Love it or hate it but it’s back!
Everyone has their own opinion about the HBO hit series Girls. In fact, everyone has an opinion about everything in this new show. While 25-year-old creator Lena Dunham has received copious amounts of praise, she has also been under fire for her “excessive” nudity, all white cast and entitled characters. Whether or not you subscribe to a side, Girls speaks a lot of truth about modern day women, even if many of us don’t admit it. Beyond this, the simple fact that Dunham write, directs, and stars in her own material, gives her serious feminist authority in Hollywood. But how do feminism and seriously flawed characters mix?
When a woman first sees Girls, there is a mixture of reactions that are to follow. Burst of exuberant laughter, jaw slacked shock and a lot of cringing… just to name a few that I’ve experienced. But by far the most justifying result is actually identifying with the complex and self-deprecating female characteristics. Girls female orientation allows the show to actually focus on women, and women are crazy. This means body image, abortion, hating your friends, grappling with emotional insanity, and every sexual awkwardness you can imagine, all crammed into a daily glimpse of these four women’s lives. Each character has a refreshing amount of “looking like absolute sh**” days intermingled with fresh faced normality. Not only do these women bear all in the bedroom, they have no problem bearing breakouts, belly folds, and unflattering angles. And it’s amazing.
“These scenes shouldn’t shock, but they do, if only because in a culture soaked in Photoshop and Botox, few powerful women open themselves up so aggressively to the judgment of voyeurs.” –New York Magazine Blog
Dunham doesn’t make any apologies for shots of her cellulite or for the show’s “disastrous celebration of entitlement and helplessness.” What about the mixed opinions of her female dominated audience? The show glorifies damaged, conceited women in search of “self-worth” in a series of seemingly insignificant moments. Lena gives insight on her choice depictions:
“I feel so lucky that we are not called to any standard of sort of sweet female decency,” Dunham said. “We get to depict these girls in all their kind of flawed glory.” – Lena Dunham
Purposely making women look “bad”, shouldn’t Lena Dunham be a disappointment to feminism? Now it gets interesting.
Depending on which wave of feminism you subscribe to, if any, this show falls under the Third-wave. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid definitions of femininity, which often assumed a universal female role and over-emphasized the experiences of upper-middle-class white women. In addition, third-wave feminists believe there needs to be further changes in the stereotypes of women and in the media portrayals of women as well as in the language that has been used to define women. In other words, women can challenge stereotype by dressing and portraying themselves exactly how they are.
You wouldn’t think that would be too different from baseline feminism, however think about the last time you saw that one girl downtown with a low-cut top in a short skirt and heels.
What words came to your mind?
Yeah, no thanks. If you are like a majority of judgmental women or men, some pretty derogatory words came upfront and center. That doesn’t float in this wave. That one girl is a woman, therefore, she can wear and portray herself anyway she wants. Who are you to label her as a “slut” because that’s what society says a “slut” looks like? And doesn’t using the word “slut” against other women, give men the impression that it’s ok to treat us as thus?
Unapologetically realistic, these strongly flawed and frustrating characters portray this exact type of feminist view. They do what they want, feel what they want and they do it all exactly how they want to.
This concept is interesting because it shows us that many popular female media icons were falsely “perfectified”. A majority of women on TV play identical roles: the hot-naggy housewife of the idiot husband, the hot-dumb neighbor, the hot-nerdy girl, the hot…you get it. All of these women and their bodies have been sanitized for your home viewing experience. Jen Spyra of Tablet tackles the revelation of real women on TV:
“With Girls, we’re treated to characters who have the bodies of normal women and talk about relatable, realistic issues in language that truly reflects the way that girls talk now. Compare this to what we usually get: an endless volley of only-on-TV quips spouted by only-on-TV faces attached to only-on-TV bods.”
Also weighing in on the realistic portrayal of women’s bodies, New York Magazine commented:
“There is no shortage of nudity on cable television, of course, where strip-downs are your prize for watching an “adult” series—porn with purchase, like a trip to the Champagne Room. But the sex on Girls isn’t a reward, it’s a revelation…It’s a show about life lived as a rough draft—something well intentioned, possibly promising, but definitely begging for cruel critiques.”
Even though it feels like the media may have beat this statement into the curb, I have to say for myself, the amount of attention Lena Dunham receives for her particular nudity is a clear sign that people are all talk. You’d think men and women would be so excited about real bodies in the media as opposed to the constant photoshop controversies and uplifting “natural” model selections. Well, what people are really saying is if the model is 5 pounds over weight, it’s a pretty “daring” move and really going to take the world “by storm”.
Please. Maybe a drop of rain.
Lena Dunham has made a truly feminist statement with her genius portrayal of real life women in HBO’s Girls in all their annoying, self-serving and completely realistic character flaws. To leave you with my favorite quote: