It’s True, Lena Dunham’s “Girls” is Funny

On Sunday, April 15 at 10:30 p.m. EST, the television show Girls will premiere on HBO and the entire world will change as we know it. Well, I don’t actually think that, but people have been having a lot of big feelings about the much-hyped Lena Dunham show. Executive produced by Judd Apatow and featuring some white girls you’ve never heard of before, the show is about four 20-somethings living in New York. They have sex and they have jobs. The good people at HBO expect you to relate because you (hopefully) have at least one of those things.

Apatow and the cast of Girls

Tuesday I attended a screening of the first three episodes. Prior to this engagement, I’d been fairly hesitant to voice any opinion on the project other than wondering aloud (via the internet) why I never met Allison Williams at Yale. I’d seen Tiny Furniture and I wasn’t a huge fan of the film. I thought the best parts were the super weird random lines because that’s just the kind of girl I am. (Ex: “Did you just google cupcakes?”) I didn’t want to like the show. I would have been just fine seeing these episodes and never having anything to do with Girls again. I’m bothered when people think that I’ll be able to relate to a show because of my age and/or vagina but damn it you guys, this shit is good. It’s not perfect but what show is? Comedies aren’t always about whether you can relate or not. It’s about being funny and all three episodes had several laugh out loud moments.

Allison Williams

A lot of times people stress that you have to live it before you can write it. Dunham managed to write it as she lived it and I think it resulted in her voice being one of the strongest in the industry right now. She managed to take a television show on HBO and make it feel like another one of her indie films. That’s not any reflection on the production value but rather a compliment to her voice and storytelling ability. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of comedy writers wrote the show. It feels like your really funny friend that you’re always saying is hilarious and telling them they should do something with that but like what do you do with that ya know? wrote the show.

It feels familiar even if you don’t want it to. Because who wants to be those girls? Yet, here we are. A generation of those girls. Girls who aren’t afraid to talk about these topics (anal sex, abortion, casual sex, etc.) that are supposedly taboo and especially so when discussed on television. But it’s not the subjects that are taboo. It’s the very presence of women that are taboo. That’s the only reason I can come up with for someone uttering the phrase “labia saturation.”

Tiny Furniture

This show isn’t about a bunch of women cast as demure lambs with no family, friends, or feelings. Nor is it about naive women that fall victim to conniving pick-up artists or womanizers. It is super heteronormative. Please don’t expect otherwise. It’s also super duper white, just like New York and all of the United States. (That’s sarcasm fyi.) This isn’t a post about race but I have to say that I think Lena Dunham gets to be out of the box because she’s white. When you’re not white you’re already considered out of the box — you already cashed in all your quirky points at the Deschanel store when you were born.

I would love to see someone like me on TV but Jesus, I’ve all but given up on that. I’m not looking to these characters to represent me as a black person, a lesbian, or as a woman. I’m looking at them to represent me as someone who’s a hot ass mess. There’s nothing funny about people that have their shit together (which is probably why I’m hilarious). I don’t think the show is revolutionary. I’m sorry but unflattering angles and a woman not ashamed of her body isn’t revolutionary in my book. Not for a television show, anyway. And that’s what we’re supposed to be talking about, I think? The merit of the show? If so, then I think it’s a really great show and you should watch it.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 314 articles for us.

30 Comments

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    Thank you for this!

    I haven’t seen the show yet, but have read a few reviews so far; specifically, this one from Salon: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/12/true_new_female_friendship/ that tend to drive me crazy…and I haven’t been able to decide whether the mixed feelings I’ve been getting should be attributed to the show or to the reviewers of the show. (Generally speaking, I think both)

    Your article was one of the very very few that discussed the show in a sincere, honest, and not patronizing manner. Not new for Autostraddle in general, or Brittani’s articles in particular [love your work, lady!], but still refreshing.

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    I’m super glad you wrote about this because I’m definitely under utilizing my HBO subscription. I feel like I’m going to watch this. I don’t know if I’ll relate but maybe I’ll sort of pretend to relate like when I watch Entourage or how to make it in America.

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    I really liked this. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion, for showing the pros and cons of the show. In the end I’m not sure it’s enough to make me seek it out online (no HBO subscription) but it was a wonderfully balanced review.

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    I went to college with Lena and she is genuinely hilarous, hardworking, and sweet. I cannot wait for the show. That said, my first reaction to the trailers was “this shit is whiiiiite.” I noticed the pictures from her premier had many people of color in them and I wondered, “where are these people in the show?” Perhaps they are actors who will become central characters, or perhaps they were just friends, people working on the film? Lena has so much to offer and I appreciate the racial critique of he show and I imagine maybe Lena is aware of this issue and maybe will respond with characters who are people of color. Hopeful speculation…

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      She says the people in the show are based on her close friends and a cousin of hers. Maybe she doesn’t have a close token POC friend. Too bad. I’m sure plenty of people would volunteer.

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    I don’t have a HBO subscription so I probably won’t watch it anytime soon, but this review makes it sound more likely that I would enjoy it.

    More selfishly, I hope this doesn’t cut down on Zosia Mamet appearances on Mad Men, I need more Joyce.

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    “I’m sorry but unflattering angles and a woman not ashamed of her body isn’t revolutionary in my book”

    Really? Perhaps I don’t think it’s revolutionary, but it is important… I think. I would also love to see a tv show with someone like you in it, to be honest.

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      I 100% agree that it’s important and extremely striking that she’s so ok with it. It’s the least of her worries it seems. It’s so impressive on a personal basis and even more so as a message.

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    The show seems like it will be a hoot. Hopefully, it will have some longevity.

    “When you’re not white you’re already considered out of the box — you already cashed in all your quirky points at the Deschanel store when you were born.” I’m loving this statement so hard right now. Having said that, Awkward Black Girl does a pretty good job. lol

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    I really liked and really hated Tiny Furniture. I try not to think about it because I feel so conflicted about it. I’ll have to wait till this hits the internet, because I cancelled the fancy channel subscription after the Sopranos ended, but I really liked your writeup.

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    I just got back from the “advanced screening” of Girls at Oberlin College. Lena Dunham is an alumna of Oberlin so it was a big deal. (They also gave away a free ipad but I didn’t win). I was afraid of the show being too cliché and heteronormative but I actually really liked it! It was quirky and awkward and funny and there were boobs.

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    Brittani, I’m as hilarious as you, Lady. I have not seen the show but when I read the review on Salon, I thought, “Ugh. Strait girls.” When I have a woman in my bed, we do not fall asleep like little girls at a slumber party. We fuck each other! And when you point out how white the show is, that makes me like it even less. This white girl is from a mixed race military town on the Mexican border and found even fewer white people in NYC. Once in a while I take a weekend trip to Colorodo, and the mostly white population makes me feel like something is missing. Yet you recommend this show. You’re more open minded than I am. I may actually watch one episode because of you.

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    I only watched this because you reviewed it, Brittani. I swear. It wasn’t that bad. I wish Lena Dunham had some black friends, too, because this “white NYC” thing is getting old on TV. That being said, I thought it was a funny pilot and I hope that the future episodes make the main character more likable. She came across as an unfunny brat in this. I liked her friends much more, especially Marnie.

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    If you saw the most recent episode, you saw that Jessa makes out with girls very nicely. And afterellen stated that Lena Dunham said there will be a lesbian character toward the end of season 1, with a full storyline in season 2. I pray that this story involves Jessa.

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