Thursday, September 19, 2013

Girls: How I am Hannah Horvath (and How I'm Not)

*With the Emmys airing next Sunday night (9/22), we're going to take a look at a handful of the nominees this week.*

Ever since Girls debuted on HBO in early 2012 (honestly, even before then), the show was a source of controversy. Its creator, Lena Dunham, was young, came from a wealthy family, and mostly filled the cast with her friends, who were all daughters of famous faces. There were charges of nepotism, charges of racism, charges of obscenity. And the show isn't without its problems: yes, this version of New York - a very multicultural city - is very, very white. But some of the complaints about the show are terrible: some argue that Dunham is "too fat" or "too ugly" to be a romantic interest to men on the show, or that her "voice of a generation" idealism is insulting and conceited.

But here's the thing that Girls - and Dunham - do so well: she knows that Hannah Horvath, the main character (played by Dunham), is privileged, conceited, and often terrible. That's part of the joke of the series, and Dunham and her writers have shown a propensity for calling all of the characters on their shit. They read the criticisms, and they respond to them in a realistic way.

Defending Girls, though, isn't the point of this post. As the title says, I see a lot of myself in Hannah. There are, of course, the surface comparisons. We're both twentysomethings and aspiring writers, and belong to a generation that's obsessed with social media. When it comes to writing, we have the same struggle: meeting deadlines, actually starting to write (as an aside: the closest thing I've seen to my writing process is in the 2011 film Young Adult, where Charlize Theron wakes up with the television on, drinks Diet Coke straight from the bottle, opens a new document on her laptop, then immediately begins checking her email). Of course, I'm based in North Carolina, not New York, and I can safely say that my life isn't nearly as social as hers (I can also attest that I have never done cocaine while wearing a mesh tank top).

Where I really see myself in her - and what the show does so well at capturing - is in her personality and experiences. Hannah is self-absorbed and selfish but not so completely that she can't be there when her friends need her. She makes bad choices. She can be really shitty to her friends sometimes. And, oh man, is that me at times. I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm far from a perfect person (I feel I share this trait with Dunham more than Hannah). I've been really shitty to my friends before, and it's always been over something petty or idiotic. I've made more than my fair share of bad choices, and being selfish has landed me in some pretty terrible relationships.

I hate for this to sound like I'm a terrible person; I do try to be the best person I can every day, though of course that takes time. And that's what I think makes Girls so relevant to me: it's a reflection of where I am right now in life, fully aware that I'm young, and that there are plenty of life-shaping experiences ahead of me. Hannah and I will likely keep getting scrapes and bruises from life - many will probably be self-inflicted - but they'll help us grow, if we're willing to look beyond ourselves.

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