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Rajiv Naresh Headshot

Why I Love 'Girls'

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Perhaps the title of this piece needs some immediate clarification. I speak, of course, of the recent addition to the HBO family and not one half of the human race. That said, I could get into the nuances of my love for women, but the rational part of my brain has advised me that this is not the time or the place. Also, I think my mom reads this every now and then and that would lead to a profoundly awkward conversation.

I've read the comically disparate views that television critics have been generating and the praise and critique are similar in their tendency to deviate towards the extreme. The problem with all of these responses has been that they've been premature -- writing off the show as a pretentious throwback to the mumblecore era or calling the show's protagonist and writer Lena Dunham the generation's Woody Allen. All of this before the second or third episode had even aired. Having watched the entire first season, I must state that I love Girls. It's edgy and well-written, it has a sense of humour that's novel and the narrative allows itself to develop in an unassuming way. Granted, it often does verge on the pretentious, but the show is filled with moments that deserve praise.

So, what's this show about? The show is about a quartet of girlfriends living in Brooklyn. The protagonist, Hannah, played by writer/director Lena Dunham, is an aspiring essayist who's going nowhere in her professional or personal life. Her roommate, Marnie (Allison Williams), is the token gorgeous roommate who has to deal with Hannah. Jessa (Jemima Kirke) is the promiscuous, vagabond Brit, who's willing to try anything and is desperately unconventional. Last but not least is the less-than-adorable Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), the virgin who can't get enough of Sex in the City. Add to this Hannah's manically weird boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) and we round up the dramatis personae. Put like this, it sounds like a self-righteous, holier-than-thou comedy about first-world problems.

So, why do I disagree? First, the writing: after Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham cemented herself as a voice to be reckoned with. Girls deals with sex, love, friendship and the mundane lives everyone leads in a way that's interesting. It allows you to see the humour in your own circle of friends, to recognize the stock characters that make up our everyday human drama. It's definitely trying to be different, to shirk convention, and that's evident in its writing. But there's an honesty in that aim that shines through the narrative. It's like the time when you're sitting at a coffee shop with a group of your friends and the conversation and wit are flowing in equal measure, and you promise yourself that if someone filmed this and put it on TV, it would be the next Friends. Regardless of whether, like me, you're pathetic enough to have indulged in this kind of behaviour, that's what my experience of Season 1 has been. I like to think that I can find these characters in my own life, find these mundane issues and still see the drama in them. The show contains itself within the four intermingling narratives and that is the only truth it claims to tell.

Second, the characters: Dunham's writing leads to the creation of these characters who shock you and irritate you and sometimes even creep you out. You're left wondering how to straddle the dichotomy between what you should think and what it's trying to put across. Adam's ridiculous integrity coupled with his warped notions of a relationship, Hannah's incessant whinging about how everything is awful, Marnie's terrible need for what she can't have, Jessa's unconvincing sense of freedom, and Shoshanna's annoying voice -- all come together to remind you of that guy/girl that you know, tolerate and even love.

Finally, the humour: it's hilarious. There's something about TV that makes you feel contained emotion that tends to set it apart. Girls does not aim to make you laugh out loud and you treasure the moments when you do. But it continually allows one to chuckle with a strange sense of familiarity: it's as if you knew what was coming or had known the characters all along.

To conclude, if I were you, I'd give this show a try. It's not the best TV show I've ever seen, nor will it lay down grand narratives about the way things are. It's contained within its own four walls, but it draws you in, and rather than being a fly-on-the-wall, you feel like you're in their Brooklyn homes, drinking their opium tea, and whining about how you got an STI from your recently gay ex-boyfriend. As strange as that sentence sounds, I'm going to hope you know what I mean.

P.S. The writer apologizes for his hiatus. Apparently being a student of the law includes a contractual obligation to write exams.