If you’ve been anywhere online over the past few weeks, chances are you’ve copped a pant-load of opinion pieces positing, “why is everyone suddenly watching Girls again?” Indeed, given the sheer volume of Girls-centric Tweets and TikToks, it would appear that people are discovering — or rediscovering — the Lena Dunham-created series that was first released in 2012. And the pundits are curious to put their finger on exactly… why?
Turns out, ‘Girls’ is a completely different show than you remember. https://t.co/tabidX0r8y
— Glamour (@glamourmag) March 16, 2023
For me personally, this latest chapter in Girls’ discourse comes after what can only be considered a tumultuous journey. As a fan of the show, quite frankly I’ve got a bit of whiplash. 11 years ago, Dunham was applauded for her frank, humorous, and irreverent portrayal of 20-somethings living in New York City fresh out of university. It was seen as a somewhat revolutionary insight into the lives and minds of millennials (mythical creatures at the height of the mid-2000s). And thus a hit series was born.
As Girls drew to a close after 6 seasons, the lives of Hannah Horvath, Marnie Michaels, Jessa Johansson, and Shoshanna Shapiro were left in 2017. Or so I thought. In the subsequent years that followed, public opinion on Dunham waned and therefore her attachment to Girls meant people started to pick apart its flaws. As we know, creative content is subjective but it seemed as though everything that once sparkled about Girls, was now found to be actually just a grubby little piece of glass rather than a diamond. Discourse took a sharp right turn and the internet agreed; ‘actually, we hate Girls now sorry lol.’
Among the public cries of disdain for this show were former fans (and people who were never fans to begin with) who felt like there was a lack of representation — not untrue. The characters were unlikable, annoying, and privileged — as if they were meant to be glowing figures of society in the first place. Probably the most dumbfounding hot take came from none other than James Franco, who put pen to paper in an opinion piece nobody asked for titled ‘A Dude’s Take on ‘Girls’. Apparently, he needed to tell us that the men (!!!) of GIRLS were seriously misrepresented. Please, won’t somebody make it make sense?
Here I was feeling my first cranks of whiplash. Was the show that I had come to love really that bad and deserving of all this hate? Yes, the characters were flawed but isn’t that why we watch shows? I don’t remember the likes of Entourage garnering this much hostility and you could argue that peddling problematic bro-culture was more damaging than four white, wayward females trying to get their start in life. Were the characters in Girls incredibly privileged? Absolutely. But so too were the women of Sex and the City who became beloved mainstays on our television screens despite their ridiculously unrealistic display of wealth — I’m specifically looking at you Carrie, a writer with high-end fashion out the wazoo!!
This is not to say that Dunham didn’t unduly cop some flack. I’m the first to admit that her choice of words in some interviews appropriately received heat. There was that Vanity Fair piece that asked if she would “recover from her high-profile mistakes”; the article from The Cut which branded her as a “veteran apologizer” and this scathing listicle from Insider which detailed all of her moments of “problematic racism”. For a period of time, the once heralded It-girl of Hollywood had essentially been cast aside and her show Girls tossed in the bin along with her. Regardless of what you think of her, the takedown felt…brutal. It brought up that age-old question: can you separate the art from the artist? In this case, there was a firm ‘no’ being yelled from the bleachers.
Cut to 2023 and Gen Z has discovered Girls for the first time and they cannot get enough. While I feel entirely too young and stunning for a show that I stanned to be considered a ‘classic’, here we are. I for one welcome this renaissance because it means I can feel ok about ever liking this show to begin with. I weirdly feel validated that a series that once meant so much to me does have an important place in the zeitgeist.
— Ally Hill (@allysaurus1224) March 17, 2023
Based on Tiktok Twitter and IRL talks with the YOUTH, people have been rewatching Girls & recognizing how great it is, this makes me happy
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) March 14, 2023
Feel like Girls was a show a lot of people felt a little too seen by and then felt they had to decry because of that (which is to say this is good lol) https://t.co/7nIOg7uO17
— Rachel Connolly (@RachelConnoll14) March 17, 2023
rewatching girls just to feel something again
— wilson (@wilsonwillywong) March 19, 2023
When I first watched Girls I was on a gap year in London trying to find myself, trying to discover who I was and trying to figure out what my place in the world was going to be. Yes, I know, it’s a very well-worn trope but one that I was living out nonetheless. As insufferable as Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna were at times, their lives resonated with me because, as a fledgling millennial, I was also a bit insufferable! Not to labour the point, but… wasn’t that the point of Girls? The now infamous line delivered by Hannah, “I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation,” was meant to be a searingly obvious representation of youngsters embarking on adulthood. The show invited you to take an intimate, specific look at a subsection of millennial life. I don’t think the intention was to hate these characters with passion because — don’t worry! — millennials have mustered up enough self-loathing to last a lifetime, thank you very much.
I’m not ashamed to say that Girls meant something to me. When Hannah Tweeted “All Adventurous Women Do,” I shared it on my Tumblr. Is that a little bit cringe? Sure as hell is! But the sentiment remains. So, Girls might go out of fashion again like things often do, but next time it falls in popularity I’ll do my best not to take it so personally. Not all shows are created equal and not all shows need to mean something to everyone. But this meant something to me. Now, I’m off to rewatch Girls — not because everyone else is, but because I’d like to.