Daily Life


The polarising voice of a generation

"The next episode of Girls to feature Lena Dunham shitting herself during gyno exam while eating a burrito," a recent headline on the US cheeky news site The Onion screamed.

For those who haven't ventured into the Golden Globe-winning world of Girls, everything you need to know and can expect from the successful television series is summarised perfectly in that one attention-grabbing (and false) headline.

Girls is a show written, produced and directed by 26-year-old creative wunderkind Lena Dunham. Some say it is what Sex and the City would be if they were broke, confused, twentysomething women who fought more than they brunched. Instead of Sex and the City's sometimes aspirational world of Manolos and Cosmos, Girls will make you thank your lucky stars you are no longer a 24-year-old product of upwardly mobile parents having to navigate your way in a post-GFC, social media-saturated world.

Dunham's world takes place in Brooklyn, where the girls - Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna - and the boys - Adam, Ray and Charlie - have the attention span of goldfish and the self-awareness of six-week-old puppies. The characters, created by Dunham and produced by Judd Apatow, are the human versions of paper towel because they put the "absorbed" into "self-absorbed".

"I think I may be the voice of my generation - or, at least, a voice of a generation," Dunham's character Hannah tells her parents in the opening scenes of the pilot episode.

Hannah is an aspiring writer who has been kicked out of the nest - financially, not literally. After failing to get her parents to agree to giving her "just $1100 a month" and paying her phone bill, the debut season takes the audience on a journey of what life is like for four young women stumbling around New York City like baby giraffes searching for answers to questions about life, love and friendships.


There was, and continues to be, an underlying irony to the entire Girls franchise as all of the main players come from privileged backgrounds. Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna's real-life personas all embody and have experienced, both on screen and off, first world problems.

Dunham is the daughter of an acclaimed artist, Carroll Dunham, and designer Laurie Simmons. She grew up in New York City and was babysat by fashion designer Zac Posen.

Allison Williams, who plays Marnie, is the Yale graduate daughter of NBC anchorman Brian Williams. She is a successful improv actress who was part of the Just Add Water comedy troupe for four years before teaming up with Dunham.

The free-spirited Jessa, who has ''the face of Brigitte Bardot and the ass of Rihanna", is played by Dunham's high school friend Jemima Kirke, who is the daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke.

Shoshanna, the fast-talking girl who says "like" a lot, has the makings of a classic and cult character. Her lines, including "I'm so happy to see you I could murder you" and "You're so pretty I could puke", are masterfully delivered by Zosia Mamet, daughter of playwright, screenwriter and director David Mamet and actress Lindsay Crouse.

The show, while it was a critical hit, copped criticism en masse on its debut for its gratuitous (mainly Hannah's) nudity, crude sex scenes, lack of ethnic diversity and First-World problems of the hipster characters.

I do think girls in their 20s accept certain kinds of lesser treatment than they would at other times in their lives.

You either love Girls or you don't. It is a show which is as polarising as it is perplexing. People well into their 30s or, as Dunham assumes, people who have got their lives together, may shake their heads at the narcissistic, crass carry on while for others the script and scenarios can cut very close to the bone.

"I do think girls, in their 20s, accept certain kinds of lesser treatment than they would at other times in their lives," Dunham said in an interview with Interview magazine following the first season.

The first episodes deal mainly with infuriating and sometimes humiliating relationships and friendships.

"I don't even want a boyfriend. I just want someone who wants to hang out all the time and thinks I'm the best person in the world and wants to have sex with only me," Hannah tells her casual partner Adam, who, according to Hannah's logic, "treats my heart like monkey meat".

A lot of the men may appear to be lacking in consideration, especially one particular suitor who uses the phrase, "I want you to know, the first time I f--- you I might scare you a little"; however, the core cast of male leads are just as confused and as sensitive as the women they support. Public masturbation, marrying someone two weeks after meeting, accidentally smoking crack, eating cupcakes in the bathtub and finding someone to take your virginity were all significant, often hysterical, themes of the first series which left fans holding their breath hoping Dunham's next offering would be just as good.

It was not only good, it was great, incredibly gritty and, at times, incredibly frustrating.

The show won the 2013 Golden Globe for best comedy and Dunham, who beat out her idols Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, took home the prized gong for best actress in a comedy. However, while the jokes may still be as sharp and the humour just as ferociously biting, the second season addresses such complex and dark issues it makes it hard to raise a chuckle.

Mental illness, rape (including statutory) and parent-child relationships are significant storylines of the show and it is through these that we see Dunham and her writing staff hit their strides.

HBO have syndicated a third season but there is no word yet when it will go to air.

When we left the girls, Hannah's OCD was threatening her future as an e-book novelist, Marnie got back together with Charlie, the guy that used to make her skin crawl, and Shoshanna broke up with Ray, because she couldn't become "a fully formed human" with him because he hated everything, including, but not limited to, going out for dinner, his extended family and ribbons. Jessa was missing but will return for the third season.

Whether her mysterious escape was planned or not, Kirke had to take a leave of absence from the show to give birth to her second child at the end of season two.

As the credits rolled, Jessa was still MIA. Hannah believed she had gone on yet another journey of self discovery ''wearing a crop top and getting her vagina pierced'' after an emotional reunion with her father, played by Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn.

Girls, season two encore screenings from Monday, April 15, at 7.25pm on Foxtel's Showcase.