The Return of ‘Girls': What Will Critics Pick On This Season?

Girls is back, you guys! The first episode of Season 2 aired this past Sunday. Are you excited? I know I am. I’m also happy that HBO decided to schedule its return for January, meaning we don’t have to wait until summer to see what Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna are up to now. As excited as I am, though, I can’t help but wonder if people will critique the second season as fiercely as they did the first.

I’ve loved this show from the very first minute it appeared on my television screen. Lena Dunham has this fantastic way of pretty much putting my life up on screen. I don’t mean my life exactly, but what it’s like to be a mid-20-something girl trying to find her way in the world. Hannah might think she could be the voice of a generation, but Ms. Dunham definitely is one of the voices of mine.

I know a lot of people may agree with that statement, much like I know a lot of people will disagree with that statement. But let’s be honest – whether you love Girls or hate it, it is firmly in the cultural zeitgeist. Much of last season was spent criticizing the “too small” focus of Ms. Dunham and her cohorts, that they only chose to focus on a small group of white women in the city. There was no diversity, it was too specific to a certain type of Gen Y-er, that the girls were whiny, privileged and didn’t know true struggle, and that the girls were narcissistic (I mean, Shosh lives in an apartment in the city paid for by her aunt…). All of those complaints are understandable, but any writer worth her salt will tell you, that you are taught to write what you know. This is what Ms. Dunham knows. She wrote what she was comfortable with, telling her story using characters she knew. In doing that, in writing what you know, you are able to more fully express to the audience the authenticity of the story you are trying to tell.

There has already been a lot of noise about what the second season of Girls will hold. This season, they will add some new, familiar faces to the cast in efforts to appease the masses. Hopefully not changing the style too much (I understand the complaints, but it’s TV…we have more important things in this world we should be complaining about, no?). Community’s Donald Glover has been added to the cast as a new love interest for Hannah. I am excited about this mainly because I think Mr. Glover will be a wonderful addition to an already quirky show! Rumor has it that Hannah will engage his character in an awkward conversation about race. Would we expect anything less from Hannah? No, not really.

But, will this conversation soothe the criticism or fuel the fire? Will people think the character fits organically into the story, or will they complain that he was added just to talk about race? Similarly, Hannah will be living with her gay-ex-boyfriend, Elijah (returning Andrew Rannells), who may begin questioning his sexuality. Is this something critics will pounce on? That the only gay character on the show may not be gay? Or that he even begins to question his sexuality in the first place? Or will they talk about Shoshanna losing her virginity and then trying to avoid Ray, while also trying not to fall in love? Or straight laced Marnie exploring her youth with intriguing, cocky, artist Booth (Jorma Taccone)? Or Jessa’s strange, weird, marriage to Thomas John (Chris O’Dowd)?

Much of what has been written about the upcoming season of the show has focused on the fact that the production of the second season was under way while the first season was airing and unfolding on our television screens every week. I think this is a good thing, because the Ms. Dunham, Judd Apatow, Jenni Konner and the rest of the creative force behind the show couldn’t focus so much on the negative feedback. They simply kept on writing and telling their story, not worrying about what was being said on the internet. They didn’t have the time to go down the black hole of negativity and criticism that the internet can become. I think it also means, not much will have changed too drastically.

Maybe I don’t understand where the criticism came from in the first place. Girls is hardly the only show on television with an all-white cast. It’s also not the only show to focus solely on a specific group of people. Girls is, by definition, a niche show. It’s on HBO. It was created by an indie-minded woman. It was written to showcase what her life and her experiences have taught her. Granted, I am a SWF, so you can take my opinions with a grain of salt if you’d like. But I think this show was unfairly singled out because it was new, different, and exciting. Maybe it was singled out because it was created, produced, written by, and often directed, by a young woman. (Perhaps we should be focusing instead on network executives and television studios who are in charge of it all).

So,  after the first episode has bowed, what do you think the critics will focus on this time around? Bad press is still press, right? The criticism from the show’s beginning only helped cement it into our cultural identity. The Golden Globes proved that, awarding Ms. Dunham the Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical, and the show itself for Best Comedy/Musical. Her acceptance speech was pretty awesome, too, thanking Chad Lowe out of left field (because Hilary Swank forgot to back when she won the Oscar). It made me love her even more, because I like crazy shout outs in awards speeches, they’re so unexpected and usually funny (who would you thank if you ever had the chance?).

Putting aside my SWF identity, I’m still looking forward to Season 2. I loved how the first episode just dropped us into the lives of these girls, not picking up immediately where season 1 left us, but a little ways down the road. I for one, know that I’m excited to return to a world where girls my age are struggling just like me, to find out what they want from life and how to stand on their own two feet while striving for it. Welcome back, Girls!

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