"Girls" Review: Can Females Actually Be Funny?
Many, although slow to admit it, may answer no to this question. After all, it would only take a quick glance at pop culture to see that American-made television and film have an underwhelming (to say the least) female influence. But that’s beginning to change. Judd Apatow, known for his raunchy, male-dominated films such as “Knocked Up,” “The 40 Year Old Virgin,” and “Anchorman,” just to name a few, was the first to take a leap of faith and make a blockbuster-hit comedy centered entirely around a group of women, “Bridesmaids,” which received nothing but praise from both women and men alike. Now, with the addition of female-produced, written, and created shows like “Two Broke Girls” (created by comedian Whitney Cummings) and “Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23” (created by Nahnatchka Khan), we may have turned a corner. With this tidal wave of new female-centric television and cinematic work comes another piece of comedic genius from Judd Apatow: a television dramedy titled, ever so simply, “Girls,” which premiered last week on HBO.
The show follows the lives of four struggling, single, 20-somethings living in New York City as they try to discover themselves and find each other’s respective purpose in life, all whilst depending on the loyalty and solidarity of a close-knit circle of girlfriends. It’s filled with plenty of awkward sex scenes, drunken debauchery, and scenes of good, old fashioned, female bonding (like when Marnie, played by Allison Williams, has a heart-to-heart with her free-spirited friend Jessa, played by Jemima Kirke, while Jessa sits peeing on the toilet). Sound familiar? Many are comparing it to HBO’s smash hit of yesteryear, “Sex and the City,” and while the stars of Apatow’s “Girls” admit that the show wouldn’t exist without the road that SJP and co has paved for them, the distinctions between the two shows are extremely clear.
For starters, nothing about “Girls,” from the stars themselves to the characters they portray, is at all glamorous. None of them are all too stunningly gorgeous, and all are deeply flawed (flaws which they make no effort at hiding, part of the show’s inherent humor). In fact, in this way, the stars of “Girls” could not possibly be more different from the stars of SATC. They’re all broke, none of them own nice clothes or spend their afternoons blowing off steam shopping at Barney’s, and none are having mind-blowing, romantic-comedy-worthy sex. While the show admittedly is filled with plenty of nudity and adult slumber parties, the one sex scene we are exposed to in its pilot, between protagonist Hannah, played by Lena Dunham who also wrote and created the show, and her quasi-boyfriend who resembles an uglier, guido version of Justin Long, is anything but romantic or sexy. It’s bad, as in painful to watch, hiding-behind-your-hands, squirming-in-your-seat, nausea-inducing, horrific sex.
But that’s also exactly where the genius of “Girls” lies. It’s in-your-face. It’s relatable (ladies, who hasn’t had bad, sloppy sex like that at least once in your college career?). It’s raw and hard to watch at times. The characters are self-absorbed, spoiled, ambition-less, confused, lost, and, at times, extremely unlikable. But they’re believable, something that seems so rare to find in today’s age of crappy, overdone reality TV. In a time when the American public is being told that most 20-somethings live glamorous lives out of an episode of ”The Hills,” filled with whiny, spoiled, plastic-surgery-infused children who drive around in their parent’s $100,000 Range Rovers and whose biggest life dilemma is choosing which club to throw back vodka-sodas at for the night, we are given something a bit harder to digest: a glimpse into the lives of some 20-somethings who don’t resemble supermodels, who are broke, jobless, and living in a dumpy apartment in Brooklyn instead of a poolside villa in Beverly Hills. For many, this means that the show is a bit too explicit and a bit too crude, but judging by the overwhelming amount of praise it has already received from critics, many, like myself, are thinking the opposite, that women can be the driving force behind a hit television series, that they don’t have to be glamorized or overdone to be entertaining, and that yes, women can be funny. In fact, in the case of Apatow’s “Girls,” I would argue that women can be pretty damn hilarious.
"Girls" airs every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.
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