Murky 'Girls' no rival to Sex and the City

LAST night saw the return of HBO show Girls to Sky Atlantic. Lena Dunham’s uncompromising series is now entering its third season and has already won two Golden Globes.

It follows a group of close twenty-somethings living in New York City, and some people hoped it would fill the gap for Sex and the City fans still pining for TV glamour. There are certainly shades of SATC in here: the main character is a writer; she has three close girlfriends; they live in New York; they all have a varied sex life. They even mention SATC in the very first episode, but that’s where the connections end.

Girls is the coarse younger sister to the addictive and sassy SATC. In SATC we were served a tantalising cocktail of sharp plotlines against a stylish backdrop, involving men in even sharper suits, or cooly casual.

The sex scenes were fun, the women were beautiful and the men were charming. Sex was the cheeky fifth character in the show.

Girls couldn’t be more different. Loosely-based on the sexual experiences of the creator and star, 27-year-old Lena Dunham, there is nothing stylish here. While trying to be realistic with her character Hannah, Dunham has created cringeworthy scenarios with a car-crash magnetism, rather than anything voyeuristic.

The Americans have always been good at creating sitcoms where the surroundings and people are beautiful. In the 1980s we saw empowered women like Alexis Colby and Sue-Ellen Ewing living a life of fur coats, convertibles and vodkas on the rocks. At home in Ireland we were ‘tightening our belts’ for Charlie, and we welcomed the chance to forget the greyness.

We’re 30 years on, and down on our luck again, but don’t look to ‘Girls’ for any escapism; there is nothing pretty about the show. This in-your-face grittiness sees Dunham trying to emulate the self-conscious and awkward sex that everyone has encountered. But let’s face it, who wants to be reminded of it?

The women have degrading sex with reprehensible men (think Hannah’s awful intimate scenes with that creep Adam). There is no Mr Big for us to crave here, no chance of a fairytale ending for Hannah, if her lack of judgement is anything to go by.

We could forgive Mr Big for his mistakes because ultimately he was our generation’s Mr Darcy. It’s been 200 years since Austen created the charming, arrogant but utterly desirable man with just a hint of mystery. There’s no mystery to the men in Girls — they may be arrogant but they are utterly devoid of charm. Do us real ‘girls’ really want to be reminded how poor the pickings are for single ladies out there today?

So, Dunham is attempting with Girls to break boundaries, you say? Dunham’s aim is to create a realistic series where all the goriness of reality is put on display. The sex scenes are awkward, because sex is messy. We are told that we should be celebrating how Dunham, who isn’t stick thin, is completely naked in many of the sex scenes. But check this out: her love interest is still over 6ft tall with a perfect six-pack (played by male supermodel Adam Driver). At least with SATC there was something to aspire to. The women were curvy and muscular and it was obvious they worked out. Isn’t that a better message to send to the girls than letting it all hang out?

If SATC thought us anything about sex it was to enjoy and revel in it. We have the power of multiple orgasms and we should embrace it. Girls is like stepping back in time to 1950s Ireland when sex for women was seen as unsatisfying, and something to fear. Maybe like her character Hannah, Dunham is also finding her feet. But they sure ain’t wrapped in Jimmy Choos, darling.

* Girls appears on Sky Atlantic on Monday nights at 10pm.


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