Monday, April 10, 2017
“Girls” comes to an end on April 16 after six seasons, and it’s time to bid bye-bye to the best show about the worst of my generation. The HBO dramedy, created by then-24-year-old writer/actress Lena Dunham, brilliantly tackled difficult issues from abortion to sexual assault . . . while also making an entire pack of millennials look like loathsome narcissists.
The cast of characters on “Girls” were remarkably, unbelievably awful. If you met a single character from the show in real life, you would be talking about how self-destructive they were . . . forever.
That’s true whether it’s Jessa, who deals with her sadness by offering sex to a stranger in the bathroom of a bar, or Marnie, who married a man who consumed an entire bottle of OxyContin every day. Then there’s Hannah, who ends the series pregnant as a result of a one-night stand with a surf instructor. The surf instructor does not want the baby but does think it should be named “Grover.” And there’s Shoshanna, who almost failed to graduate from NYU and has drifted through her 20s without ever finding a real job.
These antics made for good television. It did not make for a good experience if you were a 20-something New Yorker visiting your family in the Midwest. In that case, it meant beginning every conversation with some variation on, “No, my life is nothing like the ones on ‘Girls.’ I am employed, do not have unprotected sex and no one ever offers me a job that hinges upon me doing a bunch of cocaine.”
Millennials — the generation born between 1982 and 2004 — have long been a punching bag for older generations who claim they are lazy and entitled. But if you look at the facts, that’s not so. Admittedly, there are millennials who are as relentlessly self-sabotaging as Marnie and Jessa and Hannah. But you’d have to look hard for them.
You’d be more likely to find a generation of workaholics so terrified of being unemployed that we won’t take any time off. (According to a 2016 survey from Bankrate, one-quarter of Americans between ages 18 and 25 said they’re not using any of their vacation time for the year, compared with fewer than 1 in 10 Americans overall.)
You’ll also find a lot of people who value volunteering far more than the previous generation, according to an AP-GfK poll. And a Pew study shows we’re on track to be the most educated generation in American history.
Plus, hey, you’ll also find outrageously successful creative entrepreneurs like, oh, Lena Dunham.
While the show captured a lot of what makes millennials funny — our reliance on apps and social media, our affection for some truly ridiculous fashion trends like overalls and tiny hats — it didn’t go very far in capturing what makes us a driven and socially involved generation.
Instead, it made it harder for every millennial to disprove the myth that we were all insanely entitled — no matter how hard we work.
It’s difficult to convince an older generation that you’re a worker bee when Hannah Horvath is on TV quitting her cushy job at GQ with no backup plan, or Shoshanna is telling a potential employer that her interview is just “a trial run-through before . . . I interview for a job I’m really passionate about.”
God, but for the days of “Sex and the City.” At least that HBO show made the behaviors of a generation of women seem glamorous.
Back in the aughts, everyone used to play a fun game where they tried to decide if they were a Carrie or a Charlotte or a Miranda or a Samantha from “SATC.” But that never happens with the characters on “Girls” because no one wants to be those women. (Though if we were playing — I’m the girl in Season 3, Episode 4, who faked her own death to escape a friendship with Jessa.)
And while we may not yet have a show that captures our ethos as well as “Friends” nailed the sweet-slacker vibe of Generation X, there are certainly some current shows that come closer than “Girls” ever did.
“Love” on Netflix is a great take on millennials who may be neurotic and difficult but do not steal money from a baby clothing store for drugs (yes, that happened on “Girls”). “Search Party” on TBS is a hilarious depiction of millennials in Brooklyn that grasps everything from the semi-glamorous, semi-sad parties sponsored by a water-bottle company to being stuck in a job that, like Shoshanna, “you’re not really passionate about” but, unlike her, do not decline. The upcoming “Girlboss” on Netflix also looks like it should be a really fun watch (about millennials who want to work!).
Who knows? Maybe Lena Dunham could even use her tremendous talent to write one. It could be called “Women.”