I spent a lot of time being embarrassed about quite how much I loved Gossip Girl. In my mind, the series was a perfectly legitimate blend of society drama, dark humour and incredibly attractive and well-dressed people, but to those unfamiliar with the Manhattan melodrama, it was, put simply, a show for girls. And I’m a guy.
I face the same sort of naïve prejudice with Girls, a show that has almost as much gender bias in the title. It, as you all ought to know, is the story of four twenty-something-year-old ‘girls’ who have liberal arts degrees and few employment prospects. I might piss standing up, but that’s something I can relate to. Indeed, the whole series focuses much less on gender neuroses than people seem to think, with the primary themes being things like love, friendship and maturity, rather than vaginas, menstruation and cystitis, as its detractors would have you believe.
Admittedly, I spend less time in the bath with my friends (and, generally, less time unnecessarily naked) but it’s a practical human resonance that makes Girls so accessible. Even though I spent years trying to shoehorn my life problems into the Chuck Bass/Blair Waldorf school of dysfunction, when push came to shove, I’m just not as sexy, rich or evil as the cast of Gossip Girl.
I can, however, relate myself to how uncharmingly charming Girls is. The very basis of the show works under the assumption that the viewer will read their own insecurities in these characters, hence the reason that the central quartet are so flawed, and the scenarios depicted in the show inevitably end in grim sex or burst ear drums. As the show’s clichéd tagline says, they’re ‘living the dream, one mistake at a time’, but it’s the mistakes, rather than the dream, that make Girls what it is.
To that extent, the second series has been an absolute joy. Whilst series one might, optimistically, have been described as ‘bittersweet’, series two and can only be referred to as ‘relentlessly horrible’. Hannah, the character that I find easiest to relate to, has signed a triumphant eBook deal, but also descended into a cesspit of anxiety for which the word ‘griminal’ was coined. Marnie, the Serena van der Woodsen of the show, has become a depressing reminder of the fact that, even if I do well in my degree, my life will turn out shit. Shoshanna continues to bounce from one inconsequential scene stealing appearance to another, this season dragging Ray along with her in television’s most implausible relationship. And Jessa continues to be just as irritating as ever, her marriage to Roy from The IT Crowd lasting about as long as an over-enthusiastic 19-year-old in a thigh crease (see Episode 7 for further details).
But the general darkness of the series is underscored, as always, by being funny, fresh and honest (not to mention the great music, seriously, there’s some Cher Lloyd in this season). Lena Dunham’s wit is moving further away from its earlier role as a Woody Allen imitation, and is finding something closer to its own voice. Yes, this means that there are more sequences on the toilet, arse splinters and a bizarre masturbatory detour featuring Patrick Wilson, but it’s also reassuring to know that the show is finding its own feet. Girls has always been heralded for its originality, but only now, amidst the gloom, is Dunham starting to feel totally free of the shadow of her idols.
Of course, it’ll be another year before we get to see season three of the show, but if you haven’t yet watched the first season (in which case, why on earth have you read this far?) then you should immediately find a way to rectify this pop cultural failing. Do you want to be part of the zeitgeist? Or are you still planning your own Harlem Shake?
Ignore the femininity of the title; this is as gender neutral as The Great British Bake-Off and, despite my superfluous penis, is a show that tells me more about myself than Match of the Day ever will.