Girls is the best thing on television right now, and it's certainly the realest. I haven't written much about it, mostly because adding my voice to the din seemed unnecessary during those first crazy commentary-overloaded months. Kelly from Vice pretty much covered it: Lena Dunham is a white woman in her mid-twenties who is writing and directing a show on a major network and it's making people insane.
And now the girls themselves are going insane on the show, and it's perfect, because their dreams are mocked and the advice they're given is flat and the boys around them get so much more fucking leeway both to fuck up and to succeed. And once you leave college, girls, you're not sex-positive anymore, you're a slut. Once you leave college, you're not a leader, you're an uppity little bitch. And once you leave your liberal arts college, you're not an A student or a senior studio art major with your own thesis show or class president, you're a girl.
You're judged and categorized by your looks more than you ever imagined possible. Nobody accepts you as a protagonist. Everybody -- everybody -- feels they have the right to criticize your opinions, your choices, and your cultural contributions, all in a jarringly condescending way. Your fiction and screenplays and pilot scripts and even essays and storytelling pieces are "not relatable" because, come on, no girl really thinks that way, come on, who is this girl, come on, she's just a whore, right, come on, black girls don't talk like that, come on, the lesbians in this should be hotter, and shouldn't you really just make a web series instead of something for network since, come on, nobody is going to want to watch this story which is your story about people like you?
Every woman talking shit about Girls seems so defensive, and it's because we're so sick and tired of not being taken seriously, of having our own stories marginalized and devalued, of competing with one another for a handful of precious opportunities in the arts and entertainment. And now Girls is confronting those feelings and the truth of that experience so clearly and brilliantly, and it's perfect and cathartic and real and good and wow. (If you're not on board, I urge you to watch episodes five through nine of the current season with an open mind.)
Because look at how privileged you are, girls. Look at you, you're young and pretty and you went to college. Nobody is shooting at you or raping you when you go to collect firewood, so why can't you just get it together and stop with your white people problems, huh? Oh and we know it too! And we get so mad at ourselves for being confused and complaining and needing help and seeing injustice in the fields in which we want to work, and we feel guilty that we're upset about something so trivial as injustice in the fields in which we want to work when we're walking around with all the privilege in the world, and so we yell at ourselves for feeling frustrated and then we tick, we panic, we drink, we cut ourselves. We hurt us, sometimes badly. Because the only thing worse than the shock of how the world suddenly disregards us is how laughable it is that we're bothered by it, how selfish and childish and whiney and cunty it is to complain about something like nobody wants to publish my story, and we double-internalize it and start to destroy ourselves. Lena Dunham is nailing this on her television show right now.
If you are a woman who went to college in the last couple decades or so, odds are the real world was an incredibly rude awakening. It's traumatic, frankly. Girls knows that, and the criticism of Girls is evidence of that, because Girls is criticized both by the people who seek to marginalize us girls and by us, the girls who are marginalized, because if Girls is the one shot we get for a whole fucking generation of being heard and seen then of course we all want to feel more represented by it.
I didn't grow up in a two-parent opposite-sex middle-class household with lots of stability in a college town like Hannah Horvath did. I went to college with my own story, and I met tons of friends from all kinds of different backgrounds with all kinds of different life experiences under their belts. When it came time to graduate, despite our diverse challenges and identities upon entering college, we all encountered the startling unfairness of the real world head-on in an overwhelmingly similar way. Whether we'd grown up in a trailer park or an inner city or a sprawling suburb or the Upper West Side, we all went to college and had our ideas taken seriously and grew as people and emerged poised to be leaders and colleagues and professionals and educators and attorneys and scientists and fully-fledged humans. But in a whole lot of those arenas of life, we were suddenly just girls, and the world came down on us very hard. What we have in common is the shock of that transition, from the educational system that validated and valued us as multidimensional adults to the socio-economic "real world" system that marginalizes, mocks, judges and ignores us, that in turn labels us whiney spoiled children for merely mentioning the double-standards. To the world where a 26-year-old office guy cannot recognize 31-year-old me as a peer. To where it doesn't even occur to him to do so.
I am not complaining, kids; this is called analysis. But I do continue to be pretty surprised by it all. And I am sticking up for the reality of the pain of that experience, and I am celebrating the fact that Lena Dunham is portraying it so adeptly.
My college friends and I celebrated our 10th reunion last year, and some of us lamented how much self-esteem and ambition we'd lost since college. Maybe those of you who think Girls is a navel-gazing narcissistic Klan meeting of sorts think we never should've liked ourselves so much to begin with. We thought we were actual people. How silly of us. We were -- we are -- just girls, and our problems are not really problems. We are your wives and daughters and sisters but we are not selves, not subjects, not I, not you. I'm done with all that. You can take me or leave me. I'm determined to reconnect to the 21-year-old me who knew what a smart, sharp, powerful badass I was.