After three episodes of HBO’s new series Girls, we’re starting to learn what the characters are about and what the show has to offer. Reviews vary from unabashed praise to disgust. Here at Punching Pete Campbell, our writers each had a different reaction to the show.
1. In 10 words or less, how do you feel about Girls after three episodes?
BG: Growing on me. Parts are terrific, but jury’s still out.
CW: Dislike the characters, dislike the storylines, haven’t yet abandoned.
MR: Love the writing, love the awkwardness, hate the dancing.
2. Which of the characters do you like or dislike?
BG: As alluded to above, I’m starting to like the show. I really am. But through three episodes, I CAN’T STAND HANNAH. She reminds me of the girl at parties who orders an obscure mixed drink, complains that it’s made incorrectly and then, inevitably, gets trashed and passes out. She can also be witty to a fault (although I approved of her “Sorry I passed you an STD but I enjoy your quirky web presence” crack).
I’m also not sold on Marnie. She reminds me of the Girls version of Lyla Garrity: really hot, really annoying. It’s only a matter of time before she cheats on her boyfriend (with Tim Riggins?) and makes him feel shitty about it. As a guy, I feel obligated to simultaneously want and hate her.
But that brings me to why I’m also optimistic about the show: Jessa and Shoshanna. Jessa is not only a babe, but wears see-through body-length clothing, eats string cheese and smokes pot with (potentially) unemployed hipster dads. Awesome. Jessa also drinks White Russians, which, by default, qualifies her as the ultimate dude.
Shoshanna is the type of character I should hate as a guy (girly girl, high maintenance), but I actually kind of love. She says things like “I can see your belly button” and watches Baggage. That’s a fantastic show.
CW: I couldn’t agree with you more about Hannah. I can’t stand her. If she’s “the voice of a generation,” then I’d rather hang out with “El Voz” from Man on Fire, and that dude steals children. Hannah comes off as painfully entitled, demanding handouts as if it’s impossible to make it in Manhattan without parental funding. She does seem to mean well, but her cringe-factor seems forced (WTF was that job interview?!) and over the top. She’s just not terribly likable and (vanity alert!) nor is she much to look at. Not a great recipe for a lead character.
Here’s where I differ from you: I don’t like the other characters, even if I don’t dislike them yet either. Shoshanna yaps a lot and cares too much about being a virgin. It’s not that hard to get laid in New York City. Joshua Tree might not be that romantic, but if you really want to ditch the V-Card there’s definitely some finance guys who will buy all your drinks, treat you like crap and take you home. I generally buy into the Arnold camp: “Stop whining!” and do something about it.
I’m more neutral on Marnie and Jessa. Marnie is the anti-Hannah. With a stable job, she pays for her rent and doesn’t act like a child. Jessa is a babe with an accent, and she seems less caught up in the drama of the other characters and more willing to just roll with things. The pulse is generally positive on these two, but the jury is still out.
And whether or not Adam is a character we’re supposed to like, I’m not a fan of his representation. He’s meant to be the bro of the show with his casual stance toward sex and midsection punches mid-coitus. Hannah can’t decide if she likes him, but he’s got a major creepo factor going on and he probably gave her an STD.
MR: Despite the fact that half the world seems to think she’s the spawn of Satan, I’m digging Hannah. She’s entitled, awkward and socially tone-deaf, but these flaws are part of what make her an astonishingly round, fleshed-out character. She’s witty and self-aware, comfortable in conversation and comfortable in her own skin — or at least getting there. And while her “woe is me, the world is so unfair” attitude might alienate certain viewers, I’m not going to punish Hannah for being a dreamer. She’s not a typical leading lady, and it’s a pretty refreshing change of pace.
It’s hard to feel bad for Marnie because her hot boyfriend loves her too much, and in an interesting way I think she’s the most clueless of the bunch. But I’ve bought into the Marnie-Hannah bond more than any other pairing, and I’m anxious to watch Marnie break out of her shell (and not just her cocktail dress). Jessa’s been consistently hilarious so far, and I think we can all agree a kinky dead-beat dad sex scene is in the immediate future. Shoshanna has been the least interesting, and frankly I have a hard time seeing what she and the other girls have in common. Which brings me to my next point: I get that Lena Dunham and Co. are trying to actively avoid becoming Sex and the City 2.0 (while still giving a hat-tip to the First Four ladies of New York), but we need to see more of the four girls of Girls together so that we can buy the bond and common ties. Zosia Mamet’s great, but for now her Shoshanna is just a part of the group because she’s Jessa’s cousin, and that’s not really good enough.
It’s hard not to hate Adam, the colossal asshole Hannah keeps screwing despite his insults, disinterest and perversions. The dude’s clearly an artist — in addition to whittling wood, he can doodle on Hannah’s arm with his semen! — but he’s also a dick. I know some people are using his douche-baggery as further reason to hate Hannah — why is she with him? because she sucks too! — but if anything it makes her more sympathetic in my eyes. She wants to be loved; who can’t relate to that?
3. Which demographics does Girls appeal to?
BG: It appeals to people who like girls, cupcakes, joblessness, see-through clothing, rapid-fire leg kicks, Twitter, gay ex-boyfriends, abortion and anal sex. So pretty much everyone? Realistically though, it’s the type of show that should do well with women and people who live in New York (look, it’s the High Line!).
CW: I think the show has a very narrow target audience, and I don’t think it cares. In fact, I’m probably part of the demographic that HBO audience researches looked at and thought, “Ah, screw ‘em, they’re lost already.” Yes, I refused to watch The Princess Bride with my elementary school girlfriend because it had the words “princess” and “bride” in the title. Yes, I realize that movie is awesome.
Women in their mid-teens and late 20s are likely to enjoy it, but a lot of men will start jumping ship soon. Put simply: I find it hard to like characters and I don’t relate to their annoying drama, so it’s a miracle I’ve made it through three episodes. I can’t be alone on that.
MR: It’s not meant for everyone, but that’s OK. There’s a good, tone-setting bit in the pilot when Hannah, begging for a bankroll, tells her parents she’s going to be the voice of her generation … or at least a generation. So is she? I thought I’d spot a clear age or gender divide among critics, but that hasn’t really been the case. Young people love and hate the show in equal measure. Same goes for old people, women, men. The one-note NYC color palette certainly seems to have angered some viewers, but aside from that it seems to me liking Girls is more about personal preference than personal bio. If you think Dunham is tapping into some great truth, you’re going to like the show; if you enjoy sharp dialogue, you’re going to like the show; if you appreciate a creator who can make herself the butt of a joke, stage humiliation after humiliation and talk quite seriously about the stuff that gets up around the sides of condoms, you’re going to like the show. If you can’t say “vagina” with a straight face, you probably won’t.
4. Are you into the show for the long haul?
BG: I’m still on the fence, but I’m leaning toward yes. This is based in totality on one scene in particular: The exchange between Marnie and Booth Jonathan (Jorma Taccone of The Lonely Island). After Marnie tells him that she won’t hook up, Booth explains that assuming makes an ass out of you and me (brilliant!) before offering, “I want you to know, the first time I fuck you, I might scare you a little. Because I’m a man. And I do things. See ya later.” Marnie proceeds to masturbate in the art gallery restroom.
In sum: One of the guys who sings Jizz In My Pants ACTUALLY GETS SOMEONE TO JIZZ IN HER PANTS! How can you not watch that?
CW: Very unlikely. The last episode was better than the first two, just good enough to keep me watching.
MR: You bet. We can argue about whether Dunham has created likable, relatable characters (I say yes, ultimately), but there’s one thing not up for debate: Any form of entertainment that sparks this kind of fierce reaction, positive or negative, is doing something right. It may make you cringe, but at least it makes you care.