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This Is *Not* A Think Piece About Girls

Illustration by Euan Murphy

Dear Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner,

This is not a think piece, it’s not a takedown, or critique, or an extended *eye roll* disguised as a recap. You’ve had plenty of those. It’s an open letter to you, the creators of Girls, as a kind of thank-you/goodbye/I’m-not-crying, you’re-crying/fan mail.

When the pilot for Girls aired in 2012, I was 22 years young, not yet living in New York (but desperately wanting to). That first season felt like an an extended olive branch from you to me, which said, “Hey, women are doing weird/interesting/annoying/funny stuff, wanna watch?” Maybe unsurprisingly, the first thing I remember being absolutely struck by were the early scenes of your, uhhh, naked body, which looked, to me anyway, way more like my own body than anything else I'd seen on TV before. 

I remember talking to my girlfriends after the first couple of episodes aired, and some of them actually told me they couldn’t watch the show because it was “gross” (sorry to put that in this open letter, Lena, but knowing that you’ve been on the internet since 2012, I’m certain that this reaction isn’t surprising to you). “Oh,” I think I answered, “I thought it was kinda . . . cool.” Because I did. I still do, dammit! You created a world where the bodies we saw looked like the bodies we actually had. Jenni, as the director of the finale, know that I’ll forever hold onto the shot of Hannah getting out of the bath naked and streaming water, just in case I don’t see another body like that on TV for a while.

Barely any other show has received the same intense level of scrutiny as yours. Despite the swirling storm of criticism it has received, ranging from totally valid to completely bananas---and I’m not even including critiques on personal statements and politics because otherwise we would be here *literally* forever, and I’m sure you have pizzas to eat and Apatow calls to make, annnd I would also like to afford women the opportunity to create art that stands separate from their personal lives---I want to remember the show as a specific story about a very particular bunch of characters. At it’s core, you made a show about four girls, Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa, and their sometimes messed up relationships. 

And, sure, the show was also an examination and satiric look at life as a 20-something white millennial living in Brooklyn. And there were certainly problematic portrayals of race and a lack of diversity in the cast. I’m sure you both would agree we should continue to have loud conversations about representation and diversity in TV, and work hard to ensure women of color get the same opportunity to tell stories and make art that you both did.

Ultimately, I just want to say thank you for giving me something that will always be deeply connected to this part of my life, especially since I have now made the move to New York and myself become a #millennial who writes on the #internet and is sometimes a bundle of anxiety, poor choices, and unflattering denim choices, but luckily *much* better friendships (hi friends if you’re reading this I love you and would defs be down to co-raise a baby). You both did so much to move the cultural needle forward. Today, there’s so much amazing TV written by and starring women — Broad City, Insecure, Chewing Gum . . . how lucky are we?! (As you said on your Instagram, Lena: “Give any woman 6 years to create uninterrupted and she will SOAR. Women’s stories deserve to be told. All kinds of women. We demand opportunity.)

I can talk to you about my ~feelings~ forever (I’m so millennial like that), but I really want you to know that episode where Shosh accidentally smoked crack made me cry w/ laughter. As did everything Elijah said or did. Or when Hannah and Elijah did coke. There’s too many fave Marnie moments to mention, but Marnie singing an acapella cover of Kanye West’s Stronger I almost could not watch I was cringing so hard. You also gifted us some beautiful cinematic moments that will always live on in my brain/ tumblr: Marnie, dripping wet in a sparkly-red gown; Shoshana walking through the streets of Tokyo alone to the sounds of “Life on Mars”; Jessa crying in fluffy bra in a bathroom stall; Hannah and Marnie dancing to Robyn in their bedroom.

You didn’t give us an everything-tied-in-a-bow resolution. The fantasy ending for me, which sees Hannah triumphantly pushing a stroller over the Williamsburg Bridge to meet Jessa, Shosh, and Marnie for SATC-style brunch was never really going to happen, was it? (A girl can dream). But, of course, Hannah didn’t shed her selfish, narcissistic personality and become perfect as soon as she had baby Grover. Instead, we got a pantless Hannah Horvath reluctantly stomping towards maturity (btw I’m already here for the Girls reunion where we see Hannah has married the nice policeman who made sure she got home safe—give me a call if you need any other ideas, I’m also seeing Elijah hosting the 2025 Tonys). As James Poniewozik said in his NY Times review of the finale:Nothing stops being a struggle. No one stops growing up. You triumph and screw up, you succeed and backslide. You walk on, pantless and unbowed.”

At the end of this Girls journey, as I continue fumbling forward, screwing up and making mistakes, and falling in and out of love with New York City and the people around me, I’ll always remember the girls who came before me, not wearing any pants.

Thank you for everything. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Lots of love,

Mia

Gifs via GIPHY

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