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The Impact of HBO’s Girls on the Millennial Generation

This weekend, HBO aired the series finale of its popular hit show Girls. Since its premiere in 2012, Girls has been an ever-present figure in today’s pop culture, and consistently sparked controversy and conversation for its exploration of what it means to be a millennial woman. For nearly six years, the show has followed the journeys of Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshana as they navigate the post-collegiate reality and their 20’s. Much like what Sex & the City was for the generation before us, most of my fellow millennial women found solace and comfort in the stories depicted on Girls, looking to the show for reassurance that its OK to not have it all together at 24. Unlike Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, the core four cast of Girls were depicted in an honest light, with all of their entitlement, narcissism and privilege in the spotlight of most of the storylines. We weren’t supposed to worship or look up to the girls of Girls; rather, the show was a groundbreaking effort to depict young women as real instead of perfect, with narratives revolving just as much around friendship and careers as they did around relationships with men.

That said, it’s hard to say if Girls will have the same enduring legacy and long-term impact on pop culture that a show like Sex & the City had. I highly doubt in 10 years the names Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshana will be as iconic and instantly recognized as the names of their SATC counterparts. Let’s be real here, Hannah is great but she’s no Carrie Bradshaw. Nonetheless, whether its impact stands the test of time or not, Lena Dunham and the rest of the Girls production team should be commended for refusing to back down from sharing the uncomfortable truths about what life is like today in your 20s. As Uproxx noted, the HBO sitcom initiated conversations about representation in the media, millennial feminism, nepotism, body shaming, and the rise of frank sexuality on television – all worthy topics that society as a whole should reflect on, both on TV and in reality.

At the end of the day, Girls was a show created about millennials, by millennials, and mostly for millennials. It was a breath of fresh air to see our generation depicted, warts and all, in a way that didn’t stereotypically bind as together as one. What’s more relatable for many of us than a show that kicks off its first-ever episode with its lead character in the midst of an existential crisis because her parents cut her off financially and her internship refused to pay her? As the Daily Dot pointed out, if Sex & the City laid the groundwork for female empowerment on television, Girls picked up where it left off, proving that in reality empowerment isn’t always pretty. Despite its flaws, most notably a blatant lack of diversity, Girls has never strayed from its commitment to portraying complicated, complex female characters, and proving that while our worst flaws do not define us, they are an important part of who we are.

In her original pitch for HBO, Dunham wrote that, “[B]etween adolescence and adulthood is an uncomfortable middle-ground, when women are ejected from college and into a world with neither glamor nor structure.” She concluded her mission statement for the show by writing that these women are, “my friends and I’ve never seen them on TV.” She was right, and kudos to Lena for creating a show that accomplished exactly what she set out to accomplish. With Girls in our rearview mirror, all of us TV-addicted Fishies will be on the lookout for our next show to obsess and reflect over. Stay tuned.