On HBO’s “Girls”

India Flinchum

The HBO series “GIRLS” has been dealt its fair share of critical acclaim, while also being reduced by critics to an unoriginal archetype of an 80’s sex comedy. The series follows a fairly stereotypical plotline. A group of best friends battle the ills of adult life in New York City, all the while confiding in female friendship. The show has much to improve upon in terms of race, class and gender diversity. The four main characters are white, college-educated, cisgender females who are still somewhat financially supported by their parents. The problems that they encounter, however, are universal and rarely just “first world”. Body image, abortion, mental health sexuality and STDs are a just few “taboos” that “GIRLS” sheds light on frankly and realistically, without exaggeration. In “GIRLS,” each character struggles in her own way with identity creation and discovering her value, all the while dealing with moral dilemmas and personal conflicts. The show is an extremely raw depiction of problems young adults face in their relationships, with friends and romantic partners, as well as the issues that come with making difficult life choices without parental guidance.

What I personally enjoy about the show is the extremely dynamic and multifaceted personalities of the characters, who do not feel over-dramatized like the manic-pixie dream girl that Zooey Deschanel plays in Fox’s “New Girl,” but they are relatable. The character development comes full-circle, with each character’s personal flaws being recognized and acknowledged. Lena is a quick-witted struggling writer who can talk your ear off, while her best friend Marnie is a classic type-A personality, often is criticized for being too “uptight.”

Most leading characters in TV shows, specifically women, are charismatic and beautiful, harboring a lot of power in their sexuality. “GIRLS” breaks from this mold and presents Hannah- awkward and self-conscious, more or less talentless apart from her writing ability. Hannah’s self-esteem issues are amplified in her relationship with her boyfriend, who fat-shames her regularly. Verbal abuse from a partner isn’t uncommon today, and Hannah sets the example for girls in similar situations. She isn’t afraid of leaving her toxic relationship and recognizes that she deserves better and must set herself to a higher standard.   

A particular incident that struck me in the show was when another character, Jessa, gets an abortion. In many movies and across television, whether or not a woman should get an abortion is one of the most important decisions a woman can make. In many cases, she dwells on the idea of giving up her baby for weeks. In “GIRLS,” Jessa’s abortion doesn’t take a second-thought. Her friends say “it’s no big deal, it’s just an abortion” and she proceeds to follow-through with the procedure, coming out of the operating room feeling guiltless and ready to take on life again. While I’m not taking a stance on whether her response is positive or negative, this episode represents a perspective on abortion that’s uncommon among media outlets, encouraging diversity of thought and open-mindedness.

“GIRLS” isn’t a perfect TV series by all means- significant racial, class, sexual orientation and gender diversity fail to exist. However, the series realistically depicts issues that young women struggle with on a daily basis. From relationship tension to self-esteem, young girls can learn from “GIRLS” that they are not alone and that their problems are not as trivial as they seem.