So, I’ve been watching (except that I haven’t because I couldn’t do so legally) and reading a lot about the new HBO series Girls. From the moment that it aired there’s been a lot of criticism of the show. Some of it may well be warranted, particularly the parts about it being a ‘white wash’ (read here, here and here) While I don’t want to gloss over the serious lack of women of colour on our screens as a white woman for me to focus on them would be disingenuous and wrong. If you’re interested in this aspect of the show please, please, please write a blog because we’re sorely lacking the perspective of women of colour within feminist debate in NUS women’ The criticism I’ve most taken annoyance with is the criticism that these are smart young women and they just seem to be spending all their time talking about their relationships.
WELL, I hate to break this to everyone, particularly since it seems that it will burst some people’s bubbles, but sometimes, a lot of the time even, young women talk about boys, or girls, or whatever it is that takes their fancy. Some of them will talk about it endlessly, some occasionally, all of them will talk about it in some way or another.
Young smart, attractive, interesting women do talk about politics and the environment and literature and television, but it’s rare that they don’t also talk about relationships and love lives and the rest of it. Mostly, because that is one of the things that you will go running to your girlfriends and talk about. That doesn’t make you any less clever or interesting, it just makes you human.
There are parts of the show (which again, I have not watched) which I really enjoy and think are really wonderful. There’s a scene (allegedly) in the first episode where one of the main characters is asked by the total dick that she’s sleeping with about her tattoos. She responds that when she was in high school she got fat and it was her way of taking control of her body. This idea, of taking control of being out of control, is a really powerful one for young women.
So much of being a woman seems to be outside of your control, you can control how big your tits are, or how pretty you are, or how much people will put things on to you. A lot of the problems that young women face are about reasserting control over themselves. Anorexia, Bulimia, Self Harm, Suicide, they’re all on some level about trying to regain control over a situation which you feel you cannot change. That is a part of patriarchal control, the feeling that you don’t have the ability to affect change outside of yourself, which means you internalize those feelings.
There are parts that I don’t like so much about the show. The relationships to sex and relationships sometimes appear to be sending young men in the audience contradicting messages. In particular the relationship of one young woman to her boyfriend, where his respect and attempts at egalitarian heterosexual sex are mocked in many ways, or portrayed as being less than desirable. This is contrasted with the uncaring, selfish sex engaged in by another character. I feel that the show finds both lacking but offers no middle path. That said, this is an issue that raunch culture has required us to deal with, young women are meant to be madonnas and whores, often in the same relationships at the same time. How young women can be expected to be pure and porn stars has always been beyond me. I hope that in the coming weeks there will be a better job done at exploring these issues.
Girls is not perfect. It is not a perfect reflection of the way that young women and society exists today. However, that doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have any value or that there aren’t things that can be taken from it by young women. There is a strong vein of friendship and feminism throughout the show. These women try and support each other, and love each other, for the imperfect beings that they are. To ask the show to be perfect is to ask that young women are perfect, which they are not, we cannot ask them to be.
Have any of you seen the show? What do you think?