Girls: Breaking The Clutter

by comm397girls

You check the time. It’s 8:01. You realize your heart beating faster and your body carrying itself towards the TV, almost as though it is attracted by a magnetic field. You fumble for the remote. At last, the TV is on and you’ve only missed just a few moments of your favorite show. The theme song is like music to your ears and you are now at peace while your heart rate goes back to normal.

This feeling and desire is habitual for many people. I personally have felt this way towards all the TV drama series that have been marketed to girls my age. These irresistible TV shows include Pretty Little Liars, Laguna Beach, The OC, and Gossip Girl. I never questioned the content or lifestyle being represented in these shows, but rather accepted them. After watching one season of the HBO TV series Girls, I cannot help but wonder what these highly glamorized TV drama’s are doing to our youth’s perception of the real-world. The previously mentioned shows are free through a cable subscription where access and choice to watch them is not restricted by additional charge. On the other hand, however, Girls is serviced through HBO and cannot be seen by the everyday cable subscriber. When the mainstream TV drama’s depict lifestyles that are above the middle-class and do not represent the current economic situation, it does not prepare or educate youth, but rather creates a chance to escape reality.

Girls, written and directed by Lena Dunham, represents the economic situation in her new TV series which launched in April of 2012. The show follows the lives of four best friends living in Brooklyn who all are trying to find themselves and their way in the world. The main character Hanna, who is actually played by Lena Dunham, is an identifiable character to those youths struggling in this economic battlefield. Hanna faces a series of unfortunate events beginning with her getting fired from an unpaid internship, her parents cutting her off from money, and getting sexually harassed at her new job. The stakes get higher once Hanna and her friend Marnie get into an argument which results in their decision to not live together anymore. This economically only affects Hanna because she was living for free while Marnie paid all of the bills. All of these representations of youth struggle reflect real-life situations in which the majority of youth can identify themselves.

Leslie Blume discusses mainstream dramas in her blog stating, ” On a certain level, I guess that Gossip Girl might just be laboring under a certain amount of genre fatigue. After seeing so many similar offerings, I’ve come to realize that all elite-teen-culture films and series hold certain formulas and premises sacred.” Gossip Girl is a TV drama which follows the lives of wealthy teenagers living in Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  These teenagers all attend an elite private high school and as the series progresses, they all aim to be accepted by prestigious IV league colleges. Almost all of the main characters come from extremely wealthy backgrounds, where the most highly emphasized problems center around social reputation. One family on the show represents some degree of economic struggle, however since there is an uneven ratio between poor and wealthy characters, they are not exactly desired by the audience. In addition, the only economic struggle presented for this family is the inability for the father to send their children to this elite private high school which is not an everyday problem faced by American youth around the country.

New York Times journalist Kristen Dell writes in her article, “The members of the class of 2011 have a frightening footnote on their diplomas: Most Indebted Class Ever–and this year’s seniors are on track to surpass them. Average student-loan debt for new graduates has reached $27,300.”  The economic situation facing youth today has greatly affected the future for the young generation. The story that investing in a college degree will ensure you a successful future is not playing true for many youths who are buried in student loans and cannot find a decent paying job post-college. I interviewed peers about student debt for a class assignment and found that some of my peers will have no student loan post-college while some will have up to $100,000 in student loans; that’s a house payment! With many youths facing the same problem together, I myself wonder why we all have not joined to end high tuition and inevitable debt which will prevent our generation financially from being able to do things that we grew up dreaming of: having a house, kids, a job in our designated field, etc. With the lack of our youth conquering this issue together, it is important to look at the culture we have embedded ourselves in and the stories being told.

As a viewer, it is unfortunate to see Hanna financially struggling, however, I can completely relate to her situation. To be able to identify so closely with a character is an ability that I have not been able to do in most shows which depict highly glamorized and luxurious lifestyles unattainable through my families income. Hit TV Dramas, such as Gossip Girl, The OC, Laguna Beach, and Pretty Little Liars have failed to make the economic situation seem real to the audience and instead create an opportunity to escape reality and live in a dreamworld. It is so easy to lose our sense of reality because the characters are often made flawed which helps us relate, however, their lifestyles and economic situations are often presented as higher than the middle class. More shows need to portray the real situations facing youth today in order to educate and wake up the generation of youth who are still dreaming. When we plan our days around ensuring that we watch the new episode of our favorite TV series, it’s important that we recognize and separate reality from Hollywood.