Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about Girls.
The TV show… Obviously.
I started watching it because I wanted to make the most of my roommate’s HBOGo account, and figured I needed a thirty minute show to watch when I didn’t want to commit an hour to The Wire or The Sopranos.
Girls somehow ended up being that show. I figured it could be a great way to learn about the female psyche and may up my game at the bars.
Since, I’ve seen every episode at least once, and many of them multiple times. I didn’t learn anything concrete about the female psyche and my game at the bars has only deteriorated.
Instead, I’ve simply done a lot of cringing. Cringing at Jessa’s inability to get her life on track. Cringing at any decision involving men Marnie has ever made. Cringing so hard at Hannah leaving Iowa back in Season 4, that I had to stop watching for like a year and a half…
Blehhh… What was she thinking?!
(Didn’t cringe too hard at Shosh. I think I simply enjoyed her bubble-headedness.)
But no matter how hard I cringed, no matter how long my hiatuses from the show were, no matter how much I disagreed with all the choices the characters were making, I kept coming back. I kept watching.
I’m neither white, a girl, live in New York, and (most importantly) particularly like any of the characters (in that rudimentary way of liking someone in which you kind of root for them or something). Nope. None of that.
So, why in the hell did I stick with Girls?
My dad said that, “You only like it because Hannah’s a writer and you wanna be a writer.”
There’s probably some truth to that, especially early on in the series. I think the idea of an aspiring writer chasing her dreams in New York was something I easily got behind. Shoot, it was my dream! But as the show progressed, I grew to dislike Hannah the most (as she did things like leave Iowa, quit her job at the magazine, and make nothing out of her book deal), second only to Marnie.
I think this stems from a place of my own personal desires for the characters. I wanted Hannah to be this best-selling author by series end. I wanted Marnie to be a musician (or something?), Jessa to be a traveling social worker, and Shosh to be something Shosh-y. I wanted them to eventually realize (what I saw as) their truest selves.
Looking back, these wants for fictional TV show characters had a lot to do with my own self in my own reality. I started Girls during my final years in college, and was as every bit as lost as the characters on the show were, and continued to be as I graduated and entered the real world. My wants for them, paralleled my own wants. I wanted them to make it and be a blueprint for me. I rooted for them because I was rooting for myself. I wanted the show to be the story of how they figured it out, so I could one day do the same.
I quickly realized that Girls wasn’t that, and with the series now over, I can confirm it. The characters never figured it out (if they figured anything out at all), at least not in some grandiose fashion that’s easy to identify. They never had this moment when they totally realized their dreams. They kinda began the show as someone and left as a similar person, but a little older.
In their and the show’s defense (and possibly its point), that’s the story of most of us twenty-somethings. I think we all have these big ideas at this age of who we are and who we’re going to be. For us in the Disney-filled “Dream Big” generation, some of those ideas are very Hannah Horvath-y (and I’m not talking about her size).
She began the show dumbfounded that her parents were cutting her off, and that they didn’t “believe” in her dreams. When I first started watching, I felt this scene on a spiritual level. How could her parents do that to her? I wanted the show to be how Hannah proved them wrong for “doubting”, and how against all odds she became the writer she wanted to be. I was Team Season 1 Hannah.
But things never came easy for Hannah, just as they never come easy for any of us. Hannah faced tough choices, made terrible decisions, and had problems that were completely out of her control. She confronted things that all us twenty-year-olds face, that made realizing her ideal self extremely difficult if not impossible.
See, Girls wasn’t the story of twenty-somethings becoming who they dreamed to be (as I think I oringally wanted it to be). It was the story of twenty-somethings taking two steps forward and then a step and three-fourths back. And while there might have seemed like little to no growth in that, the series finale showed they were progressing a quarter step at a time.
The episode ends with Hannah taking solace in a pretty mundane task, but it makes her happy and when juxtaposed against what she wanted in the beginning of the series, it’s a stark contrast. Season 1 episode 1 Hannah would’ve hated this series finale, and would’ve wanted something much more extravagant and telling. Season 6 episode 10 Hannah seems completely content and would probably yell at her younger and more self-centered self (as she figuratively does in the episode).
But if the final episode gave us the symbolic moments, it’s in the second to last episode where an exchange seems to describe all of the characters’ actions and the series as a whole. It’s when Hannah says, “We were just doing our best,” only for Jessa to timely reply, “Our best was awful.”
Their best was awful, but I think it described the series and this age in our lives perfectly. We’re just trying our best and sometimes we’ll be cringe-worthy awful at it. I think ideally I (and their characters as well) want our best to lead to something great, but sometimes it doesn’t. Atleast, not what we expect. For Hannah it led to a house in the countryside with a baby. Not what I expected and not what I wanted for her, but honestly it felt very real.
And I think that’s why I kept watching. Not because it ever gave me what I wanted or expected out of a story about twenty-somethings. It never did. I kept watching because it gave me a real story about twenty-somethings whether I liked it or not.