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Here come the girls

'I really think that I may be the voice of my generation," Hannah states baldly to her agape parents in the opening episode of HBO's latest female-focused show Girls.

"Or at least... a voice... of a generation." Written and directed by 25-year-old Lena Dunham (who also plays the main character Hannah), this one line from a script full of zingers is a prime example of why Girls is about to become a cultural phenomenon in these post recessionary times when it airs on Sky Atlantic this coming Monday.

Already a smash hit in the States, Girls has taken its time to drift over to this side of the pond, but I (along with other canny Irish technophiles) have been watching the series online and know what a treat viewers are in for. The show is set in New York and follows four young women finding their feet as adults.

Due to its cast and location, Girls has been drawing inevitable comparisons to Sex and the City. When I heard this last year, I couldn't find an online stream quick enough, as Sex and the City is responsible for my career, and my unrelenting adoration of New York City.

I have watched every episode countless times, and although it's completely unrealistic ($4 a word to write a Vogue article? Not even during the boom, Carrie love), unfeasible and sometimes pretty anti-feminist and offensive, it's still my favourite female-centric show, and whether you approve or not, it broke down barriers when it first aired.



Realistic

Expect Girls to have a similar barrier-breaking effects, but those expecting similar levels of glamour and sophistication will be disappointed. With Girls, the clue is in the title. These aren't women yet; they are members of Generation Y who came of age along with a global economic meltdown.

Despite their lack of careers and money, these girls are highly educated, self-aware and have a sense of entitlement that many Celtic Tiger cubs will recognise. The action takes place not in the glitzy and hip rent-controlled apartments of Manhattan, but in small shared apartments in Brooklyn.

These girls aren't looking for husbands or even long-term relationships, they're looking to stay afloat and feel wanted. They take legal highs, wear bargain-basement threads and have awkward, realistic sex with inappropriate men.

Girls isn't something you aspire to, because you're already living it. It's so real it's sort of frightening, like a mirror reflecting your own life back at you but in HD and on television for millions of others to see.

In Girls, the clothes are average, the men are weak-willed and needy, and the lifestyle is uncomfortably familiar. In the opening scene of episode one, we are introduced to Hannah and, interestingly, her parents too. Noticeably absent in Sex and the City, because the women were "all grown up", the lead character's parents inspire the entire show's premise as they cut her off financially within the first minute.

Hannah is happily ingesting carbs and idling in her easy existence when she is brought down to earth with a bang as her mother reveals they are no longer supporting her, two years after she graduated college. Hannah protests that she is interning with a view to an eventual job, something so many Irish graduates can relate to, but is shut down by angry Mom.



Support

No topic is too risque, with Hannah chastising her parents with all the bad things she could be, but is not -- namely, a double abortion-having drug addict.

In real life, Dunham was living with her parents for the entire duration of the Girls experience, and told the New York Times how shocked they were at how willing she and her generation were to expect support well into adulthood.

"They were like, 'Do you realise that none of us would have accepted help from our parents?' They were shocked by what my friends were settling for. But I really love living with my parents. Few people who aren't in my family understand it."

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda had figured out who they were by the time we met them in their early 30s -- it was just the opposite sex they hadn't quite figured out. We find the Girls at a much more messed up developmental stage. Marnie is falling out of love with her needy but sweet college boyfriend Charlie, while Hannah is messing around with bluntly hilarious no-hoper 'actor' Adam, who never texts her back. There is no Mr Big character to swoon over, only ordinary men with human quirks and unsculpted physiques that make you remember relationships you'd rather forget.

The sex is hilariously unsexy in Girls, and you're likely to watch the mortifying encounters from between your fingers because like most aspects of the show, it's just too close for comfort, too realistic. Awkward positions, cringey conversations and an absence of mood lighting and music mean that these dalliances are not the stuff of fantasies, but of our lives.

My boyfriend caught me watching a few episodes of Girls on my laptop, creased up with laughter, and attempted to sit down and join me. Having missed the early episodes and having the problem of not being female, he struggled to get it.

All he saw was a programme that looked like real life only Americanised, without the gloss of other shows he's sat through with me. He'll admit that he persevered with Sex and the City (even the appalling films) because it was engagingly slick and the women were polished and attractive -- he's always had a thing for Charlotte.

It's not that the Girls girls are unattractive -- in fact Marnie has a look of a young Brooke Shields about her and Jessa's a curvy, bohemian beauty -- but they're not packaged as he has come to expect.

Dunham appears naked, determined to show her real body and all its flaws, but it comes as a shock to see a reflection of your own lumps and bumps on TV.

Hannah eats cupcakes for breakfast, shares naked baths with her flatmate and refers to herself as fat and her friends as goddesses. Completely normal yes, but on television? Extra-terrestrial.

So yes, it might take a little getting used to, a little re-adjusting when it comes to our expectations. But once you get into Girls, as you will, I promise you that you'll be charmed and delighted, no matter your gender.

Dunham as Hannah isn't exactly girl crush material but it's about time we stopped comparing ourselves and coveting what other women have and just be ourselves, warts and all. However, if you really must have a character to "crush" on, Jessa's ability to rock printed pants, a topknot and a bold lip should satisfy your desires, I promise.

Girls starts on Sky Atlantic, Monday, October 22 at 10pm


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