Girls and the City


By Emma Goodwin

Adorned by males and females, critics and viewers alike, our generation has come into adulthood with “Girls,” an HBO show focused on Hannah Horvath and her three friends, Shoshanna, Marnie and Jessa, as they experience the trials and tribulations of love and life in New York City. The show portrays a realistic life that many of us city-living-hopefuls might dance with in our twenties — where our moms and dads are starting to cut the financial cord, even though we still don’t have a steady paycheck, let alone a steady roommate.

A little more than a decade ago, viewers had a similar show from the same provider, featuring four ladies in the Big Apple and their experiences with men, sex, friendship, sex and shoes. These women might not have been at the top of the income bracket, but to girls watching today (who probably don’t know what that looks like anyway) they might as well have been royalty. The show was, of course, “Sex and the City,” with Charlotte, Samantha, Miranda and the famous Carrie Bradshaw. “SATC” was heralded during its run but is now criticized for its lack of realism in comparison with “Girls.”

No woman can stop comparing herself to the women in these shows, but “SATC” definitely carries a little more hope.

The sketchy and grungy New York escapades in “Girls” aren’t inspirational, yet somehow, we see the lives of the characters as if it were a fun and enviable way to live. (“Oh, you’re such a Hannah!” “No way! I’m a Jessa!”)

Upon realizing that I’m a combination of Marnie and Shoshanna — naive and controlling — I don’t feel validated and proud, or even cool for watching the show. It makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

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    But hearing I resemble Charlotte and Carrie — a writer with constant optimism — I feel like I’ve progressed, even though I’m only 19 years old and have a long way to go. The women from “SATC” are strong self-providers with amazing careers — Carrie writes about what she wants, and here I am, writing about Carrie.

    While I am currently Marnie and Shoshanna, I am growing into Charlotte and Carrie. While I might start out rough once I graduate and be where the “Girls” are, that’s merely a springboard. Not a place to stay for three years, or three seasons.

    People making the realism argument when comparing the two shows forget the fact that most of us grew up watching “Cinderella,” wanting to go from rags to royalty, the modern day version of going from a Horvath to a Bradshaw. With “Girls,” there is a lack of movement and inability to show any real character development; it’s almost as if we’re watching “Cinderella,” only this time, it ends before she leaves for the ball. All we’re learning is how to dress your mouse and how to wash the floors. We don’t know how to get the glass slippers.

    The middle-aged women of “SATC” lived alone, barely relied on their parents and were sexually responsible, in control and explorative. But most importantly, they enviably made up a perfect friendship. They were always loyal and rarely fought. They still represent an unbreakable, unbiological sisterhood, whereas the characters in “Girls” barely hang out anymore, let alone stand by each other’s side.

    These two shows have many of the same themes and motifs. “Girls” has even been described as “a ‘Sex and the City’ for a recession-era America.” It’s almost as if you’re watching similar plots unfold through a smog-covered lens. Both have very stark messages of female-empowerment. Yet, they relay completely different images of the post-grad life that many of us will soon be embarking on.

    “Girls” gives a glorified depiction of, well, living in filth with actual crazy people. The problem with watching this show and looking up to its characters is that it isn’t a far stretch for anyone to be able to reach that point. Their lives are almost too realistic to a point where striving to be where they are is almost pathetic.

    While it makes for great television, wishing we lived it puts us at a disadvantage, especially when some of our future bosses grew up watching “SATC.” Hoping for the glamorous lives they saw on their 24-dollars-a-month channel, they aspired and worked for lives that could gain them the ability to casually buy $500 shoes — and worked towards it. 

    Pretty soon, these go-getters — now go-’got’ers — are going to sit down for interviews with girls taught cynicism by “Girls” who now just wish to go to New York and pay $500 rent (ha).

    If anything, “Girls” should be looked at as a desperate prequel to an otherwise extraordinary NYC existence, or, like I said, should serve as a springboard. “SATC” is nowhere near as cinematic or relatable, but, in one way or another, it shows us where we should want our lives to be, rather than a slump to get stuck in, because, try as we might, we can’t stay boys and girls forever.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].