03/19/2014 10:37 am ET Updated May 19, 2014

How HBO's Girls Glamorized Unemployment


Didn't Lena Dunham's Hannah proclaim to be the "voice of a generation"? Watching Season 3 of Girls always leaves me wondering: Which generation was she referring to?

I love Girls, but I've given up on attempting -- even for just a minute -- to think of it as a realistic approximation of what life as a twenty-something in New York is like, especially considering what a difficult time it is to be a college graduate.

When Hannah Horvath got an e-book deal for a collection of personal essays about her college year antics and sexcapades, I raised an eyebrow. Ask any of the zillion struggling young writers in New York, book deals aren't easy to come by. By the few descriptions we have of Hannah's writing, her book should be atrocious in at least three different ways. So my suspension of disbelief was challenged there.

But then the e-book deal turned into a book-book deal, and everything suddenly snowballed. From mingling with bigshot literati at her publisher's funeral, to landing an advertorial gig at GQ (since when does personal essay writing translate into journalistic ability?) then threatening to quit her Condé Nast job within nanoseconds of starting it (and later, bluntly asking to get fired), I had to wonder: How would Hannah fare in the real world, where landing a paid editorial gig with virtually no desk experience is the stuff of lore?

Dunham does a famously great job of challenging unrealistic beauty expectations. On Girls she appears naked regularly, and she's been lauded for doing so. Displaying her "normal" body is groundbreaking in a medium where showing skin is largely reserved for model physiques.

But then her character was gainfully employed, making bank at an established publication after one brief stint as an assistant at a law firm and an unpaid internship at a small literary press. She had no connections, no apparent editorial experience, no J-School degree or writing MFA, and no established presence on the literary scene (her book, as of yet, has not been released). While Dunham succeeds in portraying realistic bodies and relationships, she falls flat in portraying realistic career trajectories during such trying times.

I got hooked on Girls in the first season because I was charmed by the realistic dialogue, flawed characters, and familiarly exacerbating situation of young people trying to "make it" in New York (although I, like many others, was dubious of their apartment and rent situations). But in Season 3, Dunham loses me a little. Perhaps the fact that I am skeptical that Hannah and her Broadway-beau, Adam, would so rapidly acquire success is testament to how difficult times IRL actually are.

But this doesn't mean I won't root for Hannah in the coming episodes, if only for the sake of supporting Dunham and the inroads she's made. Besides, it's nice to forget about the real world once in a while, and to watch how the fictional half lives.