the City was loved despite the lack of WOC leads, and again I was told by a couple of other people that Girls is this amazing and relatable show.
Eventually, I had watched pretty much everything that my new celebrity crush (Adam Driver) had been in minus Girls. And thus began my spiral into this show.
Instantly, I noticed the diversity issue. Of course, I believed anyone who mentioned the diversity issue before hand, but I didn’t think it would be that bad. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen the first season; however, if memory serves me correct: the only WOC characters were guest stars who gave Hannah (Lena Dunhman) a makeover out of spite. If there were other WOC characters in season 1, they played very minor parts like a nurse, police officer, receptionist, or a random extra. Oh, yeah and that girl who got the job over Hannah at the place she used to intern at.
As the show went on, there were POC characters sprinkled in, but overall none were really of major importance. Though the additions of Donald Glover in season 2 and Riz Ahmed in the final season (both were on just for a few eps) was really nice, they played characters that I’m not too fond of. If there had been maybe POC behind the scenes (producing and writing), I think these characters would have been handled much better.
One of the things that Hannah says is that she’s “a voice of this generation,” and I think that is true to an extent, because again those girls at the Fall Out Boy concert sang the praises of how relatable the show is. There were simplified relatable moments: the struggle to find a job/career, being able to pay rent, learning how to not rely your parents for everything, the ups and downs of relationships (platonic and romantic), and figuring out who you are. On a very broad scale, sure that is relatable.
However, we can’t deny that your level of struggle with those things differentiate depending on your race, body size, gender, sexual orientation, class, what part of the world in you live in, and whether or not you’re conventionally attractive. The show does cover insecurity issues, but I don’t think the it did a very good job at handling it. As someone who is riddled with insecurities, there wasn’t any actual body positivity moments on the show. (Parading around naked freely in one’s apartment doesn’t necessarily equate to being body positive.)
Though Hannah is insecure, it still felt very shallow and that it could have been expanded upon better. So again, I still felt like I couldn’t really connect to the show as much as I wanted too, but I was sticking it out because of Adam Driver.
Yes, I’m a woman in her twenties who is struggling with landing on the right career path, figuring out my love life, and dealing with insecurities. But I’m a woman of color, so on some level I will never 100% relate to a white woman because her struggle (usually) won’t be as difficult as mine. I do also acknowledge that, since I’m biracial, I will have privileges over non-mixed women of color. Still, Girls is not as relatable as I think Lena and her team was hoping it would be.
Obviously, this isn’t to say that I can’t be friends with white women or can’t enjoy white female characters; or even find white women relatable at times. There are universal experiences we have regardless of our race, gender, or sexual orientation; however, on some level, being a woman of color will always influence how I’m received and treated.
The location may have changed how I also related to the show. I’m a black biracial woman who was born and raised in Southern California. The four man girls (Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna) are white woman who grew up on the East Coast, and currently live in New York City with well off, rich parents.
My parents aren’t struggling, but they are still not in the same financial bracket as these characters’ parents. Soshanna’s parents totally had no problem paying for her apartment until she basically was able to find a stable job (it took all 6 seasons); Jessa (who is also Soshanna’s cousin) comes from a pretty well off family. Jessa spent a lot of time partying in Europe before we meet her in season 1. Marnie, though she has a paying job in season 1, is still getting some money from her mom. And Hannah’s story opens with her parents wanting to cut her off, which is in a way relatable. However, my parents did not pay for me to live in an apartment for almost two years unlike Hannah’s. If I’m not mistaken, rent in NYC is much more than rent in Los Angeles.
Soon as I accepted that “okay, well I’m not from NYC, not white, and not from a very well off family,” I thought that I’d be able to suddenly relate. There were little things like: Hannah and I are both struggling writers. Hannah and I both deal with body image issues on some level. Soshanna (season 1) and I are bad at talking to men. Jessa (season 1 or 2) and I are nannies — though I didn’t have the issues she did while she was being a nanny. I still found myself questioning are these situations realistic? Or am I just a boring person?
Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle, but still I found myself not entirely sold on the female characters. Truly, this show had me second guessing my life! Was I not bold enough? Was I too shy? Too boring? Was it my friends? Was it me in general? I reached out to my friends Jade and Nic — two, super talented actor pals of mine — and asked what they thought of this show. They both more or less said they liked the male characters better than the female characters, and that the show wasn’t as relatable as it should be. So I went back to the, “it’s maybe for well off white girls in NYC” reasoning. That’s when I asked my friends Toria and Stephanie — who are both young white women who live in NYC — if the show was relatable to them? And they both told me “overall no.”
One thing that I think the show does well is that it breaks the idea that leading female characters need to be likable.
Realistically, not everyone is going to be likable, or not everyone is going to find you likable, so this intrigued me. We did see women being just as much of a mess, selfish, unsure of themselves, and needing to do a lot of growing up like a lot of male characters get to be.
Yet, I still found myself enjoying the male characters on the show much more than the female characters. Ray, Elijah, and Adam (Adam Driver’s character is also named Adam). Ray is the older friend in the group who seems like at first his grumpiness is unwarranted, but as the show progressed, he seems like the most level headed character out of everyone and his skepticism was valid. Elijah, who ends up becoming, I would say, Hannah’s best friend as the show progressed, is a gay struggling actor. Adam is also a struggling actor, but he’s straight. He’s also sort of a carpenter who is a very intense person.
There was one more relatable moment on the show for me: when Soshanna was struggling forever to find a job, and finally got one, to only get let go from it shortly after. I didn’t move to another country for the job, but still. I totally related to feeling like “finally!” after the long and difficult job search to only find it out that it wasn’t meant to be.
A part of me wanted to find this show relatable and to fully see myself reflected in this show, however, I didn’t. I did a little bit, but again, not enough. The difficulty of relating to the show, I think made it harder for me to love the show. But that is not to say the show wasn’t entertaining, because it was. Especially the episode when Marnie and her ex Charlie randomly bump into each other and spend a night hanging out and catching up. Also, the best parts of the show was when Adam was shirtless.
Elijah (Andrew Rannells) ended up becoming my favorite character by the end of the show. All of the characters on this are imperfect and or problematic on some level (which of course real people are), however something about Elijah stood out the most to me. Maybe it’s because he made me laugh the most out of all the characters, but he was endearing.
The finale? The ending was a bit flat for me. It felt more like the episode right before a series finale than an actually series finale. We know where Soshanna is heading in life for the most part because of the previous episode. Jessa, it’s a bit unclear where she’s going; I think therapy. And for Marnie and Hannah, well it seems like these two will always be friends no matter what despite the fact that they’re probably toxic for each other. Hannah also seems to have had a rocky start with being a mom, but I think that’s realistic. By the end of the episode though it looks like things are going to get better for Hannah. Ray and Adam are also two characters who also seem a bit unclear with what’s going to happen for them.
The episode is titled Latching, and if you guessed it has to do with breastfeeding then you’re correct. The episode was about Marnie and Hannah raising Hannah’s newborn together and the stress it’s putting on their friendship. And also, Hannah’s struggle to get her baby to latch, so she can breastfeed. She is able to do so at the end of the episode, and well that’s where the show ends, leaving with me more questions than anything. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a movie a couple years from now trying to tie up any loose ends, cause it needs it.
Girls was definitely a reflection of some young women millennials, but it wasn’t the voice of us all. If this show was very relatable for you, that’s fine. I’m not going to fight you on that. However, I think this show speaks to a very specific group of women, which is fine. Obviously, it’s too late to fix any of the issues with this show. However, I do hope there will be more shows like Insecure, Master Of None, and Atlanta for young adult millennial POC to relate to. I showed up for Adam Driver, stayed for him, and developed a love-hate relationship with Girls.