Review of "Girls" on HBO From The TV MegaSite

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"Girls" review by Sundi 1/20/14
Airs Sundays 10pm on HBO

I’m late to this season’s Girls conversation. So far, we’re three episodes in and it seems season three has some minor shifts in tone, and may be just a little more tongue-in-cheek.  A lot of folks are talking about the show, and it seems to strike a chord with a lot of different audiences – whether they like the show or not. Critics of the show characterize it as a show populated with narcissists trying to assign meaning to their shallow, entitled lives. Others are saying that it captures an honest look at the millennial generation and their attitude of entitlement and indulgence. I agree with both of these, yet I am still having a hard time finding the words to talk about what I have seen of this season. While I enjoy the raw characters and I even find their grating personality flaws fascinating, and I don’t really mind the nudity either, I think there is something a little destructive about a show featuring privileged, middle class women lamenting how hard their life is. However, I can’t help but waffle on my own opinion, because I think this show acknowledges this about itself, and is addressing it with tone changes and character evolutions. I am living on both sides of the coin when it comes this show, and that is absolutely one thing I adore about Girls… there is never a shortage of things to say about it – the challenge lies in figuring out HOW to say them.

The first episode opens on a montage catching us up on the characters’ lives since we last saw them at the end of last season. When the episode actually starts, it picks up on Hannah and Adam at Grumpy’s, the coffee shop at which both Hannah and Ray work. Adam runs into Natalia, the ex-girlfriend from last season that we saw get humiliated and demoralized in a way that made us root for her and hate Adam. Amy Schumer guest starred as Natalia’s friend, Angie who initiates a scene that could have been ripped from reviews of last season. The exchange was so rich and stunningly unforgiving that my eyes stung as I watched it. As the Natalia unloads are the residual anger of the breakup and hurt feelings, she delivers one of the most acidic monologues onto Hannah and Adam. Suggesting they enjoy their, “urine soaked lives and live like the feral animals you are,” Natalia comes down to the root of what folks are saying is bad about this show. She tells Hannah she is going to end up with a baby she can’t take care of and will possibly kill it by giving it spoiled formula. Yikes. What other show would allow their characters most intimate defects to be trotted out and used as fodder for the audience’s amusement. I love that this show wants us to laugh at them, and judge them, and see them for what they are. This is such a self-conscious move on the writers’ part, that it almost reads satire, which is a fun time too.

The female characters on this show are well-constructed versions of women that are meant to act as placeholders for the generation. Every woman can find something about these women that rings familiar, yet their behavior is absurdly self-obsessed and petulant and that allows enough distance for viewers that they can laugh at them without feeling embarrassed that they ARE them. With borderline sociopathic tendencies, the characters of Girls are becoming caricatures of women, and that is what allows us to criticize the shows’ values without coming down too hard on women in general. Smart, right? 

However, it’s the male characters that are making the show feel textured and multitonal. Ironically, in a show called Girls, it’s Adam and Ray that I find the most attractive and fun to engage with. In episode two, as Adam drives Hannah and Shoshanna to pick up Jessa from rehab, he plays the strait man to Hannah’s constant whining and childish blathering. He serves as the reality in the Girls universe (and if you have seen this show, then you know how whacked that is). I found a conversation between Hannah and Ray the most poignant of the season so far when they are discussing the breakup of Ray and once girlfriend, Shoshanna. Hannah finds it so sad that Ray and Shosh aren’t speaking, nor have they seen each other – finding the reality that two people who were so close and shared so much are reduced to strangers now hard to manage. Ray has to remind her, “That’s life, Hannah,” and with this he also reminds us how removed these characters are from a fully realized reality. The episode is chock full of scenes in which the girls make horribly selfish decisions (Jessa outs another patient at rehab, then is asked to leave for sleeping with her) or act in ways that are undeniably ridiculous (Shoshanna’s rant about her favorite utensil), but that is what this show is – bad behavior disguised as twenty-somethings, wrapped in twenty first century problems.

With the introduction of another crazy person in Adam’s sister (although I think her crazy is much more diagnosed than the others) we see more and more layers to the show and possibilities to make us think about what it means to be a girl now, in this place. Am I wrong? Isn’t this show about making us look at our own human behavior and what is ugly about it? If you disagree, tweet me and tell me what you think: @sroseholt.

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