Lena Dunham and the celebration of real women
“Girls” is touted as being every “real” woman’s answer to Sex and the City. The multi-award winning series follows the trials, tribulations, and awkward moments of 4 young women as they struggle through unpaid internships, being financially cut-off, uncomfortable intimate moments and bad relationships. Conceptualized and produced by 26-year-old Lena Dunham, this series is unapologetic about it’s brutally honest portrayal of “real” women; women who, unlike the airbrushed perfect cover girls of SATC, have body image issues, large thighs and stomachs, ample waistlines, and self-esteem issues which are highlighted during each 30 minute episode without the mandatory sugar-coating and apologies for “not being good enough”. Dunham herself stars in the series, as Hannah Horvath, a 20-something year old aspiring writer who, at the beginning of the series, is cut off by her parents and left to fend for herself within the unforgiving confines of the “real world”. Accompanying her on her eventful journey are fellow travelers, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna; each of whom is as realistically portrayed as she is, with stark, brutal honesty. It is as if a spotlight has been turned on these women’s faces and is scanning every curve, every dimple, every blemish, and makes it a point to call these women out in a matter-of-fact, but not critical fashion; as if to say “here you all are, with your spots and scars, but you are whole, you are human, and that is what makes you beautiful”. Body image issues are among many others, which are brought to the forefront thanks to the number of somewhat tastefully executed intimate scenes which feature Dunham. She is not stereotypically beautiful, i.e. not skinny, tanned and surgically enhanced. She is refreshingly averagely-proportioned, with a few rolls of fat, and is not caked with makeup. Scenes depict her examining herself thoughtfully while protesting against a male character’s comment, which indicates that he loves her despite her body being “not quite the way it’s supposed to be”. Scenes like this resonate with an empathic audience who immediately engage with her, thinking, “She’s just like me”! This is one of many reasons why the honesty in this series works well for its ratings. What also works for Girls is that Dunham does not hold back when it comes to representing a rounded view of women; her characters are neither fiercely feminist, nor are they simpering, and impossibly angelic. Dunham’s female characters are flawed, but fabulous. Their negative attributes [one character continuously keeps her partner hanging on despite their relationship going nowhere] are equally highlighted along with their positive attributes. Everybody is therefore an equal character, there are no absolute antagonists and protagonists. Unlike other “women-centric” television series, Girls stands out because Lena strips the masque of idealism and pseudo-perfection off her characters, and diplays believable situations which are handled by people who do not always do the right thing, and correctly so, because we do not always take the right decisions in our lives either. We live and learn, as do these girls, which is why Lena Dunham’s semi-autobiographical series is such a favorite with women everywhere, and is recommended for viewing.