Why I’m In To Girls

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of HBO’s Girls. It’s a show I’ve repeatedly described as “having terrible, horrible characters and yet I’m still compelled to watch”. Having completed the third season, I’ve still relished each episode and am suffering from the post-finale melancholy that accompanies any good television show once it reaches its terminus.


I also think I’ve realised what makes me continue to watch despite the constant cringing at the characters. They are deeply flawed women, admittedly to the point of exaggeration – for dramatic effect, for our entertainment.
We see imperfect male characters all the time and it’s okay to laud them, consider them a fantastical role model of sorts. Walter White is a ‘badass’ or some wish they could be Don Draper. We know they are messed up yet they are championed as male antiheroes and that is fine. It’s fun. However, once the shoe is on the other foot and we get a strong female character with all their shortcomings then they are often hated, with bile filling comment sections and Twitter, insults thrown at the character and actress who plays her. An example being Walt’s wife, Skyler. She initially annoyed me but, as the seasons came and went, I changed my mind. That poor woman went to hell and back yet stayed strong to protect herself and her family.


There are plenty of female characters on television but so many are written in a one-dimensional manner. Sometimes it feels as if they are more like a prop to interact with the main characters or simply some ‘totty’ to lure in viewers. Perhaps I’m too fussy with my television watching and I’m certainly no ‘feminazi’ but I have felt alienated by some shows from the get-go such as S.H.I.E.L.D and Helix. Occasionally this is due to dubious writing, sometimes down to the constant casting of enticing-looking ladies. For the record, I’m not anti having talented, attractive people on our screens, but I happen to find a severe lack of older or less attractive women quite jarring and it can detract from the show. I don’t want to spend my time eye-rolling or ranting at the TV set (no matter how entertaining my boyfriend may find my exasperation) so I switch off and won’t persevere.


I do not consider it compulsory to have a strong, ‘real’, developed female character on *every* single programme if it’s not part of the story and I have enjoyed the likes of True Detective which was very male-centric. It’s not a show that easily invites criticism but in Breaking Bad I recall finding Lydia irksome and now understand why. Here was an opportunity for a female antihero. She could have been shrewd, cunning, a smooth talker used to dealing with danger and criminals. As time progressed we could have slowly seen her unravel as fear crept in but instead we had a whimpering, doe-eyed coward from the start. I am increasingly finding more well rounded development of female characters on television but I’m unsure if this is thanks to improved writing and casting or purely that I’m more fastidious with what I choose to watch.


Similarly to Skyler White, my feelings changed as Girls progressed. Are they strong, perfect, independent ladies? No, but I see some of my own flaws up there on the screen so I can relate in small ways. I can empathise when Hannah says something stupid that she hasn’t thought through first. I can understand what it’s like when Jessa’s peers succeed while she’s still floundering and unsure what she wants from life or how to get there.

I also see elements of strength in their defects that I wish I had. A lot has been written online already about how much Lena Dunham shows her body but Hannah is there, rarely caring about her wobbly bits, in a way I wish I could. There is a lack of variety when it comes to naked ladies on television. Unfortunately, we’re not all slim and curvy-in-the-right-places so it’s refreshing, and sadly shocking at first, to see a character that isn’t conventional when it comes to adult scenes on TV.


Sometimes I wish I had Jessa’s ‘doesn’t give a shit’ attitude or Shoshanna’s dedication to hard work. Sure, these aspects of their personalities are amplified and are intended to irritate or amuse us but that’s what makes them fascinating to me.


I wouldn’t want to be any of these girls in real life and I wouldn’t want them to be my group of friends but I can appreciate them as bold, imperfect, fictitious female characters. As Girls ends, Game of Thrones will soon be returning, as will Orange Is The New Black and American Horror Story in the future, and I can continue to indulge in a glut of interesting, three-dimensional and flawed women.

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