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28th Apr 2022

A look back at Girls 10 years on – and why it would never be made today

Let’s just say it had its fair share of backlash.

April marks ten years since Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow’s Girls first graced our screens.

The hit series about four twenty-somethings navigating life, careers, romance and friendship in New York City was in many ways kind of like a Sex in the City for millennials, and the show’s cultural impact can’t be downplayed.

As a struggling twenty-something, it had me hooked, and I’ve since watched the series in its totality at least three-four times. I related to a lot in Girls, even if it did have one of the most unlikable main characters of all time.

And while it was only 10 years ago, it was still pretty out-there for the time. It featured an all-female lead with relatable personality flaws, documented the realities of female friendship, and didn’t shy away from themes like body image, feminism, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, and of course, sex. A lot of sex.

It also discovered Adam Driver – so if nothing else, it at least gave us this masterpiece of an actor, right?

However, it sure as hell wasn’t without its controversies. Let’s take a look at why the show would never be made today.

Lack of diversity 

When Girls aired, many people were outraged at the lack of diversity. Every main character in the show was white and so was most of the supporting cast, for that matter. BIPOC characters rarely made significant appearances – the only real exceptions over the course of six seasons being Donald Glover, Lisa Bonet, and Riz Ahmed. But even the stories relating to these characters were short-lived.

During the final season of the show, Lena did acknowledge this issue, saying the criticism was “totally valid” and that she had been ignorant to women of colour’s stories and struggles.

“It’s not one size fits all, and there are issues that women of colour deal with that white women have no idea,” she said. “White feminists do not have a great history of carrying their black sisters along with them.”

She added that her knowledge on the danger of “white feminism” had greatly improved since she first started writing Girls.

Every main character was SO privileged and lacked social awareness

There are a lot of TV shows that leave us questioning how characters manage to pay their rent in glamorous NYC apartments (looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw). But this was never a question for the characters in Girls, because how they managed to afford their lifestyle was answered in the first 10 minutes: mum and dad.

Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) was fully supported by her parents not only throughout college – but for two full years afterwards. And it seemed like this was treated as the norm, just the way things are, it was never really addressed as a privileged position to be in.

The Girls may have seen themselves as young liberal women out to change society but really they were entitled, and used their privilege for personal gain. As the series developed, their sense of entitlement kind of became over-the-top and comical.

At times, it came across as if the show was parodying people who are really like this. It’s possible this could have been Lena listening to critics, and becoming a little more self-aware in her own life.

Romanticising toxic relationships

The relationship between Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) and Hannah was an absolute disaster. Hannah was selfish, a little too much, and had an overall annoying personality, but wow was Adam super problematic.

He was aggressive, he often shouted and lashed out, he punched things, he was the king of gaslighting, he urinated on Hannah in the shower without her consent, and he also had clearly non-consensual sex with Natalia, a woman he briefly dated in series two (a scene that in hindsight, was pretty hard to watch).  And who could forget the time he literally stalked Hannah, leading to her calling the police to remove him from her apartment building?

But somehow, the show had us all rooting for him by the end. It’s like he managed to gaslight an entire audience of millions. Sure, he had some character development in later seasons, but it’s still hard to forget that early stuff.

Lena Dunham

And finally, another thing that makes Girls a little problematic is Lena Dunham herself. Hannah Horvath is a fictional character, but honestly it can be difficult to differentiate the actress from her on-screen counterpart.

Lena has come out with quiet a few controversial statements over the years –  once saying she wished she’d got to have an abortion just for the experience – which really isn’t too far from something Hannah would say.