I wasn’t a fan of the HBO series, Girls, at the start of the show. To say I was slow to appreciate it is an understatement. My initial hesitation rooted in the lead character, Hannah’s, self-centered approach to life. She acted as if the world, and New York City in particular, owed her something. I couldn’t stand her or her attitude.
I can’t quite say what it was that kept me watching the show. My usual excuse falls to being a story addict and having to know how the story ends. But I’ve given up on stories that didn’t annoy me to the lengths that Girls did without a second thought.
Girls is a true zeitgeist; a mirror reflecting a very specific cultural moment in time. At first I felt apart from that moment. Somehow this was a story for women younger than me, with more social currency, and a relevance that exited my life more than a decade ago. I stayed with the series feeling a need to understand that movement, to perhaps recognize the experiences of some of the young women in my classes.
The truth is I’ve never come across anyone quite like Hannah or many of her neurotic friends in my life and I’m totally okay with that. I found an appreciation for their stories though and that surprised me.
That appreciation only really surfaced in the final season. It was as if the cloud of the end of the series was hanging over the final season. It had a weight and a seriousness the previous seasons lacked. It’s not simply Hannah’s pregnancy plot that weighed down the story but the depth of feeling in the other stories too. Seeing these women survive such a tumultuous era in their lives was a relief. I began to wonder if this is the truth that the series was driving towards throughout its tenure. As Hannah says to Jessa in the penultimate episode of the series, “We were all just doing our best,” which she qualifies with, “Worst best.”
Part of me wishes that the series ended on that episode. It was filled with hope and promise. The potential future for Hannah and her baby at that point had none of the gritty reality that the actual finale brought. More than once in those last 30 minutes I cringed at my own memories of my child’s first weeks in this world and my own feelings of incompetence as a mother.
But, somehow, that made it just that much more fitting. Girls did manage to break through the facade of tv storytelling and reach beyond the veneer we are ever so accustomed to. It wasn’t flawless; it still lacks social and racial diversity, and relies far too heavily on narrative stories based on white women’s experiences. As a story, for the moment, it holds its weight in much the same way Hannah finally holds her baby at the end: close and tight.
Did you watch Girls? What were your thoughts about the conclusion of the series? Have you ever watched a show just because of its cultural relevance?