The Imperfection of Girls

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Never before had I watched a TV show where I found it so hard to like any of the characters, and yet I couldn’t stop watching. Television is filled with anti-heroes—deeply flawed protagonists who almost always excel at their work, like Alan Shore, Will McAvoy, Temperance Brennan. This brilliance in one aspect of life was supposed to compensate for lacking in other areas. This is where Girls is refreshingly different. It’s about imperfection. In every aspect of life.

 

Our generation is brought up thinking we’re special, that we deserve to be respected. But there’s a huge gap between this and what we actually think of ourselves, and Girls picks up on that. It has been criticised for not being inclusive of other ethnicities, but then again, I concentrate on the characters rather than how well they represent ethnic diversities. The four girls fail at their jobs, friendships and relationships on occasion and are just as clueless as they were in the very first episode. With maybe some character development.

 

We’re used to having television that lets us like the characters—if not idolise them—very easily. Telly made us like a serial killer like Dexter, an obnoxious racist and sexist man like Denny Crane, a good for nothing actress/waitress like Penny and so on. But while watching Girls, I had moments of loving and hating each of the characters.

 

Hannah is selfish and a stubborn creative to the point of self-destruction. Her quitting her job writing advertorials at GQ is exactly the kind of action that would cause many to shake their heads in disapproval. It is also the act that would be lauded, if Hannah ever becomes a successful published writer.

 

Jessa, with all her flaws, addictions and general flightiness manages to have redeeming moments of insightfulness and sarcasm. She’s by far the easiest character to dislike. But during her short try at marriage, she was more loyal than Shoshanna, more dedicated than Marnie and much less insecure than Hannah during the relationship.

 

As the pretty, organised girl who’s used to getting what she wants, this is clearly not the situation that brings out the best in her. If she was employed and in a stable relationship, people would have found it much easier to like her.

 

So all the pressure inevitably falls on Shoshanna, who seems to be the most liked of the four. The unlikability of Hannah, Jessa and Marnie is also the reason why a comment like “It’s really amazing that all three of you have accomplished so little in the four year since college” could be carried off by a student with no professional experience and be deemed as sensible rather than unsolicited.

TV series about the youth usually has something that they can fall back on. The people from Friends and How I Met Your Mother had each other to fall back upon. Girls don’t really have that kind of a stable support. It’s the kind of show where you can’t rely on anyhting and that’s pretty much how reality is. Reality is awkward, clueless, bizarre and doesn’t necessarily have people saying intelligent funny things on cue. And we all know that. It’s just that we’re used to TV characters being made out of a balanced concoction of reality, fantasy and photoshop. That’s why people cannot seem to like these girls. And that’s just not the point of Girls.

 

Yes, it has nudity and uncomfortable sex scenes, lacks ethnic diversity and has completely annoying characters. But it also has a believable plot, multi-dimensional characters who are allowed to develop independently and a basic underlying message that you can rely on absolutely nothing. As long as you try to keep fitting Girls into your idea of a typical TV series, it will only disappoint. Appreciate it for the imperfections.

 

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Move over, knight in shining armour

When India was speaking up for women’s rights, Bollywood’s portrayal of female characters received a lot of flak. And it wasn’t without reason. There were – are – so many films where the woman is just a prop, to facilitate the development of the male protagonist. Or a ‘free-spirited’ soul who abandons her individuality to fit into the submissive role of a woman in love.

The Bollywood heroine needed to be rescued from so many different things over the years – from the villain, from her family, from her sorrowful life, and sometimes, from herself. And all along, there was the hero who would come and save her. Not anymore. She still needs to be rescued, but now, there’s no man in the picture.

In the movie Queen, Rani (Kangana Ranaut) is alone and defeated and wants to return from the solo honeymoon that she bravely embarked upon after being dumped. But what convinces her to continue with her adventure is not a knight in shining armour, but another woman – Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon). Rani accepts Vijaylakshmi’s alternative lifestyle and she in return is accommodating towards Rani’s lack of experience and exposure. If there is anything more refreshing than the lack of patriarchy, it’s this female camaraderie which is rare on screen.

In Highway, after losing life as she knew it and then losing her lover, Veera (Alia Bhatt) sets out on an adventure all by herself. Even though there are only a few minutes dedicated to this development, she truly comes off as the hero of the film. Mahabeer (Randeep Hooda) is simply the muse who inspires her to find herself.

Bollywood may be responsible for reinforcing stereotypes and encouraging harassment, but on occasion it surprises you with these fresh and real characters. These films may not be as loud as the hundred crore club, but they’re being heard. It’s a beginning to the new-age ‘heroine’, who is ready to go into the world and find herself. She does not build her personality as a daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife or mother, but as an individual.