Clearly on an emotional high from her Golden Globe wins, Lena Dunham, Creator/Writer/Director/Star of the HBO series Girls, recently gave an interview in which she dismissed criticism of her show as coming mostly from 58-year-old men who didn't understand -- and I'm paraphrasing and reading between the lines -- the show's new-generation originality and youthful exuberance.
That's odd considering that Vulture reported that the show's single largest audience, 22 percent, is "white dudes over 50." In fact, 56 percent of the show's audience is male. Some say it's because of the frequent nudity and graphic sex. That doesn't hurt. But the main reason to watch Girls is because the show obviously is struggling to be a voice of its generation, just as The Catcher in the Rye, Go Tell It on the Mountain, The Naked and the Dead, On the Road, Beloved, Generation X, The Joy Luck Club, Slaves of New York, Less Than Zero, and Bright Lights, Big City were voices of their generations.
Girls wants to tell us something important about twentysomething females of the 21st Century. And, as the elders of our society, we should always be listening to those new voices crying out.
But what are they telling us?
1. Their world is mostly white.
Last season the show was criticized for being too white. Watching a full season could leave a viewer snow blind. This season that white ghetto was breached by a black character who is introduced as some jungle fever lover, with just enough screen time to have sex and mutter a couple of lines about wanting more of a relationship. A black dildo would have sufficed and cost less.
I don't believe that people of color, sexual preference, or gender need to be shaken indiscriminately into every series like some sort of exotic seasoning. If the story calls for a black character, great. A story about a black neighborhood doesn't necessarily need white characters just to balance the racial profile. But this really seemed like an effort was made to add some color -- and it came across as forced.
2. They like to talk about (and sometimes engage in) sex.
It's like a checklist of being naughty: masturbation (check), sex during period (check), oral sex (check), anal sex (check), virginity (check), etc. The show is actually at its most engaging during these awkward, fumbling, and mostly embarrassing (for the characters) scenes. The characters talk boldly about sex, but their actions are often shy and unsatisfying. The contrast of the generation that's been taught that pretty much anything goes sexually trying to act cool while struggling with their vulnerabilities is generally fresh and original and insightful about this generation.
3. They're too self-conscious, too cutesy, and not that funny.
We're supposed to find these girls somehow charming because of their flawed characters. Their intense self-involvement is meant to be cute and it can be... at times. But not enough to overcome our impatience with their inability to have any personal insight. They're all educated but fatally ignorant.
This isn't all Girls fault. It's unfair to put so much of a burden on what is basically a standard sitcom. Some of the fault lies with the audience's desperation for a generational voice that they turn to a sitcom to express it rather than great literature. Filmmaker and short story writer (and Dunham fan) Miranda July is more accurately a voice of a generation adrift in the rough waters of Great Expectations and a Great Recession.
When it takes itself seriously is when it stumbles. I just wish it would express its seriousness by being funnier. Seinfeld made it a point to ridicule the characters' shallowness and self-involvement, raising it to a level of social commentary. And it was funny. Two other girl-centric shows that reached these same heights to be voices of a generation were My So-Called Life and Wonderfalls. Both funny, yet also insightful and original. Perhaps that's why they both only lasted one season before becoming cult hits. Girls, a safer more mousy voice, has already been renewed for a third season.
4. The guys are more interesting than the girls.
Adam, Hannah's (Lena Dunham) abrasive boyfriend, is a wonderful character whose quirkiness never diminished his depth of character. The episode in which he performs in the one-man show is brilliant. Charlie, Marnie's ex-boyfriend, is a complex mix of too stable and too nice. The fact that he's dumped by a girl who is actually more boring and shallow than she claims he is, makes for some excellent social commentary, although that seems like an accidental byproduct. Could it be that Dunham actually is better at writing guy characters than girl characters?
Girls' heart and mind is in the right place. It wants to be more than the sum of its familiar parts. And sometimes it is. Maybe this season its voice will be louder and clearer and have more to say. It's worth listening for.
"True Detective" star Michelle Monaghan picked up food from Earthbar in West Hollywood on March 7.
Aaron Paul arrived at the premiere of "Need for Speed" at TCL Chinese Theatre on March 6.
Sarah Jessica Parker presented The SJP Collection at LA Nordstrom on March 6.
James Franco, Leighton Meester and Chris O'Dowd attended the "Of Mice and Men" press conference at Signature Theatre, NYC, on March 6.
Taylor Swift headed to the gym in LA on March 6.
Ireland Baldwin and her new purple hair were spotted grocery shopping in Tarzana, Calif. on March 6.
"Gossip Girl" star Jessica Szohr went shopping in LA on March 6.
Lupita Nyong'o, Elizabeth Olsen, Bella Heathcote and Elle Fanning attended the Miu Miu show at Paris Fashion Week on March 5.
Jennifer Hudson stopped by the Sony Music offices in London on March 5.
Minka Kelly left her LA gym after a workout on March 5.
Mandy Moore was spotted out and about West Hollywood on March 5.
Julianne Moore was spotted on the set of "Still Alice" in NYC on March 4.
Courteney Cox and boyfriend Johnny McDaid of "Snow Patrol" did some shopping in West Hollywood on March 4.
Jared Leto arrived at LAX for a flight, March 4.
Engaged couple Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis went out for dinner at the Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, Calif., on March 3.
Jessica Biel caught a flight out of LAX Airport on her 32nd birthday March 3 in Los Angeles, Calif. Jessica is flying to Florida to meet up with her husband Justin Timberlake (who's currently on tour there) to celebrate her birthday with him.
Sophia Bush appeared on Nick Lachey`s first episode as Host of VH1`s Big Morning Buzz in NYC on March 3.
Jennifer Lawrence attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Sofia Vergara attended the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter on March 2 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Ryan Seacrest posed with John Stamos at Mike De Luca and Dana Brunetti’s Oscar after party in the Hollywood Hills on March 2, where McDonald’s World Famous fries, Egg White Delights, Egg McMuffins, and hash browns were served.
"12 Years a Slave" wins Best Picture at the Oscars, March 2.
Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor at the Oscars, March 2.
Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress at the Oscars, March 2.
Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, March 2.
Lupita Nyong'o wins Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, March 2.
Alfonso Cuaron wins Best Director at the Oscars, March 2.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Meryl Streep arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Jennifer Lawrence arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2 and fell, <em>again</em>.
Kerry Washington arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Anne Hathaway arrived at the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Pregnant Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Anna Kendrick arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Portia de Rossi arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Kristen Bell arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
"12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen arrived on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2.
Camila Alves toasted her glam team with a Bailey's Glamour Shot before hitting the Oscars red carpet on March 2.
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew McConaughey and Director Steve McQueen talked about creating a brighter future on the Yellow Carpet presented by Unilever Project Sunlight during the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 1.
Kanye West attended the Celine show at Paris Fashion Week on March 2.
Kendall Jenner went sightseeing at the 'Musee du Louvre' in Paris, France on March 1.
Pregnant Kendra Wilkinson wowed at the 5th Annual QVC Red Carpet Style held at the The Four Season Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 28.
Julianne Hough met a friend for lunch at Joan's on Third in Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 28.
Leslie Mann and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau filmed scenes for the "The Other Woman" in LA Feb. 27.
Hilary Duff left her LA gym on Feb. 27.
Jessica Alba attended the Nina Ricci show at Paris Fashion Week Feb. 27.
Rihanna attended the Lanvin show at Paris Fashion Week Feb. 27.
Dwyane Wade lunched with fiancee Gabrielle Union in Miami on Feb. 26.
Amanda Seyfried went grocery shopping at Trader Joe's in LA on Feb. 26.
Amy Adams left the gym in West Hollywood on Feb. 26.