The Four Things I Simultaneously Could and Couldn't Relate To About Girls

Like many of my generation, I have deeply conflicted feelings. In general.

by Rachel Krantz

Lena Dunham could have written it: I was at a birthday party thrown by Occupy activists in Brooklyn. They were my age. They served kale and seitan ham. They talked about a friend who'd just gotten arrested. But the friends I showed up with had other things on their mind — namely, the episode they'd just seen of Dunham's new series, Girls. Despite the fact that these friends were all Guys, they assured me I'd find the series relatable. "The way she depicts sex is exactly how I always imagined my other straight friends' sex lives," said one friend. "And that conversation about McDonald's having a bad rap — you totally know that guy, you've heard that conversation."

These friends aren't easily impressed, so the fact that they seemed so excited about this show — well, it impressed me. But back to how Lena Dunham would have written it: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning, and I was in that bad place. You know, the one where you can't sleep, so you start questioning everything in your young life and feel utterly alone? Yeah, that's the one. I figured it was as good a time as any to watch the premiere of Girls. What I felt watching the show was a ball of contradictions... which I've organized in convenient list form below. Here are the top four moments I thought were both completely relatable and completely non-relatable:

1. Relatable moment: Hannah is at dinner with her parents, assuring them her internship might turn into a job, or even a book deal.

My reaction: Hey, that's me! Minus the possibility-of-a-job-or-book-deal part.

Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah expects to get money from her parents to support said possibility.

My reaction: Why does she expect her parents to give her money? Sure, I know lots of people who get help paying for their health insurance or phone bills. But to me, the premise that a college grad would expect to be bankrolled by her parents is not relatable. Don't get me wrong — I think a lot of twentysomethings do feel entitled, whether it be to our dream job, or a subsidized iPhone. But how many of us, at twenty-four, really expect our parents to pay all of our expenses indefinitely? If I'm basing it on my group of friends, no one.

2. Relatable moment: Hannah's friend is bored in her relationship. She tells her, "His touch now feels like a weird uncle, just putting his hand on my knee at Thanksgiving. It makes me feel like such a bitch, because I can feel him being so nice to me, and it makes me so angry."

My reaction: Yeah, that's pretty much something I've said to a friend, verbatim.

Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah sympathizes by saying, "I think you need to admit to yourself that you're sick of eating him out. Because he has a vagina."

My reaction: My friends give better advice than that. (And yes, sometimes they give said advice over cupcakes, but usually not in a bathtub.)

3. Relatable moment: Hannah's seeing a guy who doesn't get her. She kisses him and he goes "You're feeling frisky," to which she replies, "I really despise that word." Then, she keeps kissing him.

My reaction: Been there, rolled my eyes at that.

Simultaneously not-relatable moment: Hannah asks if she's doing okay (i.e., keeping her back flat enough) while the guy fucks her from behind. When she talks too much, he tells her to play the quiet game, and she shuts up.

My reaction: I totally get this scene, and the fact that smart women in New York have sex with assholes like this all the time. I also like that she comes to his house to get fucked literally right after getting fucked figuratively by her internship. I get it, but I don't really relate to it. Maybe it's because Hannah's situation feels so close to my own that I don't believe she'd let a guy talk to her that way. She might have low self-esteem, but I'm not sure that translates into taking it like a mute for-hire dog.

4. Relatable moment: Hannah's friends are smart, interesting, beautiful and having dinner.

My reaction: Look, they too eat at the un-chic hour of 7 p.m.!

Simultaneously not-relatable moment: All the people at the dinner party are straight and white.

My reaction: I know Dunham has already taken a lot of flak for this. My opinion, so far, has been this: Dunham is clearly basing the show off of a version of her life. If that life really is all white and straight, then I'd rather her portray that than have token minority characters she doesn't know how to write for. But I just have a hard time believing that is her world. I'm a white, straight woman her age living in New York. And more than half of my friends are people of color and/or gay. It's not just because I'm a progressive hag. It's because that's who you naturally meet living in this city. It's not necessarily more offensive to leave these characters out than it would be to superficially put them in. But the fact they're not naturally there? Not so believable.

And there you have it. Being in your twenties at the moment is all about contradictions; we're all about feeling simultaneously connected and alone. We seek a sense of belonging from a TV show at 4:30 a.m., and end up feeling both more and less isolated after we watch it. I, for one, will definitely be tuning in to Girls next week; Lena Dunham might not be the voice of a generation, but at least she has a voice I want to talk to.

Want to meet someone to argue about Girls with? Head for Nerve Dating.

Commentarium (37 Comments)

Apr 20 12 - 6:31am

Bravo. I was feeling the same way about all the harsh critiques. It's about a spoiled nerdy awkward white girl who is living in New York with her best friends, who are also kind of awkward. It's better than having to watch Two Broke girls. That's the show people should be outraged about, it's just awful. This might just be the most important "girl show" breakthrough we've had since Sex & the City, people just hoped that it would have been a bigger step in the universal direction. No, it's not representative of EVERY single person out there but her epistemological state is pretty standard for most college grads, the smart ones at least. Aside from her parents supporting her, although I do know people like that, it feels like an honest experience and that's what should matter."Color" or no "color", coming from a woman of "color," I'm just glad it's on TV.

Apr 20 12 - 12:12pm

I have a friend who is a fan of Len Dunham, and I was considering checking this out (because there are only so many times you can rewatch every season of Twin Peaks and Kids in the Hall). After seeing the picture at the top of the page and reading this article, I came to the conclusion that this show probably isn't for me. Your calling it "[t]he most important "girl show" breakthrough we've seen since Sex and the City" totally confirmed this. Thank you (seriously, I hate feeling like television has robbed me of an hour of my life).

Apr 20 12 - 7:48pm

sex and the city was an awful show as well.

Apr 27 12 - 12:45am

2 broke girls is really funny, you would know this is if you bothered to watch more than one episode before criticizing it.

Jul 12 12 - 5:28pm

Sex and the city was good for a couple of seasons, and then it turned into what you can see in the movies. Crap. I wouldn't expect anyone in her 20s to remember SATC as it was when it actually broke some ground.

Jul 18 12 - 12:37am

Because none of us have those magical devices called DVD players....seriously, could you be a little more patronizing and nonsensical?

Apr 20 12 - 10:25am

You may not relate to it, but i felt it was pretty dead on all around.. I've know girls like that, I've dated girls like that, I've met the douchey dudes into shit like 'woodworking' that they're always fucking... it was an honest depiction. Most 20 somethings living in NY are getting financial support from their parents, that's a fact...and as for her shitty advice to her friend, it's totally believeable, coming from a self-centered twerp like her.

Apr 20 12 - 1:55pm

i don't know about most. most of my friends have, you maybe some may be on a family cell phone plan, but rent and all expenses? i don't know any who are getting that kind of support.

Aug 26 12 - 12:41pm

I am.

Apr 20 12 - 12:36pm

Jesus, everyone talking about the whole "where's are the people of color/gays?" in this thing. Christ, it's been one episode. Is it not unnatural to have a few close friends over and have them be straight and white? I would understand if she threw a big bash and everyone at the party was straight white.
Give the show a chance. We've only had 30 minutes so far. I'm sure you'll get your fill of gay and black people. Hell, she may even throw a Hispanic in there!!

Apr 20 12 - 5:31pm

people crowing about how "realistic" this show seems odd to me. The author of the piece basically confirms it: why would I watch a show that's essentially about my life?

Apr 20 12 - 6:31pm

Don't worry, steve. Transformers 4 is coming out summer of 2014!

Apr 20 12 - 7:43pm

Good. We need a good does of ass kickin in the form of transformers to counteract boring overrated shit like this. I totally mean that. Yeah.Exactly. Who wants to watch themsel....oh wait a minute!!! I get it now!!! It's all about narcissism!!! Yeah!!!

Apr 20 12 - 8:49pm

KS: Wow. You managed to be condescending, introduce a strawman, and not address my question all in two sentences. Kudos!

Believe it or not, some people, even smart people, watch TV as an escape. I just can't imagine why I would want to watch a couple of awkward twenty-somethings try to navigate New York with very little money, then go out and be an awkward twenty-something trying to navigate New York with very little money.

And yeah, there is some "highbrow" (I can't believe I even have to use that word, but since you were condescending, I will be too) entertainment that is, SHOCKINGLY, a little unrealistic. Just because I would rather watch Game of Thrones than Girls doesn't make an imbecile.

Apr 20 12 - 9:45pm

Yeah. I agree. We need less of this awkward twenty something shit. We've had more than our fair share for the past 2 decades. Some good,like clerks,some bad,like this,or friends. I really can't stress how much I hate friends. It's long since jumped the shark/reached the tipping point/struck the iceberg/gone into overkill/killed it. Insert your own witty descriptive pun here kids!!!

Here's an idea,instead of just ripping off/copying friends or sex and the city constantly,and I can't believe I'm about to say this cause it's my favorite show on right now and would be pissed if everyone ripped this off constantly,but it beats friends,I wish they'd copy it's always sunny more. I mean,the great thing about that is the characters aren't great people,yet you feel yourself rooting for them nonetheless and they aren't portrayed as them and everything and everyone else around them is like so fabulous!!!!

Yeah,also,let's stop judging things,whether they try to be realistic or not,on how realistic they are. If everything was so realistic it would be boring. Or the only reason people tend to shit on things they don't like based on how real or unrealistic they are,is cause it doesn't match THERE sense of reality.

Apr 22 12 - 2:24pm

I am just throwing this out there: maybe some people like to closely relate to characters, maybe some don't. Maybe even some can appreciate both relating and not relating!

However, last I checked Rachel, Monica, Phoebe and the Sex and the City girls never sought solace by getting debased by a rather simple unattractive man. If you've ever realized that you try to find comfort with men who aren't interested in even trying to appreciate your perspective those scenes were crushing. You know the character felt empty and alone, but would try to pretend there was a connection and go back to sleep with that man again. I would hardly call that content Friends-esque.

Further more, I like Always Sunny, but that is a comedy and Girls is a drama.

Pretty much you kind of seem like you didn't like it and don't get it, so maybe you just shouldn't watch it instead of trying to tell the world that it is 'bad'?

Apr 22 12 - 3:30pm

Girls is supposed to be a comedy, not a drama.

Apr 23 12 - 1:24pm

"I am just throwing this out there: maybe some people like to closely relate to characters, maybe some don't. Maybe even some can appreciate both relating and not relating!"

Well yeah,some characters you can relate too and some you can't. But also,just cause you don't relate to it,doesn't mean you don't get it. You can still get it but not nec relate to it.

"However, last I checked Rachel, Monica, Phoebe and the Sex and the City girls never sought solace by getting debased by a rather simple unattractive man. If you've ever realized that you try to find comfort with men who aren't interested in even trying to appreciate your perspective those scenes were crushing. You know the character felt empty and alone, but would try to pretend there was a connection and go back to sleep with that man again. I would hardly call that content Friends-esque."

Friends still sucks. Well as "finding solace by being debased,really?, by a rather simple unattractive man,says you,well,hey,it's here choice,her problem,not mine. She's the one going out with him,not you,me,or anyone else. His character was actually funny,and not as douchey,or douchey at all,as others have suggested.

Well,maybe this show should have tried to do it like it's always sunny.

"Pretty much you kind of seem like you didn't like it and don't get it, so maybe you just shouldn't watch it instead of trying to tell the world that it is 'bad'?"

I did watch it actually. Oh I get it,someone didn't like your precious,special little show,and now you're butt hurt over it. I get it,and if you don't think I get it,what don't I get it oh enlightened one? I'm probably not going to watch it again. Trying to tell the world that it is bad? Hmm,well,last time I checked,people watch/read/listen to something,or a combination of any one of those,and they talk about what they did or didn't like about it,and why would they say other if they felt one way or the other? Or are you just not in touch with the normal human flow of things?

Apr 20 12 - 7:41pm

Oh wow. Some people out there,of all genders and colors,thought an overhyped show before it even started isn't that good. Not the first time it's happened. And for the sake of being fair and honest,fair and honest,not pc,if this show was the same and called guys or dudes or bros or dicks and was the same thing,but focused more around the male persuasion,yes pc police,I already know there are or already have been plenty of shows out there like that,some varying in quality,and if it was as,mmm,I'll go with vapid/empty/pointless/more of this shit?,off the top of my head,I'd say the same. This has nothing to do with gender. So don't go pulling the old mysogony card on me there sensitards. No. What makes a good show,whether it's more penile or vaginal based/targeted/perspective of,is quality. What is good quality? Well,that's up to you to decide? This show,is merely lacking in such. I did watch the first episode,to me it's just more,"Yeah,I like live in New York,and like I have all these problems,oh cry me a fucking river,but like,I'm so fabulous and like New York and living in it is so fabulous as well!! Yahoo!!!" shit. See,I have nothing against New York,I like New York,I like stories set in New York,but can someone tell me when in the hell almost every movie or tv show set there nowadays is more of the exact same shit over and over? The New York and it's people there are so fabulous just for being thing. See,I like stories set in NYC that make it seem like you'd get killed there!!! I'm talking Death Wish! French Connection! Taxi Driver! Mean Streets! The Warriors! Taking Of Pelham 1,2,3!,Maniac! New York Ripper!!! C.H.U.D! Q The Winged Serpent!! Rosemary's Baby!!! FUCK YEAH!!!! The First Ninja Turtles movie! Ghostbusters!!! Yeah!!! What ever happened to those!!! Where did those movies go?!?!?! I blame friends. Friends,it's an awful show,was the start of all this.

Apr 21 12 - 7:42pm
el profe

I watched the pilot because of the hype. I was underwhelmed. I'm pretty sure this show (and maybe the rest of Dunham's work) is destined to appeal to a very specific sub-group of people: English majors living in Brooklyn, perhaps who have rich parents to support them. Also, critics who wish they were English majors living in Brooklyn. In all, I think the characters are reflective of an entitled group of people. Which makes the show intolerable.

Apr 26 12 - 11:37pm

I'm an english major living in brooklyn, and i thought this show was fucking terrible

Apr 21 12 - 11:06pm

What's with people bashing this show for being "too white" or being catered to a very narrow audience?

Have we gotten to the point where because of Google and massive "targeted" campaigns have made us completely solipsistic even for entertainment?

You don't have to "relate" to something, whether it be art, music, a movie, a novel etc to enjoy it... For a bunch of left leaning liberals (I am guessing this is the main audience on here) you are all pretty narrowminded.

Apr 22 12 - 11:36am

You are really missing the point of the "too white" criticism, even though the author explained it in a very thoughtful way.

Living in New York, unless you are making a VERY conscious effort, your life will not be filled exclusively with wealthy, straight white people. As others have said, this show appears to be making a tremendous effort to capture something "real," perhaps to its own detriment (not landing a huge amount of jokes per minute, coming off as dull to a lot of viewers). The fact that everyone in it is wealthy, straight and white is, quite simply, not real. And, what I think Rachel Kranz was saying, and what I agree with completely, is that when something seems to be attempting to capture an experience that you can relate to, but does it in such a way that you can't honestly relate to it, it is dissatisfying. Or in other words, it does not cater to that "very narrow audience" because of all the reasons Rachel Kranz articulated.

Apr 22 12 - 2:48pm

But there are white, wealthy, straight people in NY who do live like this, so it is real.

I know it hurts many a liberal's bleeding heart, but not everyone is working class and not everyone wants to feel "authentic" or "grittier" by living and working with various ethnicities...
and as others have said, the show has a way to go, how do you know someone will not "hook up" with some puerto rican guy or some such thing, will that make you happy, some superfluous encounters with people of color?

It's a shame really. This is why art is a joke today. It must make all people happy all the time on some aesthetic and politcal level.

Again, you don't have to "relate" with something for it to be meaningful and worthwhile.

Apr 22 12 - 3:41pm

No, that wasn't my point at all. Even as a white, wealthy, straight person, you interact with people who are not those things. It has nothing to do with grit. There are just other people around. Wherever you go -- mid-town, tribeca, soho -- there will be non-white, LGBT people.

I don't demand that art be relatable to me. Someone above mentioned Always Sunny, which is a fucking tremendous show, that has an entirely straight, white cast. Do you know why that doesn't bother me at all (it's not like there aren't black people in Philadelphia)? Because it's not claiming or attempting to capture an authentic experience. This show is. Or wait, I can go further -- Mad Men doesn't bother me, because the fact that there are so few people of color in the show is a considered choice made for the purposes of accuracy. But the decision of Girls to exclude LGBT people and people of color in its central cast is contrary to the purpose of accuracy.

And if you think art is a joke today… well, maybe that’s more on account of people like you, who are willing to take what they are given and are uninterested in criticism or the attempt to improve. If you expect little, why would anyone give you more?

Apr 22 12 - 12:11pm

I want to see a show about a funny girl and her funny gay friends living in nyc. Should I write it? Who's with me??

Apr 24 12 - 12:51pm

You all are a bunch of asshats. Sex and the city was good, friends was awesome, and girls is fantastic. BECAUSE THEY ARE FUNNY AND RELATABLE (well.. S&C not so much relatable, but still good)

Apr 24 12 - 1:53pm

If this is realistic, then I am really, really worried about the future.

Apr 24 12 - 11:26pm

This doesn't sound relatable at all. I guess I have to move to New York.

Apr 25 12 - 11:17am
mr. man

manhattan is kinda fucked now. you used to be able to live on the island with a 'middle class income' (even though rents were high) but now all the artists have been squeezed off to brooklyn and elsewhere. guess what, rich people, when you squeeze the artists off the vitality of neighborhoods dies b/c then it's just rich assholes living there. mr. man declares manhattan culturally dead or dying.

Apr 29 12 - 10:11pm

Wouldn't hurt if ANY of the women on this show were actually HOT.

May 18 12 - 5:52pm

"How to make it in America" was based in New York with a bunch of colorful characters, but didn't get canceled? Is it closer to how New York really is compared to "Girls"?

Jul 12 12 - 3:46pm

In some ways, I agree with you completely. In all of the moments you described, there is a certain amount of an inability to relate on the viewer's part. However, it's a television show for a reason. The point of films and television is to exaggerate or heighten situations in order for the audience to truly understand them or see themselves. If Hannah wasn't eating a cupcake or in the bathtub while talking to Marnie, the episode would not be as comical and the viewer wouldn't be able to think, "Why is she eating a cupcake in the morning?" or "Why are the girls in the bathtub together?". What I'm getting at is it's off-beat for a reason.

Jul 12 12 - 5:08pm

This was terrible. For starters, why does "good" suddenly equal "relatable" when it comes to TV shows? Are people/you unable to feel for/perceive/get people having experiences that are different from your own? You really didn't do much to review it as much as you picked staple moments of the episode and explained how they do or don't apply to your life, which is of absolutely no consequence to anyone. Waste of time and (internet) space.

Jul 12 12 - 5:28pm

I have a question. Why do girls have sex with assholes? Is it because so many guys are assholes that you've got to lower your standards or the female to non-asshole-male ratio would make it so that you'd either have to share or never get laid? Or is it that libido will eventually overcome rationality, or is it a self-esteem thing? Or more likely a combination of all those things.

Jul 15 12 - 6:12pm

As for the last relatable/non-relatable moment from the show, I think the author is forgetting that Dunham's character met all of her current friends (except perhaps Shoshanna) while at Oberlin OH, not in NYC.