It is a show that captures (or at least sort of mirrors) a generation. Years ago on HBO, a show about four, single twenty-something women in New York City broke stereotypes and barriers. No, not Sex and the City, the older more sophisticated ‘90s show about affluent women with careers whose sole problem was which pair of shoes to buy next (pun intended). In 2012, Lena Dunham’s Girls broke social stigmas on dating, life, and being educated in your mid-twenties with absolutely no idea what you’re doing in life.
A refreshing mix of tragedy and comedy, Girls reflected the state of a frustrated generation. It suddenly made it okay to not be engaged by 25, which many of the millennial generation are not. Girls made it okay to not know where to begin your career. Those of us living in a post-2008 American economy can sympathize with the state of recession. Dunham stated her characters are “products of the recession, these girls are overeducated and underemployed” in her pitch of the show to the network.
Lena Dunham first came onto the scene with her indie film Tiny Furniture (2010), which caught the eye of Bridesmaids producer, Judd Apatow, who recognized Dunham for her unique voice and storytelling ability. Shortly after, Apatow reached out to Lena to create a show for HBO. “So I sent her an email telling her how much I loved it, and I said, ‘If you want somebody to help screw up your career, give me a call,’” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Just two years later, Girls was born and portrayed characters closer to young people in real life — arrogant, untamed, and in a perpetual state of flux.
It was a show that portrayed a generation closer to the millennial age group that has since made ‘googling’ a verb. The rawness and the realism of the series has garnered attention from its inception until this final season. Some of the attention is negative due to its portrayal of controversial themes like abortion, prescription drug abuse, and heroin use.
Nevertheless, Dunham has maintained creative liberty in order to show the types of girls she feels is truthful. She stated, “Here’s the kind of show I would want to see. Here’s what my friends are like. They don’t have jobs, but they’re really smart. They take Ritalin for fun, but they’re not that f—ed up. They’re having these kind of degrading sexual relationships, but they’re feminists.” In the second episode of Girls, Hannah, played by Dunham, casually states she’s accompanying a friend to an abortion, calling it no big deal. “I feel like people say that it’s a huge deal, but how big a deal are these things actually?” Dunham, who has written or co-written 34 of the 52 aired episodes, has not shied away from depicting realism in her character’s life in an effort to mirror the messiness of real life. The imperfect presentation and mix of darkness into the comedic tones of the show captures a type of verity not normally present on television and has contributed to the changing landscape of TV over the past decade.
And, much like Carrie asked questions about dating in Sex in the City, Girls poses the philosophical questions of this generation — like when the character Hannah infamously mused to her best friend, “Yeah, but what about the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms, okay?” These are the types of questions we need answered. Dunham and Girls have just one more season to answer all the late night Google-worthy musings of this generation. The final season of Girls premieres February 12. Catch up on Seasons 1-5 now streaming.