Girls have mixed feelings about HBO’s Girls

Season two of HBO’s Girls, begins with the main character, Hannah, breaking up with her casual boyfriend for being too Republican. She also insists that throughout their short-lived relationship, she never thought about how he was African American. These are just a few samples of the controversy that comes with the show.

Though Sex and the City is an inspiration for the show, Girls shows the less glamorous side of New York, taking place in youthful Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Though often called funny, raw and refreshing, others think the controversial show is racist and sexist.

Girls follows four women in their twenties: Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshana, pursuing their dreams in New York City while experiencing many friendships, sexual relationships and money issues along the way. Lena Dunham, who plays Hannah, is also the show’s creator, writer and producer. Many of the characters and situations portrayed in the show are based off Dunham’s experiences, friends and life.

While Dunham wanted to depict the life of a typical girl living in New York, the show has received a lot of criticism. Many critics complained there was not a single person of color in Hannah’s friend group.

Senior Liat Kaplan, who watches the show, agrees with critics.  “There are a few people of color on the show, appearing in unimportant, non-speaking roles, and always playing maids, nannies, or bellhops,” Kaplan said. “The fact that the only people of color on the entire show are playing ‘the help’ is perhaps the most racist part.”

Kaplan said that Hannah’s reason for breaking up with her African American boyfriend in season two was racist and ridiculous. “Hannah accuses him of fetishizing her as a white person. She also claims she ‘doesn’t see color’ and ‘doesn’t see him as black,’ which is one of the most racist things you can say to a person,” Kaplan said. “It erases their history and identity for your convenience.” Kaplan also added that Dunham has used social media including Twitter and blogging to post racist, insensitive comments.

Girls also has had viewers and critics alike viewing sex and relationships in a different light. Multiple characters on the show are seen performing sexual acts. Hannah also is often seen shirtless, with no sense of embarrassment or shame. Though this nudity might send a good message about body image and confidence, others have a hard time understanding the constant nakedness.

Sophomore Eva Perez-Greene, a big fan of Girls, said that the raw depiction of sex and nudity shocked her at first. “The first time I ever watched Girls, I was taken aback by the sex scenes and kind of grossed out, to be honest,” she said.
In many of the racy scenes, the characters show resistance or displeasure with the sex. Adam, Hannah’s boyfriend, often forces her to have sex and humiliates her and becoming rough. Kaplan says that though it is OK to show rape and sexual violence in the media, it is important to not show it as a normal and healthy aspect of a relationship. “When [rape and sexual assault] is treated as a normal part of a relationship, it can lead women who are raped or sexually assaulted to not speak out about it, or not even recognize it as such. Rape needs to be treated as rape, not just unpleasant sex.”
Perez-Greene said that she does “resonate with some aspects of the girls lives, specifically the hook up culture and how convenient yet frustrating and degrading it is,” Perez-Greene said. Though she is not involved in the casual dating scene of many twenty year old women, she understands that many are.

Despite the controversy, Girls has received plenty of praise. The show won two Golden Globes this year and Best Television Show, Comedy or Musical, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Comedy or Musical, for Lena Dunham in her role as Hannah. HBO renewed a third season of Girls in January, and filming began in March.
Both Perez-Greene and Samuelson highly recommend the show to other students. “It is awkward, that is my kind of humor,” Samuelson said. “It is just a really good show.”

Kaplan believes that the characters and portrayal of women in their twenties makes Girls hard to watch.  “There is no one to root for, no one to sympathize with. I understand that post-college twenty somethings don’t necessarily have their lives completely figured out, but surely there must be something more than this,” she said.