HBO’s ‘Girls’ portrays young adulthood realistically

Zara DeGroot

Season five of Lena Dunham’s highly criticized, zeitgeist show “Girls” premiered yesterday, coming as winter’s saving grace to its loyal viewers and fresh content to type about to its equally loyal, yet harsh, critics. 
Ever since its first season, “Girls” has been hit with wave after wave of brassy criticism. People complain that the nudity and sex scenes are too vulgar, Lena Dunham isn’t pretty or skinny enough, the characters aren’t relatable and Adam Driver isn’t cute. 
(Photo courtesy HBO)
(Photo courtesy HBO.)
The funny thing is, I find all of these criticisms to be the reason why I keep watching — especially Adam Driver.
I came of age when Disney Channel was in its heyday. No one wanted to watch anything other than Miley Cyrus live her double life as Hannah Montana, Selena Gomez cast spells as wizard Alex Russo or Vanessa Hudgens as sweet and nerdy Gabriella in the “High School Musical” trilogy. These young women were fun, young and exciting. They represented the type of teen girl I dreamed of being: petite, charming and multitalented (with the help of Disney, of course), and I felt inspired to become my best self.
But as I made my way through high school, these modern Disney princesses lost their whimsy. I stopped relating to them, because, well, they didn’t know what it was like to be me — painfully awkward and disgustingly desperate to fit in. I would never find my Troy, and I had to accept that cold, hard fact. 
That’s why discovering Lena Dunham and her show “Girls” in college felt like a breath of fresh air. Here was a woman and a show that felt more real and relatable than any of those Disney mutants ever did. And there was no auto-tuned “singing” involved. 
“Girls” discusses topics that aren’t usually at the forefront of typical comedies and features individuals who seem too “quirky” for the norm. Lena’s character Hannah Horvath is the star of the show. Self-involved and verging on disillusioned, she navigates her early, post-college 20s lacking the grace and charm that is often portrayed in young female characters. She is witty and facetious, and, at most times, a bad friend.
Marnie, played by Allison Williams, is an uptight, high-maintenance brat. Though she matches Hollywood’s standard of beauty, her looks rarely serve her well as much as we’d think as she steers various relationships, missed job opportunities and a budding music career with a sense of self-oblivion.
Shoshanna, Zosia Mamet, is the benign one out of the group. Her innocent nature collects pity as she helms her friendships and love life. She’s oftentimes spoken over and not considered by the others, being dubbed too innocuous or mentally unaware. She, too, is uptight, but almost in a defensive way, as if she is protecting herself from all the experiences she has yet to face. The fun thing about Shoshanna is that we get to see her encounter many firsts — relationships, sex, drugs, jobs. 
Jessa, Jemina Kirke, is flaky, callous and seemingly unamused. Her hard-edged nature makes her relatable and unrelatable all at the same time, and you wonder why she hangs around the other girls. Her internalized troubles lead her all over the place.
Adam, played by Adam Driver, is Hannah’s boyfriend. Their relationship starts out as bizarre and unhealthy, but it grows on you. There is no fiery romance between the two that make you think love is real. They are two flawed individuals who try to make it work, but sometimes can’t. That’s pretty authentic, and I now strive for a relationship as dysfunctional and sweet as theirs.
Watching these characters interact and take on the world does not make you feel particularly inspired or make you want buy a one-way ticket to Brooklyn. The thing about this show and these characters is that you feel like a hypocrite critiquing their flaws too much because you see so many of their shortcomings in your own life — Hannah’s self-involvement, Marnie’s high-strung manner, Shoshanna’s experiential insecurity and Jessa’s isolating independence. 
But that’s what is so monumental about it. There is no rose gold veil making early-20s life look over-glamorized, or idealized characters getting everything they want. It’s raw, real and a depiction of Dunham’s similar experiences. And isn’t that the point of creating in the first place? To make a piece of art that carries your truth in it? 
Hate on the show all you want. But by discrediting an individual’s work for rudimentary reasons, you are missing the point. For all we know, Lena Dunham could be playing a social experiment on us. 
Collegian A&E Reporter Zara DeGroot can be reached at or on Twitter @zar_degroot.