I came to the “Girls” party late; I only downloaded Season 1 from iTunes long after the show aired on HBO. But I was driven to find out what all the fuss was about and to see if the show was as good/bad, controversial/provocative, well-written/poorly-written as opposing viewpoints and reviews seemed to say. There was a lot on the Internet about the show and its writer and creator, Lena Dunham, and what the show possibly said about what it is like to be a twenty-something young woman living in a very intense city. (I think that’s one thing we can all agree on: living in New York at any age is a challenge. The city is the best in the world, in my opinion, but is loud, expensive, and sometimes difficult to navigate, both literally and figuratively.)
I watched the first season from start to finish in one dreary afternoon. As a television show with interesting characters and story arc, I found it enjoyable. As a mother with a young adult daughter, though, I came away thinking: I really hope her twenties aren’t quite this difficult. I hope she doesn’t have about eighty percent of these experiences. I hope she travels a less-conflict-ridden road. The show makes me uncomfortable and after sorting through my feelings about various characters and plot devices, I have come to the conclusion that that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s good.
Again, my opinion only, but to me, “Girls” is good television, despite being difficult to watch, despite the situations that the main characters often find themselves in, despite making me so uncomfortable that I often have to pause to think about things I have just watched. The conflicts are disturbing and sustained, not resolving themselves in one half-hour episode. But watching the episodes as one long story rather than separate episodes, I got to thinking: does the show need the extended, brutal conflicts in order to be entertaining?
And the answer, I decided, was yes.
Conflict is the salt /pepper in the plot recipe. A dash here, a dash there and you have a compelling story that speaks to readers in a way that a conflict-less story would not. Do I want to cringe while watching a show about young women trying to figure out how to journey through a decade of life in an exciting city? I guess I do. Even my favorite show of all time—“The Brady Bunch”—created a half-hour episode about a happy, blended family on what would be considered cringe-worthy topics of the early ‘70’s: not making the cheerleading squad, having a fake boyfriend, having one’s nose broken before the big show, bombing an audition. Happiness, if we believe our favorite shows and books, begets boredom while conflict brings the intrigue, the desire to watch/read more.
I’m in the midst of writing a new book and contrary to what might seem like common sense, am watching and reading as much as I can. (I’m on a “Veronica Mars” kick right now and even contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to make it possible for the movie to be produced.) I don’t “lose my voice,” as some writers claim they do by reading more while writing. Rather, reading different kinds of books and watching television shows help me hone the conflict that must exist, temper the drama that I want to bring to my story. Good writing is good writing, whether it be on the page or on the screen and always helps me get to where I want my story—my writing—to be.
I’ve read various stories and reviews of this season of “Girls” and it sounds like the situations are more disturbing and emotional than they were in season one. There’s OCD and disturbing sexual situations and even a mishap with a Q-Tip. The writers seemed to have upped the ante, creating more drama where a lot already existed. Will I have to suspend disbelief when I watch this new season? Most likely. But will I watch? Definitely. And most importantly, will I be uncomfortable?
That goes without saying.
I know the Northern half of Evelyn David has an opinion about “Girls”—we’ve talked about it and agree on the depiction of the more salacious aspects of the show—but anyone else? And do you like shows or books that make you uncomfortable, that contain so much drama that it practically hurts, or would you prefer less conflict, more harmony?