BY EVA LIAO My 25-year-old friend Maria has a steady job working for her dad’s Brooklyn production company as a scenic artist. Her luxurious Upper East Side apartment was purchased by her parents after she graduated college. Five-out-of-seven nights, Maria can be seen at the coolest concert or the hottest bar, shuttling back and forth between Williamsburg and Bushwick. Not surprisingly, Maria hates the show Girls because it’s a show about her. She says it makes her cringe — the clueless conversations, the awkward sex scenes — and she’s not alone. For many young females living in Brooklyn Girls simply hits too close to home. It’s “hard to watch” is a common reaction I get from those who are in denial about certain realities. They watch the TV screen with their eyes covered and their mouths agape, like they are watching someone they know get hit by a bus.
On the other hand, if you’re like me and you don’t mind a little bit of self-flagellation mixed in with your self-loathing, it’s all that painful accuracy that makes this show so damn lovable. Girls maps with exacting precision that vague place on a young girl’s timeline when she’s still young enough to make stupid mistakes but now old enough to be held accountable. Which is why each confused-but-tries-hard character is as likeable as she is annoying.
Twenty-five year old Lena Dunham, Girls creator/writer/star, follows the prime directive of good writing: write what you know. She does for mid-twentysomething city women what Louie C.K. does for middle-aged men. She cuts them down, then builds them back up by virtue of their vulnerability and her honesty. On Girls, the characters are spoiled and their problems are sad. Their lives are neither glorified nor belittled, and happy endings are in short supply. Kinda like life.
Speaking of which.
Though the show premiers its second season tonight on HBO, I won’t be watching it — at least not until I find the bootleg version online. I am also a Brooklyn girl but my sad, non-profit salary doesn’t allow for luxuries like cable TV or fancy toilet paper. Ironically enough, I’m not the target audience for a show about my life. Fact is, in real life the girls of Girls probably couldn’t afford to watch the show either without mom and dad’s help. In 2012, life is funny like that. But as long as this season is as good as the first, and the show continues to lean away from the “hey ladies” tone of Sex and the City, I’ll be curled up with my laptop and watching with empathy, humility, and a pint of Rocky Road.
RELATED: The critics haven’t been especially kind to the show’s sophomore year. The Inquirer’s David Hiltbrand called the season “sadly grotesque” (in a downer review titled “These Girls offering anything but fun”). The Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan weighed in that it has “a sour, meandering air” and that its characters are “clueless and unpleasantly narcissistic.” And in the Washington Post, Hank Stuever decreed that the show becomes “more burdensome from episode to episode” as it chronicles its “maddeningly self-absorbed generation.” While I wouldn’t argue against the assessment that my Marcella’s peers are narcissistic and self-absorbed—and I’ve written as much—I do wonder what, exactly, those critics were like when they were her age. MORE
RELATED: “The new date is ‘hanging out,’ ” said Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape. As one male friend recently told her: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing — going to an event, a concert. For evidence, look no further than “Girls,” HBO’s cultural weather vane for urban 20-somethings, where none of the main characters paired off in a manner that might count as courtship even a decade ago. In Sunday’s opener for Season 2, Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam (Adam Driver), who last season forged a relationship by texting each other nude photos, are shown lying in bed, debating whether being each other’s “main hang” constitutes actual dating. The actors in the show seem to fare no better in real life, judging by a monologue by Zosia Mamet (who plays Shoshanna, the show’s token virgin, since deflowered) at a benefit last fall at Joe’s Pub in the East Village. Bemoaning an anything-goes dating culture, Ms. Mamet, 24, recalled an encounter with a boyfriend whose idea of a date was lounging in a hotel room while he “Lewis and Clarked” her body, then tried to stick her father, the playwright David Mamet, with the bill, according to a Huffington Post report. MORE