On being a “girl”
Posted by Hedwig on April 18, 2012
“…or at least a voice of a generation”
You can’t put a quote like that in the pilot of your show, and even assign it to the character you play yourself, without inviting a lot of comments, and Lena Dunham certainly got that in the past days/weeks. Specifically, since her character is 24, she’s 26, and I’m 27, and we furthermore share a gender, race, sexual orientation and approximate socio-economic background, the generation would be my generation, and it’s tempting to dive into a list of differences and similarities between her characters’ situations and, trying to rate just how “true” or “representative” or whatever the show is.
After watching the pilot of GIRLS and finally catching up to TINY FURNITURE, I almost did just that. The thing is, my thoughts kept devolving into dirges about how irresponsible and lazy the characters (and especially Dunham’s Hannah) are, and some of the great writing about this show has pointed out that that might not be the most productive thing to do. More importantly, my admittedly smug sense of superiority at being financially independent and fairly secure about my looks can’t really survive when confronted with the extratextual fact that Lena Dunham, who is younger than me, has achieved much more than I could ever dream to, having written and directed a theatrically released film and a HBO show.
I do think that a piece of art that has the ambition to truly tackle the issues confronting “our generation” would have to look beyond the entitlement of slackers. Compared to the characters in the show, I have achieved many of the traditional markers of adulthood (a job, an apartment, a stable long term relationship), but I don’t feel like an adult at all. The boyfriend and I were doing some remodeling a week ago (not much, but there was sawing and drilling involved), and I honestly remarked that it felt weird to do it “without any adults present” before realizing how odd that sentence was. One of the reasons I don’t want to get married is because I can think of myself as a “girlfriend”, but not as a “wife” – despite the fact that both my parents were already married at my age. And while I have a salary, I only took my current job* because it was offered to me, and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. I still have to “find out who I am” – a quote from GIRLS that did ring true. In my friends, this phenomenon manifests differently, but especially among my fellow PhD-students, nobody seems to feel mature, regardless of external signs.
Maybe my hesitance to embrace GIRLS is simply out of spite. After all, I was always the responsible girl, who did what was expected, who worked summers even when I could have relied on the money my parents gave me, who made the “wise” choice to go into a STEM field instead of an art one because it guaranteed job prospects. And what did it get me? My colleagues who already got their PhD’s are having trouble finding jobs, and my PhD is not going to mean much more than four years of lost time when, next year, I plan to try to make a living as a film critic/writer.
The above paragraph sounds more bitter than I am. I’m looking forward to 2013, and not just because my dissertation will be done and behind me then. My responsible behavior through the years even means that I have enough savings to finance the experiment. And I’ll be watching GIRLS, because Lena Dunham is clearly talented, and even insightful. The most important word may be in the title - and as a fellow girl, I’m curious about what she has to say.
*as a PhD student, but in the Netherlands that’s an actual job with sick days and pension payments and everything.