Girls: awkward sex and ordinary women – we've seen it all before

Oct 22, 2012

Lena Dunham's show about four white girls shocked the US but breaks 'entirely zero ground' in the UK

TELEVISION sitcom Girls has proved itself to be an unequivocal – if hugely controversial – smash hit across America. It received rave reviews for its portrayal of ordinary young women, as well as fierce debate about its lack of diversity and awkward sex scenes.

But as the show hits UK television for the first time tonight, critics have said it will look a "lot less groundbreaking to British audiences".

The series, which is based on the personal experiences of 26-year-old writer Lena Dunham living in New York, has been described as Sex and the City only "less Louboutin, more thrift store".

David Chater in The Times describes it as "sensationally good", with the "richness of the characters" being its single greatest quality.

Girls focuses on the lives of four female friends: self-involved aspiring writer Hannah (Dunham), uptight but dependable Marnie (Allison Williams), free-spirited and chaotic Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and girly Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).

"They have the mindset of the young and entitled in a world gripped by recession, where jobs are few and STDs are rampant," says Chater. "It is sharp, fresh, funny, graphic, original and bracingly honest."

But in The Guardian, Hadley Freeman says seeing ordinary women on television is nothing new for the UK.

Girls is a very good show: funny and smart, with a script that often sings with emotional truth," she says. "But it is not groundbreaking, and I suspect it will look a lot less groundbreaking to British audiences who, thanks to shows as varied as, say, Spaced and EastEnders, are far more used than their US counterparts to seeing young women on TV looking less than glamorous."

Meanwhile, in The Daily Telegraph Dr Brooke Magnanti – better known by her blogging pseudonym Belle de Jour - argues that the much-hyped 'real' show about sex life is just that: "real and boring".

"The sex inGirls breaks entirely zero ground", she says. A lesbian kiss 20 years after Brookside broke the taboo, "extra-weirdy" sex fantasies, sexually transmitted diseases and an "imperceptibly chubby" anti-heroine – "been there, done that", says Magnanti.

While the sex scenes and normal-looking ladies might not spark debate in the UK, the lack of diversity in the show has attracted attention on both sides of the pond.

Dunham has previously responded to criticism of her all-white cast by saying she wanted to "avoid rendering an experience I can't speak to accurately".

But today in a Guardian column entitled 'Can a black woman relate to Girls?' feminism and race blogger Bim Adewunmi says she is puzzled by the idea of "tokenism" and the fear of being "inauthentic" when it comes to writing black characters.

"Why do they think it's so hard to write a non-white character?" she asks. "We're just people, after all. If you can research medieval feasts or make up magical worlds with different breeds of dragon, then surely you can look into the lives of contemporary brown people and write them into a 30-minute sitcom?"

  • Girls starts on 22 October at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.

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The answer to Bim Adewunmi's faux-naive question is that Dunham would have to write in two black girls, one of whom wanted nothing to do with white people and the other who wanted nothing to do with the first one. Perhaps BA could co-write the next series.

And Brooke magnanti breaks zero ground as a "sexpert." she made money from having a vagina. She has as much expertise about sex as you average goldigger