FEBRUARY 21, 2017
ALMOST FIVE YEARS AGO, I began watching Girls. “Habit” followed by a *shrug* is not a sufficient answer for a show as affectively polemical as Girls. I recall how in the pilot the white ladies were the only ones who could earnestly discuss why working at McDonald’s was not a viable job option while waiting on a cup of opium with Jay Z playing in the background without remotely considering the juxtaposition of all those ideas. Five years later, little would have to change to make that scene work outside of subtracting the Jay Z and adding a reference to the time Shoshanna accidentally tried crack. Probably more accurate a response is that shows like Girls require a researcher like me — invested in understanding how race and gender are incorporated into television production — to continually watch for reinforcing attitudes and potential slippages. This is the work of Girls: to have its characters (mostly unsuccessfully) navigate the world but be enshrined in enough innocence and empty hope that their failures come with few enough stakes to still be viewed as quasi-aspirational. When I am asked why I continue to watch, if I have such a problem with the series, I never have the best responses. Season six girls still believe they can make it to the top of their respective games, when in fact, as Elijah Krantz so elegantly shouted in the premiere, it’s probably best to hope they can at least, “fuck [their] way to the middle.”
Kristen Warner is associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Creative Media at the University of Alabama. Yet, five years and six seasons and Girls still rarely surprised me in how it maintained investments in white womanhood through its privileging of naïveté and innocence. With the exception of maybe two or three episodes across six seasons, I’ve consistently watched the show since it premiered.