iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

GET UPDATES FROM Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
 

Girls Just Wants to Have (White) Fun

Posted: 01/31/2013 5:26 pm

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.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Pregnant singer Christina Aguilera and her fiance Matthew Rutler were photographed out and about in New York City on April 17.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Katie Holmes spotted out and about in New York City on April 17.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    "Downton Abbey" actress Jessica Brown Findlay hopped on a train at Manchester Piccadilly Train Station after her interview on "BBC Breakfast" on April 17 in England.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Heather Graham visited NBC Studios for an appearance on "The Today Show" on April 17 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Justin Bieber and his crew, including Lil Za, were spotted out for dinner at The Grove in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 16.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Georgia May Jagger, daughter of Mick Jagger, filmed a commercial for Rimmel London in London, England, on April 15.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Halle Berry filmed scenes for her TV series "Extant" in Century City, Calif. on April 15.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Lauren Conrad did some shopping in West Hollywood on April 15.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan posed during a photocall for their film "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" prior to the German premiere of the film in Berlin on April 15.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Kim Kardashian and her fiance Kanye West walked hand-in-hand as they went shopping in Givenchy, Balmain and Lanvin on April 14 in Paris, France.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum joked around backstage at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 13.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Lupita Nyong'o arrived at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 13.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Taylor Swift and a friend were spotted out and about in New York City on April 12.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Jessica Biel was all smiles as she headed out for an espresso in New York City on April 12.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Leonardo DiCaprio stopped by the McDonald’s® and Stingray Desert Coachella Pool Party at the Bootsy Bellows Estate on April 12 to celebrate the launch of McDonald’s® Bacon Clubhouse Burger™ and the 2014 Corvette Stingray.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Julianne Hough looked Coachella cool at The Old Navy Oasis in Indio, Calif.m on April 12.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Selena Gomez and Kendall and Kylie Jenner at the first weekend of The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on April 11.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield visited BBC Radio 1 in London on April 9 to promote their new film, "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Pregnant Kristin Cavallari was spotted running in West Hollywood on April 9.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Danica McKellar left "Dancing with the Stars" practice in Hollywood on April 8.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Julianne Moore was pretty in white while out in NYC April 8.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Anne Hathaway wrapped herself up in a giant coat while out in NYC on April 8.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Lady Gaga struck her usual unique pose outside the Roseland Ballroom on April 7.

  • Celebrity News: April 2014

    British socialite <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/peaches-geldof-dead_n_5105968.html" target="_blank">Peaches Geldof died</a> of an "unexplained and sudden" cause on April 7. She was 25.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 7

    "Dancing with the Stars" star Derek Hough took a break from rehearsal on April 7 to snack on the new Ritz crackers.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Jamie Lynn Sigler was spotted purchasing a Rembrandt whitening kit at Target in New York on April 7.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw at the 2014 Academy Of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 6.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton at the 2014 Academy Of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 6.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Carrie Underwood at the 2014 Academy Of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 6.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Taylor Swift at the 2014 Academy Of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 6.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Cameron Diaz made an appearance on "Wetten, dass..???" TV show on April 5 in Offenburg, Germany.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Heidi Klum attended the "America's Got Talent" red carpet event at Madison Square Garden on April 4 in New York City.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Nicole Richie attended Lucky FABB: Fashion and Beauty Blog Conference at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on April 4.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Shakira and Usher attended NBC's "The Voice" red carpet event at The Sayers Club in Hollywood on April 3.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Dianna Agron was spotted out and about West Hollywood on April 3.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Kiernan Shipka, Jessica Pare, Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm, January Jones and Christina Hendricks attended the "Mad Men" season 7 premiere at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood on April 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Kate Upton, Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann attended the U.K. premiere of their movie "The Other Woman" on April 2 in London.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Lady Gaga arrived at the "Late Show with David Letterman" taping in NYC April 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Heidi Klum joined Dr. Scholl’s to announce the DreamWalk line of insoles to help women everywhere bring their uncomfortable shoes out of the “shoe closet" in New York on April 2.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe posed together before the screening of their new film "Noah" in Paris on April 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Comedienne Amy Schumer promoted her "Finger Blaster" sketch from season 2 of the Comedy Central hit "Inside Amy Schumer" in NYC, April 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Naomi Watts left the gym with a friend after a morning workout on April 1 in Brentwood, Calif.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Hulk Hogan attended the WrestleMania 30 press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe New York on April 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: April 2014

    Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans posed with Captain America during The NYSE Opening Bell at New York Stock Exchange on April 1.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Cobie Smulders attended The Cinema Society & Gucci Guilty screening of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel in NYC, March 31.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Emma Watson wowed at the UK Premiere of "Noah" at Odeon Leicester Square on March 31 in London.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Naomi Watts went for a morning jog with a friend in Brentwood, Calif., on March 31.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Johnny Depp attended the "Transcendence" press conference at Grand Hyatt Hotel on March 31 in Beijing, China.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet attended the European Premiere of "Divergent" at Odeon Leicester Square on March 30 in London.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Lea Michele had a Marilyn moment while on the red carpet at the 27th Annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles, Calif., on March 29.

  • Celebrity Photos: March 2014

    Taylor Swift spent some quality time with her model pal Lily Aldridge in NYC on March 28.

 
FOLLOW TV