Also an introduction to the characters, since my incoherent summary afforded none, before I clarify my critical thesis and make poor, word-shaped internet faces at criticism that I feel fails to strike the right blow.
Hannah Horvath, played by Lena Dunham, graduated two years ago with a BA in English. While living on funds supplied by her parents, she interned with a tiny, eminently hip publisher, waiting to be recognized and promoted to a paid position. When her parents sever their financial ties with her, Hannah tries to suggest (the feeble language is appropriate) she get paid for her work, and she is as passively dismissed. She has a metabolism for shabby males that makes me physically sick. Her growth is something I can't wait to observe. My mammoth disappointment with Tiny Furniture is that Dunham's character in that, Aura, took no refuge in her art - her art seemed to have no meaning for her. I want to see Hannah really kicked to the curb, taking solace in art, producing something that has meaning for her that - again, to her - justifies her struggles. I would be disappointed if the show climaxed with her in her dream job. That would be like her getting married. Like getting married, there's nothing wrong with attaining one's dream job. But to have Hannah get a job at major house or get a book deal would be a red herring, a finger-wag to the audience: if you were an ambitious lovely clever white girl in New York City, you too could be successful! But art making you a happy person in spite of everything: everyone can have that.
* On the subject of privilege: I'm not interested in defending or justifying anything - I am interested in hearing other arguments about this show. This is the least interesting thing to discuss, for me, because my interest is in the craft of the narrative and the way the characters are formed through dialogue and action. IF the story was new to me, however, then the story would be freshly engaging, which this one is not. And on top of it all: New York. I am far far far from disliking New York - I enjoy extreme proximity to it, I go there every year, I spend approximately six months every year getting over having to leave the museums. But from this and work like it, you'd think that's all there is: New York City, and everywhere else nobody does anything. And I personally, in my young and ruthless way, have no sympathy for anyone who pays four figures in rent. This is the kind of thing that would prompt me to compare my lifestyle choices with a fictional character's.
The issue with the lack of diversity - the tremendous reaction to a half-hour pilot! - let me get my thoughts in order. In one such reaction - "Not One of Lena Dunham's Girls" - the reviewer stated that she felt the marketing of Girls had her under the impression that this show spoke to the contemporary twentysomething post-undergrad professional experience, and -with that expectation in mind - the lack of characters of color made her furious. My first feeling manifested as a long groan. This is a novel exercise for me, watching this show, because if I'm going to seek out something that speaks to my experience, I don't trust the marketing of a major TV network, and this reviewer shouldn't either. Don't get exasperated with a system that has shut you out: reject it. Move against it. Exclude it. Justification or defense would be ridiculous in terms of a half hour of a project that will be much longer, helmed by a person very capable of justifying or defending her own decisions. But being angry that a big company bankrolled something that doesn't challenge established notions of who stars on TV shows is a fruitless endeavor. HBO isn't going to be the trailblazer.
I am not interested in Girls because it speaks to my experience (which is ineffectual) - I'm interested in what Lena Dunham does. I find the "nepotism" accusation to be in poor taste and a waste of an accusation. Families where members move within a particular industry are legion. You have to want to be doing what you're doing, even if you are at an advantage. As long as they're serving their purpose, I don't care who they are, especially if they're actors. I am thoroughly Hitchcock in my feelings about actors. But Lena Dunham got right up after school and made a sophisticated film and now she has a TV show. Maybe all of that was orchestrated by a shadowy other. I want to believe that it's all her and her drive, and that is someone to whom (unappraised) attention should be paid. She can get things done. I want to see what she does with that power. I want to see other girls with that power.