Is HBO’s GIRLS really about the girls or every girl for herself?

Having just watched the third season of HBO’s Girls, it saddens me to realize that the lives of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna differ in one crucial respect from those of their older gen-ex sisters in Sex in the City.

The most moving aspect of Sex in the City was how Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha consistently bonded together through all their emotional and sexual trials and tribulations with the various men in their lives. The friendship of these women was one of the most consistent dramatic themes – I would argue the central theme – of the show. This emotional bonding is entirely absent among the new millennial GIRLS. Season 3 is replete with dramatic examples of empathic breaches that would never have occurred in Sex in the City. Here are a few of them:

Hannah, Shoshanna and Adam take off on a road trip to reunite with Jessa who’s been kicked out of rehab, leaving Marnie to cope with the pressing emotional needs of her post-feminist mother who’s ostensibly providing her with emotional support as she moves into her new apartment after her painful breakup with Charlie.

Marnie left to deal with her mother

Hannah and Adam have sex in the same hotel room with Shoshanna, barely acknowledging her discomfort and ignoring her as she leaves.

       Shoshanna leaves as they fuck

At Hannah’s 25th birthday party, if we didn’t know any better, we’d assume the girls are complete strangers.

Strangers at Hannah's birthday party

Hannah is stunned and embarrassed at Marnie’s belated attempt to sing a birthday song for her.

Hannah mortified by Marnie's bd song for her

In a devastating beach house scene in episode seven, the girls have an emotional meltdown in which they attack each other in a crescendo of hurtful accusations that leaves them depleted and emotionally isolated from each other at the end.

Girls depleted

Viewed from the perspective of Lena Dunham and her talent in giving it dramatic expression, Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna live in much harsher world than their mothers and older Gen-X sisters in two important respects. First, they finished college with fewer job opportunities. A major theme in GIRLS is having to work at a job you don’t want; in Hannah’s case, writing advertorials for GQ and struggling not to sell herself short as a serious writer.  Second, althougth the new millennials in GIRLS are the most highly educated generation in American history, unlike their mothers and older Gen-X sisters, they’re saddled with school debt of almost $30,000, on average. Furthermore, most economists agree that new millennials are the first generation in American history who’ll make less money than their parents. 

We shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of empathy and authentic friendships in GIRL’S which are much harder to come by, perhaps even a luxury, in a world that falls far short of what was promised to them.  




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