“I’m so close to the life I want,” laments the plucky protagonist of HBO’s new series “Girls,” after her parents decide to stop supporting her financially. And though these words come from the mouth of twentysomething Hannah Horvath, they could just as easily be the battle cry of a generation.
“Girls” — executive-produced by Judd Apatow and written and directed by star Lena Dunham — debuted on Sunday and follows the lives of four friends (played by Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke and Zosia Mamet) as they navigate love and careers in New York City. Dunham’s Hannah has been working as an unpaid intern for more than a year while writing her memoir.
“I’ve done four essays,” she tells her parents. “My hope is that it’s going to be nine, but you know, it’s a memoir, so I have to live them first.” Hannah thinks she might be the voice of her generation. Or, at least, “a voice … of a generation.” Her parents then drop a bomb: They’ll no longer pay her rent, insurance or cell phone bills now that she’s been out of college for two years. Of course, this news is met with much protestation from Hannah: “All of my friends get help from their parents,” she says. “I’m your only child. It’s not like I’m draining all of your resources.” And there, in a snapshot (or Instagram, if you prefer), is the not-so-pretty side of Generation Y (which, I should add, I am a part of).
Dunham and her writing staff don’t try to hide Hannah’s sense of entitlement — a sense that’s become increasingly accepted by Millennials, leaving parents befuddled and grandparents tsk tsking. To be sure, not everyone in their 20s feels like they’re owed a free ride. New York Post columnist Christina Amoroso didn’t mince words when she declared in her piece on the series, “You don’t speak for me, Lena!”
Yet, Hannah has an ally in friend and cohort Jessa (Kirke), who advises, “Why don’t you just tell [your parents] you’re an artist?” Because, you know, Mick Jagger, Elvis and Picasso did it. But entitlement may not be the only root of Hannah’s attitude; it could also stem from pure naïveté. “She wants to be a writer, but she doesn’t realize in order to do that she actually has to write,” Dunham told MTV News recently of her character. “Despite being plucky, her circumstances aren’t always going her way, so it’s about some of those challenges for her.”
But it’s not all bad news! Dunham’s sentiments also point to an admirable Millennial trait, also apparent in the premiere: optimism. As the credits roll on the pilot, we see Hannah leave her parents’ hotel, a scant $40 richer (can’t pay New York rent with that!) yet, as she wends her way through midtown Manhattan, there’s a determined set to her shoulders that hints she won’t give up. She’ll figure it out. She’ll persevere. Because how else could she be the voice of a generation?