It's inevitable that an all-female ensemble cast airing on HBO would be compared to the cable channel's previous estrogen-laden darling, "Sex and the City." While the similarities of "Girls" and "SATC" are obvious, the shows are actually worlds apart. One is a glitzy, idealized version of four successful, empowered women in New York juggling careers and men. The other is a dark comedy that soberly exposes the awkward, complex, and, at times, tragic realities of trying to be an adult.
The Real World
Never mind the disillusionment, responsibilities and broken dreams that come entwined with growing pains, "Girls" is a look into the hipster movement, which can come off as histrionic, self-loathing, and entitled. Throw in fretful relationships and friendships, and the new series might raise nostalgia for the rose-colored tinge of Carrie and the girls. The bleakness which drives the show's droll humor can be as unsavory as it is utter genius.
Don't look for overpriced luxury apartments or designer dream closets either. Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) are low-maintenance hipster types in dingy apartments, wearing sensible, chunky shoes and neutral, puke-colored clothing. There is nary a hint or mention of Louboutins or Louis Vuitton.
Dunham, the show's creator and lead, sells the defeatist, aspiring writer role all too convincingly. Hannah has recently been cut-off by her parents, is slightly overweight and overwhelmingly insecure about it. She's also in a friends-with-benefits arrangement that's lacking on friendship. Obviously, her choices aren't doing her self-esteem any favors.
As Hannah tries to guilt-trip her parents into giving her a financial assistance extension in Episode 1, she announces, "I think that I may be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice of a generation," and she's exactly right. The show addresses hordes of coddled, 20-somethings in histrionics over finally having to take control of their lives. It reeks of self-loathing and confusion, which is exactly the state most young women must learn to overcome. For some, it may seem eerily autobiographical and for others, aggravatingly whiney.
Cringe Till You Laugh
Issues like BDSM, unemployment, STDs, and abortion coexist happily among the daily doldrums of dinner parties and off-beat banter. In Episode 2, "Vagina Panic," the flighty Jessa decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and Hannah, Marnie, and Shoshanna wait for her at the clinic. When it appears Jessa is late to the abortion Marnie scheduled, Hannah reassures Marnie by saying, "How can she ruin the beautiful abortion that you threw?" Marnie later opines, "There is seriously nothing flakier in this world than not showing up to your own abortion." It's this fine line between harsh reality and dry sarcasm that defines the show.
Also, the sex featured in the lives of this city-dwelling foursome is a study in clumsy, cringe-worthy realism. Forget the ostentatious screaming orgasms and hard-bodied sugar-coated fantasies of "SATC." Marnie and her boyfriend have a tedious, disconnected play at intimacy while Hannah pretends to enjoy her sex buddy's single-minded pursuit of his own pleasure, which reduces her to an expendable prop in the process. Meanwhile a pregnant Jemma has to play off an unfortunate incident during a random hook-up. Compared to the sex troubles on "Girls," Charlotte's marital bed woes with Trey on "SATC" appear quaint and contrived.
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