'Girls' has taken the entertainment world by storm, with its creator Lena Dunham scooping up a catalogue of awards after just one season. As the first series appears on DVD today, HuffPost UK has an exclusive clip (WATCH ABOVE), plus Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Irwin explores below what it means to be a female role model in this day and age...
What do the 'Girls' say about females today?
Lena Dunham already has enough slashes in her job title to make almost anyone feel inadequate. But the 26-year-old actress/ writer/ director/ producer who dreamt up the hit series Girls seems happy to add another one: role model. At the end of last month, in a podcast interview with Alec Baldwin, Dunham said she was aware of the responsibility that comes from younger women looking up to her: “It’s an amazing thing and... a platform that you have to take seriously.”
BELOW: What are the biggest mistakes Girls make today? A Glamour poll published today reveals all..
For so much of the last decade, female role models – especially in their twenties - have been hard to find. Of course, there were plenty of impressive women, but they didn’t seem to get many column inches or much airtime. Particularly out and proud ones, who didn’t think the “role model” tag fusty and old-fashioned.
In place of strong young women, the media seemed to fixate on the pin-up in crisis. There was poor Britney Spears, with her 55-hour Las Vegas marriage, hoohah-flashing and stint in rehab. Lindsay Lohan, whose promising acting career gave way to arrests for driving under the influence and all the associated problems of drug and alcohol addiction. Paris Hilton, an “It girl” famous for making a sex tape and going to parties who ended up in jail. And then we were given the Kardashians, although I don’t want to waste vital brain power working out exactly how they became famous. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, we had blanket coverage of Cheryl Cole and later her lookalike X Factor replacement Tulisa - two women whose musical talents have been overshadowed by their private lives and a media obsession with what they wear and how they look.
This week's Glamour Magazine's poll on 'The Mistakes Girls Mistake' revealed the following figures...
ON DATING AND SEX
72% regret at least one person they dated in their twenties.
28% regret staying in a relationship because it was comfortable.
77% regret a one - night stand. 54% have had unprotected sex and 12% have caught an STI. 61% have had an abortion or know someone who has.
18% thought they’d be having way more sex than they actually are.
81% admit there are tensions in their friendship.
59% blame being cancelled on as their biggest rift.
ON THEIR MONEY AND FINANCES
61% spend more than they earn.
69% feel pressure to be financially independent.
16% have up to £5,000 credit card debt.
38% rely on overdraft to live and 46% have no savings.
ON THEIR ATTITUDES TO DRINKING
20% have tried to do their job while drunk.
75% have done something drunk that they wouldn’t do sober.
Alcohol has made 30% sleep with a stranger and 77% risk their safety.
ON THEIR CAREERS
45% thought they’d get their dream job in their twenties.
55% regret not being more self assured at work.
44% wish they’d worked out what they’d wanted to do sooner.
28% regret not speaking about up about a payrise or promotion.
The full feature appears in the March issue of Glamour, available on newsstands from today, Monday 4 February 2013
Which all makes Dunham’s success (and elevation to the young woman of the moment) feel so refreshing. For the girl can write. And 'Girls' has neatly summed up the experiences of a privileged part of the so-called Jilted Generation - a group of twenty-somethings with an enormous sense of entitlement who are shocked to find that in 2013, life can be miserable even for them, an endless parade of unpaid internships, bad boyfriends and seriously unsexy sex.
And in place of the feminism-lite that viewers were offered in Sex and the City (an ode to materialism: all sex, shopping and shoes), Dunham is a proud women’s libber. She said in a recent interview that her “greatest pet peeve” is women who say “I’m not a feminist”. I think this filters through into the show with her blase attitude to showing a body that Hollywood would decry as “flawed”. In a world where Heat magazine gets out a red pen to highlight every lump, bump or imperfection and in which women can feel so scrutinised about the way they look, it seems both brave and inspiring.
But the best thing about Girls is how funny it is. The screenwriter Diablo Cody said last week that she believes that Dunham is the “new Woody Allen” but I’d prefer to see her inaugurated into what I like to call the Dorothy Parker club: the group of women who disprove the stupid notion that you need a Y-chromosome to make people laugh. That is one of those maddening stereotypes that men who don’t much like women seem to cast as their trump card with alarming regularity. As Dunham has said herself: “I feel like every few years, there’s some big announcement, like ‘women are funny’, like it’s a news item. And I’m always like: ‘This is not shocking to me.’”
But Dunham has competition as a potential heir to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The 27-year-old Australian actress Rebel Wilson - a scene stealer as the roommate-from-hell in Bridesmaids - is also a writer and comedian. And in stark contrast with many of the characters she plays, she is brilliantly smart. Watch her interviews on Youtube.
Back in the UK, two young women have used humour to even more powerful effect. Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett founded The Vagenda blog a year ago. Their intention was to send up women’s magazines, becoming a sort of online feminist Private Eye and challenging the male domination of satire. At the time, Baxter was so pressed for cash that she was living in Cosslett’s airing cupboard. Now, the site is so popular that the pair have signed a six-figure book deal.
Comedy and satire aren’t the only arenas where women have long been over-looked but seem finally to be winning more attention. Who could forget a summer of sport where so many triumphed in London? Although it’s hard to pick a role model from so many heroines – from Jessica Ennis to Sarah Storey - the boxer Nicola Adams stands out for me. Having struggled to scrape together enough cash to train for most of her career, she became the first woman and the first openly bisexual person to win an Olympic boxing gold medal. And then she gave that incredible grin that seems never to have left her face since.
There are countless other more under-the-radar role models too – such as the entrepreneurs Claire Watt-Smith who founded the luxury handbag label Bobelle and Michelle You, who co-founded the gig-listing service Songkick.
Female role models are vital because the world still seems so male-dominated: just look at the House of Commons where only 22 per cent of MPs are female, or the boardrooms of Britain’s 100 biggest listed companies, where only two women hold chief executive roles.
And it matters having strong, talented women on the way up because it shows teenage girls what they can achieve. Of course, there are older (and historical) women who also inspire, from Hillary Clinton to Rosa Parks. But it is sometimes hard to see how you could emulate that success; it can be easier to imagine yourself in the role of someone a mere decade older than you.
We all need someone to look up to – never more so than when we are growing up. So let’s cheer all these brilliant young women having their day.
Girls: Season 1 is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from HBO Home Entertainment. Discover more at their dedicated Facebook page. Watch the trailer below...