And let’s not forget why ‘Girls’ is receiving this type of criticism to begin with:
Because it transcends all other criticism. How many famous television shows also take place in New York, focus on an ensemble, and cast exclusively white people? The writing is so much better than basically everything else on TV except for FX’s ‘Louie’ that there isn’t another angle to take. There are shows that are funnier (‘30 Rock’ ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’) and there are shows that are more dramatic (pick any of AMC’s Big 3) but nothing is as honest and engrossing (over its first 4 episodes, at least).
It took ‘Friends’ years to ever include a non-white character who wasn’t on the periphery and the minimal criticism that show received never came close to reaching the pitch we’re hearing thrown at ‘Girls.’ Not even close. But that’s because ‘Friends’ was never more than a sitcom a lot of people thought was funny. It could never dream to be anything more because on the commercial/art balance it fell soundly on the commercial side. ’Sex and the City’ is the easy comparison (HBO, New York, 4 women, it’s even name checked in the pilot of ‘Girls’) but everyone who uses it is quick to say “But they’re not the same thing.” What they’re really saying is “But Girls is infinitely better.” ’SatC’ was fun because it was a dream of fashion and the high life. ’Girls’ is great because it aspires to delve into the human condition in a real way.
I keep reading about the joke in the first episode, where Dunham’s character (while high) professes “I might be the voice of my generation.” I’m not going to go far enough to say something like that, but she is a voice we’ve never heard before. The show (again, not unlike ‘Louie’) is funny through its honesty and dramatic through its honesty, dealing with problems because they’re things that people have actually lived. The big secret in writing is that touching people on a personal level means you have to be willing to share things you’re not comfortable sharing. Letting go of our most closely guarded feelings is the only way to touch people where they didn’t think they could be.
Mind you, this is not an apologist post. A lot of the criticism surrounding the lack of diversity is spot on and it seems Dunham is taking it seriously. What I hope we all remember is that the reason the show is getting this heat is because it is so much better than any other show of its nature. Of course, you can talk to me again when I’ve seen more than 4 episodes.