As you've probably already heard, Lena Dunham's new series, Girls, debuted on HBO this weekend to buzz so loud you could hear it over a jackhammer.
Even before the show's premiere, critics were talking about how fantastic the show was and then they were talking about how gutsy the show was and then they were talking about how irritating the show was and then they were talking about how much they were talking about a show that had not debuted yet.
The talk surrounding Girls's debut only cements its wild success. Television isn't made to be watched anymore. It's made to be discussed.
Consider Community, the best comedy on television. No one watches Community, but we know it's the best comedy on television because it's the comedy that everyone talks about being the best comedy on television. Right? Likewise, when it comes to dramas, I personally don't watch Mad Men because I enjoy it. I watch Mad Men because I enjoy understanding the witty commentary on the show that is published the next day.
Girls goes further than Mad Men or Community because it doesn't just provide ample material for Internet commentary. Girls directly reflects the culture watching the show: a generation flailing in their personal lives due to their own inaction, but that is eager to discuss all of the things they are not actually doing.
Most of the pilot sees Hannah discussing her economic plight. She never takes action to solve her problem that doesn't boil down to talking about her impoverished state to her boss, parents or friends.
We know that Hannah and her "boyfriend" have a relationship based upon post-feminist sexual dominance issues because the only things they say to each other have to do with post-feminist sexual dominance issues. We know that Shoshanna is a commentary on Sex and the City because the only thing she comments on is Sex and the City.
Why do anything when you can just talk about it? And if you have to do anything, it better be so you can talk about it. When Hannah takes a bath with Marnie in the room it's so she can discuss the fact that she's taking a bath with Marnie in the room with Marnie. Everything in our lives is now just commentary. Relationships exist to update Facebook statuses
Even the characters themselves reflect types of commentary that exist about the show. Clever and put-together Marnie is the voice of the clever, put-together writer who would roll her eyes and point out the shows numerous flaws lovingly, so as to "prevent a disaster." Shoshanna is the uber-fan who speaks lovingly of the program without even comprehending what the show is about. Hannah's creepy carpenter lover is the creepy dude who trolls message boards feeling too superior to get involved in anything emotional that's potentially happening. Jessa, who is too cool to be on Facebook, is the person too cool to even be available to comment. Finally, at the center of Girls is Dunham's Hannah, who is represents the platonic ideal of the Internet culture blogger.
Making Hannah an aspiring Brooklyn writer was an absolute masterstroke on Dunham's part. While Hannah may never embody the zeitgeist of the entire nation, she does exhibit all of the same attributes as 90 percent of the writers who will have to write about Girls for minor pittance for Internet publications. This is a self-involved twenty-something struggling to make ends meet who confidently declares she is "the voice of [her] generation," before cowering and saying that she "might be a voice of a generation." She doesn't just invite young writers to point out comparisons, she compels them. That's why even bloggers who don't have a reason to have an opinion on Girls are publishing their thoughts. The only thing any of us are certain of is that we have voices. If we stop using them for even a moment, we fear those voices may have ceased to exist, and then perhaps we don't exist.
The best part about Girls being a show about commentary is that even the things that aren't available to comment on are subjects that writers can pounce upon due to their absence. The dearth of minority characters on the show directly appeals to writers who define themselves by talking about the dearth of minorities on television.
So, whether you love or hate Girls, that's not the point. The point is that you have a reaction. Even your apathy is an appropriate response. Girls isn't supposed to be a drama or comedy. It's supposed to be commentary on a culture that exists to comment upon itself. If you doubt this, why not leave a comment?
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