Modern Primate

man, that's deep

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I’m the voice of my generation you guys. I mean that ironically. I’m sort of ironic? Or maybe just jaded. It’s hard to tell sometimes, I’m a child of the 90s. I’m a lot like you probably. I have parents who help support me. The other night they took me out to dinner and told me they were cutting me off. I thought this was unfair, you know, because of the economy. I only graduated college like two years ago, and I’m still trying to find myself! Luckily I have an internship, and a half-written novel. Wait, I just got fired from my internship? Hmm. I guess I better talk to my friends about this. Have I told you about my friends? I heart them a lot, we’re totally there for each other. It can be so hard, you know? Like, we can’t just lie around in the tub all day eating cupcakes (no really, I eat cupcakes in the bathtub, isn’t that quirky?). And sometimes we struggle with body image. Ugh and don’t even get me started about trying to find the right guy! They’re either too nice, or they’re not nice enough. And the sex isn’t always that great. It’s not all bad though. We listen to music, and have opinions about social media.

I know what you’re saying: it’s totally understandable why I would be writing memoirs at 24, I sure have had experiences, some of which haven’t been completely awesome. It’s also totally understandable why HBO would be interested in telling such a compelling story. Wait, people are mad? Apparently they don’t like how the show is comprised of an all-white cast, and only features two people of color for 5 seconds each (the Asian girl who knows Photoshop because of course she does, and the crazy black homeless guy who hollers something incoherent, thereby reminding us we’re in a city). What’s the bfd, it’s not like I did that on purpose! It was a complete accident. You should be grateful there’s more women on television at all. We’re so underrepresented! I mean sooooorry we’re white, but seriously! We’re all sisters here. Ha ha I mean not like in a black way. But you know what I mean.

And that, my friends, is Girls in a nutshell. Essentially it’s a show about a few unremarkable white girls in Brooklyn who aren’t that rich and sometimes feel bad about themselves. Unsurprisingly, the backlash against the show and its creator Lena Dunham was as swift as it was brutal. The show is white to its core; the actors are all children of celebrities; the whole thing smacks of entitlement and cultural myopia (the main character really does utter the phrase “I am the voice of my generation”). Yeah sure, some of the situations are probably “authentic” to certain aspects of white, privileged, twentysomething post-college life. You know, the kind of shit your old high school friends post about on Facebook, and which compels you to block them.

In other words, yes, some girls (and guys) really do act like that. But those girls (and guys) aren’t role models, they’re punchlines.

This got me thinking. So far, the vast majority of commentators have taken Girls seriously. That is, they assume that the show was produced in good faith, and that Dunham’s intention was to create sympathetic characters and relatable situations. If this is true, she and her writers deserve every ounce of criticism they’ve received. If on the other hand the show is actually satire, then suddenly the premise—dull white characters played by actors with famous parents—suddenly takes on new significance. From the casting choices (both racially and in terms of nepotism) to the undeserved self-importance of the main characters to their banal chatter about nothing in particular, which apparently the white writers think is important enough to memorialize on a high-budget television show—Girls may in fact be much smarter than people have given it credit for. Not because it’s ultimately redeemable, but precisely because it’s not.

But even if it wasn’t intended to provide biting social commentary, that’s the ultimate takeaway (for this viewer at least). There is no good reason why these characters—out of all the possible characters—should be on television. They contribute nothing of value; they say nothing of value. Not when one considers the voices that could have been heard instead. And yet these are the characters that were given a national audience. If this doesn’t say something about American popular culture, I don’t know what does.

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