Saturday, March 2, 2013

Watching 'Girls' (the HBO show)

Lately I’ve been watching ‘Girls’, the HBO show starring and written by Lena Dunham. Girls has a critical faultline. Namely, whether we like the show or not seems largely to depend on how we think of Dunham’s main character, Hannah.

Why have I been thinking about this? There have been two main reasons. One is that as a bit of a late adopter of this series, I’ve noticed how certain friends and people I follow on Twitter and the bloggosphere (that term is so mid 2000s), tend to have a divided point of view. Ruth Fowler wrote in the Huffpo of the effective social irrelevance and decadence of what this show represents. Effectively concluding that the show represents the worst of female white priviledge. Many people are familiar with the fairly infamous remark of Journo Caitlin Moran that she ‘literally could not give a shit’ about the lack of ethnic diversity in the show, which became a foil for a wider discussion about the ignoring of diversity in media that should intersect with the representation of women.

I’m going to make two points. Firstly, I will look through the show at why the apparently lack of diversity of the characters eradicates avenues of consideration and secondly why I think the show is great, but for reasons which acknowledges the flaws of the character Hannah.

Lack of diversity in ‘Girls’

There’s a line in the first season of ‘Girls’ which effectively says how Hannah’s character, an aspiring writer (which possibly sounds like a variant of the writer’s real life self) is trying to be the ‘voice of [her] generation’. One thing I do like about the show is the backdrop of New York gentrification, the anomie and cynicism of many characters (which often leads to the word ‘hipster’ being bandied around a lot); as well as the depressed and stagnant job market and economy which conflicts against the aspiring nature of the various characters. Many of the characters in ‘Girls’ struggle with finances, finding a long term job and the contradiction of their long term prospects and hopes, against what the world can offer them. That’s a pretty shit world that these characters live in, but the point effectively that Fowler makes is that the reality of the situation is much much worse if you are outside of Hannah’s degree educated white suburban upbringing.

There’s a contrast in criticism, from the point that the show represents an ugly nepotism where effectively priviledged characters are appropriating poverty as if it were their own, like the 19th Century Bohemians before them who proclaimed to represent to proletariat. The other ugly nepotism is allegedly involved in the quick ascension of the show and the star power involved in it.

My interest in Hannah

Hannah is a flawed character. She’s whiny, she doesn’t listen to other people and she always makes things about her. I wonder to myself how much of Hannah’s character is in Dunham. Is Dunham recognising a flawed character, or is Hannah really so self involved that people enjoy this deeply crass person. People hate Hannah and hate the show. I can’t imagine how anyone can like Hannah. I hate Hannah but I like the show. I like a protagonist who is an arsehole

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