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.