Would ‘Girls’ Still Make an Impact if Released Today?

Girls returns for its penultimate season tonight on HBO, and there’s a question that’s been looming on my brain: if this series debuted in 2016 rather than 2012, would it have the same impact?

I have to admit that when Girls first premiered, it was my curiosity that brought me to it. This millennial generation, while not that much younger than me, was a bit difficult for me to understand. I was intrigued by a tale of young women living in NYC while navigating careers, relationships and life in general.

What I found in Girls was a portrayal of women unlike anything I’d seen on TV. These women somehow felt real to me. They didn’t always make the best decisions. Actually, they all made bad decisions. There was self-doubt, a sense of feeling trapped by circumstance, and a longing to hit the reset button on life. There wasn’t always a happy resolution. Sometimes, one of the characters would get exactly what they wanted, but once they had it, it didn’t live up to their expectations. They were sexual, flawed, and never ever completely satisfied with life. And these characters never apologized for refusing to accept the status quo.

Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna were flawed. They weren’t necessarily likeable all the time, but are there any humans that are likeable EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. OF. THE. DAY?!? Despite these four ladies coming from a privileged background in many ways, I could see something of myself and my friends at that age in each of them. I could recall a time when pleasing a partner, a colleague, or a friend was more important than doing what made me happy, and how those people reacted when I put myself first for a change. I recognized something in the show’s examination of what women accept as their role based on societal norms. Hannah’s relationship with Adam really resonated, as I had known so many girls, especially in college, who romanticized what was clearly not a healthy relationship as a way to justify poor treatment. In hindsight, and seeing it through these characters, I can see how truly icky some of these relationships were.

I really believe that Girls was one of the first times that women were human on the small screen, and not confined to a neat little box, category or definition. It portrayed women with all of their flaws rather than as perfect beings that should be put on a pedestal and worshipped. This made them real and relatable. It really opened up a door, and blazed a path for the realistic portrayals of women like we see today on shows like Jessica Jones, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, You’re the Worst, Jane the Virgin, Playing House and Broad City. If Girls didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have Jessica and Trish, Rebecca, Gretchen and Lindsay, Jane and Xiomara, Maggie and Emma, or Abbi and Ilana on our screens at this time. The current state of women on TV is much better than it was just a few years ago.

If Girls premiered today, I don’t think it would make as big of a splash, but that would be more a result of the sheer volume of shows on at this time; however; I do believe, although we still have a ways to go, it’s because of the road paved by Girls that there are more honest portrayals of women on TV in 2016.

Photo Courtesy of HBO

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