Remember when Lena Dunham was touted as the next great comic genius, the voice of her generation? Remember when everyone—including your humble blogger—was watching “Girls” and was easily finding something half-interesting to say about it?
Well, that time has come and gone. Apparently, no one is watching “Girls” any more.
Taylor Bigler explains it all in a fine piece of critical analysis:
But now, no one is talking about “Girls” anymore because it’s no longer shocking. It’s boring, and nobody watches it….
A quick review of Slate, Salon, Vulture and Jezebel — sites that have frequently published exhaustive stories about the importance of “Girls” – reveals that the majority of the pieces now written about Dunham focus on her politically-charged celebrity status, not her “art.”…
Since it actually the show actually started up again, no one is talking about it. The TV writers who once wrote rhapsodically about Dunham’s televised humiliations now spend their energy dissecting the latest “True Detective” or “Hannibal.”
What happened to “Girls?” It seems to have gotten done in by talent. Let’s grant that Lena Dunham is enormously talented. But, she is also very young. When you are talented and young, you tend to believe in your inspiration.
When everyone around you is telling you how brilliant you are you are going to start believing that whatever passes through your mind is genius.
You do not reach out to your audience. You do not imagine how your work would look to others. You are not going to put in the time and effort needed to produce a great product.
When everyone gets bored with your self-involved, self-indulgent self-presentation, you will not understand why.
If you want to see a movie about the “Girls” generation, directed by someone who is older, more experienced and a harder worker, check out Frances Ha.
Bigler explains that people used to watch “Girls” because it felt original and new. It was also interesting to watch characters who, to quote Bigler, were “assholes.”
[Apologies for the word, but Bigler is correct to use it. No other word has quite the resonance.]
The problem is: after a time “assholes” are boring.
More than a few characters on major television series are, frankly, “assholes." They are not interesting; they are not compelling. We do not care what happens to them. If you don’t care about what happens to the characters, you stop watching the show.
In Bigler’s words:
But “Girls” also used to be, at times, genuinely shocking. There haven’t been any television shows whose sole purpose is to make you feel uncomfortable by explicitly depicting two average-looking people having sex. The asshole main characters were so horrible that we watched the next episode just to see what horrible things they would do next. And, while we’re at it, can you name another show that once featured Brian Williams’ daughter masturbating in a bathroom?
The truth of the matter is… no one wants to watch two average-looking people having sex. And no one is going to turn on to a show to see Lena Dunham take off her clothes because she feels a need to make a statement about the politics of gender.
Art does not make statements. Nor do good television shows.
Bigler closes with an anecdote:
A side note: Over the weekend, I started chatting with a mom of a 12-year-old girl in a bar. She asked me if I watched “Girls” and I said that I had stopped. She told me that she and her husband used to watch the show to see what twenty-year-olds are like these days, but she stopped because it was unwatchable.
“Is that what it’s really like [in real life]?”, she asked. “Is everyone just f**king each other and acting terrible? Because it scares me for my daughter.”
So thanks, Lena Dunham, for being the “voice of a generation” and giving us all a really, really bad rap.
The moral of the story is clear. You may feel that you are cool; you may feel that you are brilliant; you may believe that you know everything; you may even have the highest of high self-esteem. Worse yet, you may be so filled with self-confidence that you no longer care what other people think about you.
Translated into real-world terms, that is going to make you a crashing bore. In the end if you do not care about your audience, it will stop caring about you.
Bigler is quite correct to say that nobody cares about “Girls” any more. It happened because someone associated with the show stopped caring about how it all looked to other people. To the audience.
Of course, the fault does not lie with Lena Dunham. It lies with those who are older and wiser and who should have known better.