When Hannah Horvath, the heroine of HBO’s Girls, proclaimed herself “the voice of her generation, or at least, a voice of a generation,” we didn’t take her too seriously. After all, she was on opium. But for her real-life counterpart, actress/writer/show creator Lena Dunham, the title is far less dubious. In a few short years, Lena Dunham has gone from a nobody with semi-famous parents to the star of the freshest and most-buzzed-about show on HBO, and the quintessential “it” girl of contemporary culture.
After her indie film Tiny Furniture was released in 2010 to critical acclaim, Judd Apatow signed on as executive producer for Girls. The rest, as they say, is history. Well, if you can count three years as history.
Girls, which depicts four 20-something women living in New York and trying to make it in the era of Instagram and unpaid internships, is our generation’s Sex and the City—with a lot less cosmo-induced escapism, but just as much terrible sex. The show has gone on to become one of the most talked-about shows on television, with Ms. Dunham lauded for her pitch-perfect encapsulation of the zeitgeist and for her often hilarious, sometimes painful depiction of the lives of overprivileged, underemployed, post-recession New Yorkers trapped in an age of millennial malaise, self-absorption and sky-high rents. And she has totally nailed it.
Over its one and a half seasons, the show has continued to break boundaries with its no-holds-barred depictions of sexuality and its female-centric, girl-power ensemble, which has done for female friendships what Superbad and Knocked Up did for dudes. Not to mention how Ms. Dunham’s proclivity for baring it all—controversial because she, unlike Carrie Bradshaw, is short, tattooed and pear-shaped—has caused a hailstorm of both praise and criticism.
While it’s too soon to say what Ms. Dunham’s influence will be on the future of television, her dark, deadpan and totally relatable brand of comedy is a breath of fresh air compared with all the hugging and happy endings on mainstream sitcoms, and we have no doubt that TV will soon reshape itself in Ms. Dunham’s (probably naked) image.
Whether you love her or hate her, or just wish she would stop showing her boobs on television, Ms. Dunham has certainly got everyone talking. And with a new HBO show in the works and a $3.5 million book deal in the bag, we can’t wait to see what she does next.