Michael Brendan Dougherty contemplates the hit series:
The oddest thing about the show is that these girls are fascinated–that really is the right word here–by men who have so few qualities. And the fate of these girls is to continue these confusing sexual relationships with badly damaged men, where pantomimed rape fantasies are a feature and a bug, for perhaps a decade. Only then it may become permissible for their social set to start thinking of marriage.
Perhaps I underestimate the trials of my more suburban, married existence in comparison to those of my Brooklyn friends and their stand-ins on this drama. But for a show with the tone of wild celebration in self-discovery, enabled by so much social capital, the ambitions and possibilities for these Girls seem so small and sad, and their 20s seem tragic.
So few qualities in the men? Have you seen Adam with his shirt off? Have you never fantasized about fucking a carpenter with sawdust under his fingernails just after he fixed your creaking door? (#SullyTMI: I pulled that one off in real life in 1989.) As for the girls’ lives appearing sad, I think my favorite moment ever on the first season (at the very end) was the unexpected but deeply happy grin from Hannah after her alley showdown with Adam. She’s sitting in the middle seat in the back of a cab next to Adam, her distant yet irresisitible love/sex-interest, with his fricking bike on her lap. Yes, that’s being in your twenties.
As far as I’m concerned, Dunham’s as brilliant an actress as she is pioneering as a writer (a kind of Judd Apatow with balls and more intelligence). But I may be biased here. I must confess to a real admiration for Millennials – and this series lingers over their idiosyncrasies like a Planet Earth for Brooklynites and their ilk. They seem to me to be the most honest generation in a long time, realistic without excessive cynicism, ironic while retaining unironic experiences to be ironic about, sexually alive in ways that enrich life, rather than depress it. Some of the sex is a little graphic and a little funny. But that’s what sex is: often deeply awkward and hilarious, when it isn’t the most amazing thing you can ever experience. Thank God for a generation able to tell the truth about it – and so well.
What Girls says is “Fuck the gaze.” Lena Dunham ain’t really performing for you. She’s saying people like me–which is most of you–like to fuck. And in a real narrative of real life, the people who do most of the fucking don’t actually look like Victoria Secret models. Your expectations for what fucking should look like are irrelevant. Here is how it looks like to the narrator. I kind of love that. In this (perhaps limited) sense, I can understand the “For Us, By Us” acclaim.
The show’s disregard for male notions of sex is pretty profound. And it achieves this while still giving us a fairly interesting cast of male characters.
I would say it often embraces the male notions of sex and throws them back at the less mature gender (which makes the series kinda gay in the best way). Watching Hannah watch Adam jerk off in bed in front of her is something I didn’t expect to see on TV (and more disturbing than the high camp of American Horror Story). But I bet you it’s happened. Just as surely as I bet you it doesn’t mean the end of civilization.