[One of the new elements of our revamped, imminently relaunched TV WORTH WATCHING site is the EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC feature, in which solicit informed opinions from those with special expertise regarding specific TV programs -- lawyers reviewing courtroom dramas, etc. We're very excited about this new feature, another way for you to share your perspectives with us. This second entry is written by Alison Mastrangelo, a college journalism student who has written for us already, and is chronologically qualified to react to Girls, HBO's new twentysomething series. She's 21. And here's her perspective... - DB]
By Alison Mastrangelo Everybody's a Critic Guest Columnist
In preparation for my TVWW interview with Jenni Konner, one of the executive producers of the new HBO series Girls, I previewed the first three episodes of the series with my girlfriends -- and then with my mother. We all took turns being entertained, and completely mortified...
While the series does impress me by addressing the realistic struggles that my generation of twentysomethings go through, and introduces several realistic-looking characters, Girls (Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET) is less impressive in the way it depicts those struggles -- including abortion and our sexual lifestyles.
Hannah, the central character, is played by series creator Lena Dunham, who also writes and directs the show. Hannah is struggling financially (the series, which premiered last week, opened with her parents telling her that financing two years of her post-college New York life was more than enough), and also emotionally -- with body issues, boyfriend problems, sex, STDs, unemployment and abortion.
In episode two, televised Sunday, Hannah's long-traveling friend Jessa (Jemima Kirk) returns with news that she's pregnant. Hannah and her other girlfriends all get together at the gynecologist to support Jessa during her abortion. But Jessa never shows up.
Instead, she ends up at a bar, where a random guy asks to borrow her phone. This leads to a hot intense moment, with both of them in the back of the bar. While she's making out with this stranger, she tells him to put his hands down her pants. He does so, and pulls his hands out with blood on them. She stops, and smiles, and continues on, passionately kissing him.
Now, do not think that I'm some naive girl who cannot stand watching passionate sex scenes. I used to watch Spartacus, where sex is in there almost every five minutes.
However, almost in unison, all of my girlfriends and I shuddered and cringed in disgust at that moment, which felt like, "Whoa, that was way too much!" It also was one of the most uncomfortable scenes to watch with my mother.
Don't get me wrong. I was happy, under the circumstances, Jessa had a miscarriage. But honestly: No one I know is going to having a random guy pleasure her and smile when he has blood on his hands. If anything, they would be completely embarrassed and stop making out with him.
If Jessa had been making out with her boyfriend when she discovered blood on his hands, then I could understand the total relief, because of the life-changing implications of the pregnancy. Then the continued kissing would make sense, because both are overjoyed. But this random poor guy has no idea why Jessa continues kissing him excitedly once she sees her blood on his hands.
If that isn't bad enough, my girlfriends and I, and even my mother, winced at how uncomfortable the sex scenes are between Hannah and her boyfriend Adam (played by Adam Driver). Adam has these non-intimate and kinky role-playing and sex fantasies, and my mother felt the sex scenes are graphic and uncomfortable, and there is no redeeming quality in them that made them humorous -- they're just embarrassing and rough to watch.
Personally, I understand that, in the beginning, the sex can be bad in any relationship, especially in inexperienced ones. But come on -- no girl I know would stand for the way Adam treats Hannah. I know my roommates and I would not stand for it.
In the third episode, Hannah's best friend Marnie (Allison Williams) has a heated and intense altercation with an artist, and somehow is so turned on by it that she goes into a room and closes the door to pleasure herself.
Watching Marnie feverishly walk into a private room, my girlfriends and I were astonished. "No way. She is not going to do that!" -- and she does.
I have to say, my roommates and I have seen our fair share of hot guys, and never once have we had to run into a room suddenly to get the lust out of our system. I can understand a guy doing this, but I do not think that our female sexual libido is that crazy, that we have to go take care of it right away. This scene was too dramatic and too graphic, and did not seem to add to the story in any way.
Even though I am appalled by the above scenes, I must say the show gives amazing portrayals of the real struggles that young women go through today. It shows the poor self-image that some of us feel, as well as the jerky boyfriend who never texts you back, and uses you only for sex.
It also depicts brilliantly the struggles that post-college graduate students face, which is a ton of debt. After Hannah's parents cut her off in the premiere, she said, in a funny yet serious way, "So I calculated that I can last in New York for about three-and-a-half to four days. Maybe seven, if I do not eat lunch."
This is the reality that some of us face after we graduate. How can we pay for our smartphone bills, rent, cable, car and health insurance, eat, and put clothes on our back, when it is so hard to find a job in this economy? As a college student, I can only imagine the horror of being completely cut off from my parents.
One thing I can say I absolutely love about this show is how its leading character is not your normal sex symbol or bombshell. Hannah is your average, everyday girl, with love handles, fears, and insecurities. She's just a girl trying to get by, and figuring out who she is, in her pursuit of writing a book of essays -- and finding a job to support herself.
During my interview with Jenni Konner, one of the executive producers of Girls (read the full story HERE), she promised that the sexual dynamic between the characters would change, and be more enjoyable to watch. With that assurance, I'll keep watching for a while, to see if the good sex really does surface, and the struggles start to be more realistic and not so graphic and degrading.
Overall, I suspect it will be hard for Girls to draw and hold a strong viewership from my generation. Yes, it is funny, and completely relatable with the issues we face. But I don't believe my generation is ready for the reality of the harsh real world, and the struggles we face when we are eventually on our own.
Women of my generation think they are going to get the perfect career, an amazing husband, and make a lot of money. A previous HBO series about female friends, Sex and the City (which was mentioned in the first episode), was controversial, and constantly brought up sex. However, it showed the beautiful life that all of us imagine we can achieve or have. Girls, by contrast, is brutally honest, and shows us that the real world is not as glamorous.
I don't think my generation is ready to face that yet. We still enjoy television that allows us to escape reality -- not relive it.
Alison Mastrangelo, 21, is weeks from being a senior at Rowan University in New Jersey, studying both journalism and Health and Exercise Science and Education.