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TV: Who's that girl?

Rebecca Ellis checks out a show that charts the careers, ambitions and sexual woes of four feisty female New Yorkers

Rebecca Ellis

Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:20:08 GMT | Updated 4 years today

In a televisual culture still pre-occupied by the male experience or ultimately telling female stories from the confines of a male writer/director/producer, it is no wonder Lena Dunham (pictured) is fast becoming a poster-girl for all things Feminist. Described as 'a young Woody Allen with ovaries', 26 year old writer/director/star and regular Jill-of-all-trades, Dunham is being hailed as the 'voice of a generation' with new HBO comedy series Girls. Already heralded as 'the ballsiest show on TV', Girls has caused quite the stir Stateside and, having recently landed on British shores, is already attracting praise for its refreshing, honest and daring portrayals of women.


The show charts the careers, ambitions and sexual woes of four feisty female New Yorkers. Sound familiar? Sex and the City certainly seems like an obvious comparable predecessor, but Girls is far removed from the pleasures offered by the male penned SATC, favouring uncomfortable realism over glossy escapism. Responding to these comparisons, Dunham states her intention to offer women 'something less aspirational and more reflective of her reality'. Dealing with themes such as abortion, unemployment, STD's, casual sex and unsatisfying physical and emotional relationships,Girls paints a raw and honest depiction of life as a disenfranchised, depressed twenty-something. Dunham presents a cast of complex female characters, educated and intelligent but, thankfully and refreshingly, far from perfect.


The show's feel good factor comes from the celebration of female friendship and all its complexities, in a media-scape where women are seen to be in a constant battle of one-upmanship and only male camaraderie is celebrated. Frank sexual conversations that would make Samantha balk aid the shows comedy value, but just as high on the topical agenda are debates about pop culture and society.


The shows explicit sex scenes have generated a whirlwind of controversy, not least for their content, but for Dunham's frequent willingness to expose her 'unconventional' naked, tattooed body on film. Critics have praised and applauded Dunham's bravery in the face of a seemingly relentless deluge of female perfection that plagues the media and alienates its viewers.  A self confessed 'everywoman', Dunham aimed to promote a more realistic sexual experience from a female perspective saying 'I really wanted to see scenes where girls weren't wearing negligees and sighing'.


Dunham's semi-autobiographical character and star of the show Hannah epitomises the young women of Generation Y, defined by an enthusiastic narcissism, easy confidence and strong sense of entitlement. Hannah is a victim of the lesser known 'quarter-life crisis', a post-education twenty-something quandary, where youthful fantasies about the real world are exposed as myths, replaced by the realisation that the world is not exactly your oyster. As an unpaid intern and aspiring writer, Hannah proves that girls don't just want to have fun - they have ambition and want successful careers. Dunham's real life achievements certainly reflect this. Producing a series of comedy videos on Youtube and later self-financing her first feature film, Tiny Furniture, Dunham's talent is a creative force to be reckoned with. With the second series of Girls about to air in America and another feature film under her belt, Dunham has recently landed a 3.5 million pound book deal. Contradictory to her on-screen persona, Dunham's DIY success story acts as an inspirational catalyst for the disenchanted generation of young creatives both depicted in Girls and reflected in its audience, sending out the message that you actually CAN do it!


Girls is on SKY Atlantic, Mondays at 10pm

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