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'Girls' showed awkward reality of being a 20-something

April 18, 2017

I was a latecomer to the "Girls" bandwagon. And by "Girls," I do not mean the name for young women, or the word used often to inappropriately refer to grown women. Instead, I am talking about the HBO show "Girls" created by Lena Dunham.

I discovered "Girls" pretty late for a few reasons. When it first aired in 2012, I was 17, and the show just was not on my radar at all. I also did not have access to HBO at the time, and this was probably my biggest obstacle as to why I was not exposed to the show. The show did, however, begin to gradually gain my attention. This process was helped considerably by Lena Dunham, who just naturally seems to have that kind of take-notice-of-me effect on people.

When I finally decided to watch "Girls" last year, after obtaining a username and password for an HBO account, I consumed every episode at a voracious pace. I soaked up each word like a thirsty sponge, relishing each sentence of the cleverly written dialogue. I was enthralled. The characters of Hannah, Marnie, Shosh and Jessa were unlike any female television characters I had ever met.

Hannah was often pantless, shirtless or shoeless, and unapologetically selfish and immature. Marnie was a perfectionist who thrived on a diet of rules and spoke with callous authority. Shosh talked fast and wore loud outfits and seemed to be the only one of the four who ever had a clear goal for herself. Jessa was mysterious, beautiful and harsh, but also maybe the most insecure.

I say “was” for all these characters because this past Sunday was the final episode of the sixth and final season of the show "Girls."

As I was a late convert to the show, this final season came with all of the surprise of a car accident. I barely had time to take all of the show in before it was all over, forever.

This show appeared at the perfect time in my life. I, like the women on the show, am also in my 20s and have no more direction than some and much more direction than others. I saw myself in all the girls. In Hannah, I too, vainly and selfishly, wondered what kind of mark I would be able to make on the world as a writer. Marnie and I share a fondness for control and order and of obtaining those qualities through yelling. Like Shosh, I will be graduating from college soon, and do I have any idea what to do after? I wished I could be as carefree and as independent as Jessa.

"Girls" was a show that showed the griminess, the pain and the joy of life and of female friendship. Lena did not shy away from the nudity that life brings, the screaming, the fighting, the tears or the plain cluelessness and pure desperation that a person will go through.

It all seemed so real, more real than any other television show that depicts a group of friends living and working and forming relationships in New York City. Lena, as Hannah, and the rest of the girls of "Girls" are real, with real feelings and with real bodies that defy so many oppressive stereotypes that control how women should look and act and talk. These women showed the full range of the female character, or at least of a white female character, making her complicated and messy, lovable and cruel.

"Girls" also made me uncomfortable. The stark frankness and the variety of honest interactions of the characters of the show often made me cringe, wince and look away, as if not making eye contact with the screen would save me from any awkwardness.

The show made me confront myself about why it felt so difficult watching certain situations sometimes, and for that I feel very grateful. I feel privileged to have been able to experience Hannah, Marnie, Shosh and Jessa, who portrayed women who were all very far from perfect, who did not stay friends, who did not end up where they thought they would. "Girls" ripped the Band-Aid off of the secret reality of what it is to be a woman in her 20s.

To "Girls," I say thank you for showing me and the rest of your avid fans what struggling to find yourself and your voice is like. Thank you for not apologizing for showing what real people look like, sound like and act like. Thank you, "Girls," for being a show that showed life and love as gross and complicated and messy and weird.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.