‘Girls’ only scratches the surface

Contact Katy Coduto at [email protected]  

Katy Coduto

Lena Dunham is the creator of “Girls,” which is now one of HBO’s premier programs. Dunham stars in the show, writes many of the episodes and has directing credits on a number of them. She has often received praise for the show’s writing, its believability (especially in the first season) and even for its music choices. However, Dunham is often most recognized for the unapologetic way she displays herself — often completely naked — on screen.

It’s certainly refreshing to see a normal body on screen. Dunham has curves, tattoos and does nothing to hide anything. In fact, if you watched the seventh episode of this season — the near pitch-perfect “Beach House” — Dunham spent the majority of the episode in a skimpy green bikini. Even when other characters made fun of her, Hannah, Dunham’s character on the show, kept rocking the outfit.

And like I said, that’s all good. It’s a nice change of pace to see even one person you might relate to on a television screen — someone who isn’t airbrushed or disguised or altered. It adds to the real-life feel of “Girls,” and it makes it that much easier to identify with and then enjoy. Personally, I try to find ways in which my life aligns with the characters in “Girls.”

But the question always comes up in discussions with my friends who also watch the show: Why is Hannah the only character who is so real and so exposed and so vulnerable? And it’s not to say that Marnie doesn’t represent real girls, or that Shoshanna doesn’t represent another kind of real girl and that they aren’t also exposed. But for a show that wants to push boundaries, “Girls” could do that much more to support positive body images of all kinds. What is the harm in Marnie showing some skin every now and then, especially if it gives her an opportunity to be compared with Hannah? There’s a worthy conversation to be had about how all of these different body types are equally beautiful and deserving of screen time.

You might think this conversation is limited to the females of “Girls,” too, given the title and the main characters. But, one look at the men of “Girls” shows how limited they are as side characters with no thought behind how their images come into play in potentially affecting an entire gender of watchers.

Adam Driver is a beautiful human being, and his character, while somewhat insane, is constantly shirtless and totally ripped. Yes, there’s something to be said for his relationship with Hannah and their compatibility and their physical differences. But looking at the list of men, not one is that imperfect or that different from another: Adam, Ray, Charlie, Booth, Joshua, the list goes on. Would it be so bad for them to represent different spheres of experience and physicality?

It’s important to have a healthy body image and to really love yourself.

It’s unrealistic to expect even our favorite media to accurately represent us and the lives we live, and we have to take everything we see with a grain of salt. Even “Girls,” with its critically acclaimed creator at the helm, can’t seem to tackle every issue relating to body image. Our job as viewers is to recognize that disconnect and to remember that our love of ourselves is among the most important relationships we’ll ever have.