By Lydia Geisel
(Still from Season 1, Episode 4)
As I patiently await the arrival of the final season of Girls (premiering February 12), I can’t help but reminisce over favorite past episodes. After viewing Gold Diggers of 1933 this week, it only seems fitting to continue a conversation about the female-centric narrative.
Girls follows the friendships of four 20-something women living in Manhattan who can never quite seem to figure out what they want. Led by Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham), an aspiring writer suffering from a touch of OCD and a whole lot of bad choices, the show follows her provocative, endearing, and explosive relationships—both romantic and other. All in all, the series highlights the ups and downs of young women on their pursuit of happiness. From getting fired to getting married to getting a bad haircut, there’s something to be learned from every neurotic and surprisingly relatable character on the show.
(Still from Season 2, Episode 10 – Hannah)
Over the decades we’ve seen shows get women’s friendships so right and, so wrong (Desperate Housewives?). But, as with any critical analysis, I think it’s important to keep in mind that any and every media is of course a response to (and product of) its specific historical moment. Having read Laura Mulvey’s influential essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1973) before in the context of art history, I find it crucial to consider how the theory of the male gaze has been explored in recent years. New shows, like Insecure, which places focus on the relationships specifically between black female characters, or like Orange is the New Black, seem to almost be a direct critique of traditional female roles, the male viewer as active participant, and anti-feminist narratives in Hollywood.
(Still from Season 5, Episode 6 – Marnie)
Even a show that I love so dearly and have watched enthusiastically for years, Sex and the City, is unfortunately a prime example of a series that came short of pushing boundaries by prioritizing conversations that primarily revolve around men and the art of attraction. Girls, on the other hand, reveals a story that is seemingly closer to the truth. The characters are vulnerable, confused, regretful, flawed, and at times, repulsive, as Allison Williams who plays Hannah’s best friend, Marnie, in the hit show told ELLE UK. They’re easy to love and easy to hate all at the same time. But, most importantly, their appearance and romantic relationships don’t define them.