This past Sunday, April 16th, 2017 the world watched the six season saga of HBO’s Girls come to an end. I began my indulgence into Lena Dunham’s world while I was still in high school. I remember the day I sat in my living room as my mom was away at work and binged watch the entire first season. As I watched the last episode of season one I was left feeling confused and uncomfortable by Dunham’s creation, especially her self-portrayed character, Hannah, but mostly I was intrigued. I had known HBO at that time mostly by the network’s classic hits like The Sopranos and Sex and The City and I was curious to think about how Girls matched up to these television megahits, especially given the parallels between Girls and SATC. Both shows told the stories of four female friends navigating their lives in New York City, so I asked myself are Hannah, Jessa, Shoshana, and Marnie the Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte of my generation? Do these women, who make me so uncomfortable and confused a representation of my time, my gender, of me? After six long, nudity-packed seasons of wincing and laughing I have found my answer, yes, the young women of Girls do represent who I am as a feminist, as a friend, as a woman, and ultimately as a human being who has a complex range of emotions, experiences, and decisions that cannot and should not be diluted down into a portrayal that makes people comfortable and amused at all times.
My love-hate imaginary relationship with Lena Dunham is something I cannot begin to explain, nor does anyone truly want to read, but I am thankful for Dunham’s contributions to my generation. Dunham forces her audience to moments of discomfort that the media, especially entertainment media rarely forces us to go. These moments of discomfort are founded in the ugly truth we as human beings go great lengths to mask. She makes us stare at her naked, unphotoshopped body and understand she and all of us have a human right to explore and enjoy our sexuality and sexual relationships regardless of our size, shape, or inability to conform to society’s standards of beauty and love. She makes us watch her in the moments that her OCD consumes her life and alters her relationships. In forcing us to watch Hannah and company in all of their discomforting moments, we are forced to be reflective of our own realities.
While this past Sunday may have been the official goodbye to Girls, how Dunham and her show has altered the portrayal of twenty-somethings, women, and millennials in the media and entertainment will long surpass the boundaries of it’s six season run. We can say goodbye to Girls, but we cannot say goodbye or forget the lessons of being brutally honest, to the point of discomfort, with each other and our selves that Dunham has taught us. I may not perfectly fit into the role of Hannah, Jessa, Shoshanna, or Marnie among my friends, but I see these women and their complexities in myself and my friends constantly. Girls provided this generation with a social commentary of our time that reminded its viewers that life is messy and bizarre, and at many points uncomfortable, but over all an experience that we must share with people around us.