Girls Like Us


Jemima Kirke (left) and Lena Dunham costar in HBO’s new comic series, “Girls,” which Dunham created and writes.

Tamar McCollom, Staff Writer

It’s taken quite literally my whole life to decide upon this. I’ve taken online quizzes, I’ve discussed the matter with my friends and my mother, and I’ve researched the primary documents for years only to come to this conclusion. I’m a Samantha with Charlotte’s style and Victorian sensibilities and a dash of Miranda’s sarcasm.  And don’t ask me if it’s possible to be a Samantha with Victorian sensibilities because it totally is. It totally is.

But new late night HBO comedy Girls brings all your delusions from Sex and the City to a grinding halt. As virtually everyone (including the pilot episode of Girls) has pointed out, the two shows are similar in nature. Both feature four girls, sex, and a city, specifically New York City, but they have virtually nothing in common.

Watching Girls, which is created, written, directed, and starred in by the brilliantly witty, zeitgeist-capturing genius Lena Dunham, is like witnessing a train wreck.  I literally watched each and every second of it curled in the fetal position, cocooned in a blanket, one hand covering my eyes, the other clutching the remote in case I suddenly had to turn the volume down so my parents didn’t hear.

Hannah (played by Dunham), Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna are all girls in their early twenties, coming of age during the recession, when a good job is as difficult to find as a good boyfriend and finding out who you really are is next to impossible.

Girls has been called cringeworthy and uncomfortable, which, trust me, it is. I can’t even bring myself to discuss any of the sex scenes because I immediately devolve into a mess of awkward giggling. But Girls gets under your skin, not because it’s nightmarishly horrific, but because it’s real. Girls is the kind of honest that is so true to life that you don’t even want to admit to yourself that it has the remote possibility of being reality. It’s the kind of accurate that has you questioning whether Dunham was following you around when you discussed that you have a lifelong fear of contracting HIV that turns into AIDS because you saw Forest Gump a little too young.

Sex and the City was a fantasy, a witty, nuanced guide to a life that no mere mortal lives. A world in which a sex columnist for a middling newspaper can afford an apartment in Greenwich and the ultimate feat is getting a billionaire to admit that he loves you. There are gems of wisdom throughout SATC, and I’ll admit that I’m perhaps more attached to Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte than any other television characters, but as Girls proves, I’m nothing like them. No one is. Except perhaps Christy Turlington, but I maintain that she is imaginary as well.

Sex and the City was a story about women who knew what they wanted. They were about getting a better job, a better man, and a better apartment. The execution might have been a tad elusive—the girls didn’t always get what they wanted. But they always knew who they were and where they wanted to be in life. Many have commented on how their home, New York, was the fifth girl in Sex and the City, and it was. New York was a friend, a partner to witness the agony and the ecstasy, but let’s face it, mostly the ecstasy.

Girls is about the generation that grew up idolizing Carrie and the girls, the generation who imagined life in New York would be Sex and the City 24 hours a day, only to discover that life isn’t as easy as it looks on TV. Girls is for the girls who are highly educated and highly intelligent, but are struggling to grasp their place in a changing world with little patience for growing pains. There is no path laid out for these girls, and there certainly are no sympathy Manolo purchases. New York isn’t a friendly land of opportunity that is there to catch you when you fall or celebrate in your successes. It’s a vast labyrinth that’s easy to get lost in when you are already lost.

Girls isn’t pretty. It isn’t a show for girls looking for a fairy tale. But it is the best representation of the inherently contradictory modern woman. The girls on Girls aren’t archetypes. No one’s a Hannah, a Marnie, a Jessa, or a Shoshanna. We are all of them, and none of them at the same time, and that’s why Girls is going to be on the air for a very long time. And I’ll be there until the end, hands covering my eyes, squealing in discomfort.