Why 'Girls' is Just as Important for Boys
Every time I see Lena Dunham on television, particularly yesterday, after she won big at the Golden Globes, I want to kill myself.
This is not because I hate her, that I think she’s ugly, or is annoying me, as I’ve seen various male critics say since her since her hyper-real TV series made such a splash last year. No, seeing Dunham rewarded for her near-flawless work as a writer, director and actor makes me want to die because she makes me realise how much more I could be doing with my life creatively.
It’s the kind of jealousy that is a scratch so insistent that you wouldn’t be able to itch it even if you knew where it was, the kind one imagine Hemmingway would have felt when Fitzgerald busted out of Paris with The Great Gatsby in the mid-twenties. As everyone has dissected the effect of Dunham’s work on a new generation of women, it seems like there really isn’t that many considering the equally powerful pull she is having with men.
The first four people who recommended Girls to me were guys. One was my brother, another, a work colleague and the two others good friends. Perhaps in spite of the gender politics and crises of white privilege that would come to mark criticism of the show as it concluded its first season, the reasons it was suggested to me were primarily because of the dialogue - and the music.
“It’s so off-the-cuff and raw, it’s right up your alley!’ said one. “She thinks the way you talk. You’re going to get addicted” warned another. And they were right; I devoured all ten episodes of the show in just under a week, and the only reason it took me that long was because I deliberately stretched it out. I’m sure I’m not the only person who was simultaneously elated and dismayed upon finding out Dunham’s age.
If you ever want to feel briefly inspired as a writer, followed by crashing waves of uselessness, it’s upon finding out that the mind behind a fully formed TV show is less than a year older than you.
Of course we are all born of different contexts, environments and educations, so it’s very narrow-minded to say that just because I’m in my mid-twenties, I should be onto my second series of a cult TV show, creating a social network or winning tennis tournaments.
But it’s precisely because many of these things seemed so stacked against Dunham, even with her top-notch breeding and liberal, artistic parents, that the excuses start to feel like, well, excuses. (I’m also a fan of blaming America, where sometimes it seems like literally anything will fly if you throw it hard enough towards to sun.) After all, the show is vastly autobiographical, like most of her work.
She’s writing, in thinly veiled terms, about herself. We’re all great at talking about ourselves; it’s what makes us the entitled generation. So why is she better?
As she showed in her victory speech yesterday, Lena is better because even though her show is based around them, she just doesn’t think or create 'like a girl'. She attacks it like a professional, one whose sex may be incidental to the work she is doing but is not imperative.
It’s this professionalism, both in the execution of her show, from the cinematography to the scripting, through to her graciousness as a human being, demonstrated in her deference to the other category finalists in her speech, which makes her a perfect role model for men as well as women. And yes, she’s young.
She’s practically my age, and sure, most days, it makes me want to kill myself. But it also makes me hopeful. Hopeful that good art can transcend bad programming, left-field esoteric thinking is still something beyond a marketing ideal for a vodka brand and above all, that honesty really does get you somewhere in life.
Read TheVine's take on Girls Season 2, Episode 1 here.