Lena Dunham, Jennifer Konner and Judd Apatow’s HBO series is about to air its final and sixth season. After six years of following the turmoiled lives of Hannah, Jessa, Shoshanna, Marnie, Adam, Ray and Elijah fans of the show prepare to say farewell to our generation’s Sex and the City, the show that according to Konner enabled GIRLS’ existence.
Lena Dunham herself is a controversial figure IRL, having been accused of White Feminism, campaigning hard for Hillary Clinton and also just being a bit annoying, though I don’t follow her life outside of the show too closely. It would be a gross injustice however to dismiss GIRLS entirely because of Dunham’s connection with it, since the show is a collective effort by Dunham, Konner, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Alex Karpovsky, Andrew Rannells, the phenomenal Adam Driver, as well a host of other members of cast and crew.
And yet, this is a writing blog, so I want to talk about the writing, which makes it impossible to exclude Dunham from the discussion, but equally there are 14 other writers on the credits. So I am going to discuss GIRLS, but here’s how I propose to do it: a fond farewell but also, what doors has it opened, what’s next?
GIRLS’ existence has shaken up TV. Not necessarily as much as it probably could have in the UK (I don’t have SKY or anything, is it available there?) but certainly in the US. As the sixth series is being advertised I keep seeing articles reminiscing over organised abortions, toilet cubicle masturbation, dislodging Q-tips, bitchiness, anger, love, sex, politics and above all friendship.
I was begged to watch it by my flatmates who loved Jessa and Shosh and yet when I finally started the series, it was Marnie who I most related too, of course that changed with the girls. That’s what fascinates me about the show, the four characters and the stresses and perks of their lives mimic, definitely at an exaggerated level, the lives of my friends and I. GIRLS is relatable in a dark but deeply funny way.
It’s also important because of how much it challenges what we’re used to seeing on TV by stirring up conversations about body shaming, reproductive rights, gender binaries, women’s health and politics. Honestly I think to show someone what GIRLS is about that you should show them Season 1 Episode 3 All Adventurous Women Do. That episode has HPV, a passive and active aggressive argument, two inappropriate relationships with employers, a woman watching TV and a woman masturbating in a public bathroom. GIRLS is completely showcased there.
Marnie masturbating in a public bathroom at a work party is a particularly poignant scene. I recall way back when, that it was supposedly the first time a woman had masturbated on a TV show in plain view, though I can’t find anything to support that claim now. Regardless, it is not something one sees on the TV everyday and does show another layer to Marnie’s seemingly perfect, little white girl persona. Though I am bias to Marnie and Allison Williams, I think she’s a really interesting character and is fantastically portrayed. Season 5 Episode 6 The Panic in Central Park being a bit of an ode to Marnie and Williams, in my opinion.
GIRLS has started an important conversation and has showcased women’s screen writing. It is flawed, there is no doubt, the glaringly obvious flaw being that the principle cast are all white. Though religious minorities and LGBTQ+ are featured, it doesn’t really represent the world we live in anymore. Yet I think we have GIRLS to thank for the emergence of shows like Broad City and Fleabag which are doing slightly better at talking about confused twenty-something women. But the point is, GIRLS started a new and refreshing conversation.
So what do we want and what can we expect from women’s screen writing next? Everything and anything I hope. GIRLS has, frankly, been so bloody weird that hopefully the door has been opened for all the wonderful weird to flood through and a chance for everyone to be represented on our TV screens. God knows, in times like these when women’s rights and minorities are once again being shunned and stigmatised, it’s increasingly important that we’re writing about about everyone no matter how mad, mundane, hilarious, sad or frustrating their stories are.
I’m looking forward to the final series of GIRLS, but even more so, I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.
GIFs sourced from giphy.com