I've been eagerly anticipating the new HBO show Girls by Lena Dunham, the 26 year old Wunderkind triple threat - Director, Actor, Writer. With one indie, South By Southwest winning film under her belt - Tiny Furniture - she got the deal of a lifetime. Judd Apatow, the outwardly schlemiel-ly but actually menschy mastermind of hilarious and undeniably entertaining films including 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, saw Tiny Furniture and sought her out. As the story goes. She was already working on the pilot for Girls and from there it was kismet.
It is also a pitch perfect depiction of Millennials - that generation of confident, entitled, I'm here to save the world and become Mark Zuckerberg twenty-somethings that I've come across in the form of interns. And to be clear, not all twenty-somethings fit this description. Just as not all the young people (when I was young) met the definition of Gen-X: disillusioned, somewhat angry (at what?), counter culture grunge-loving, Kurt Cobain aficionados. Some of us did. But many went to work in law firms or consulting firms, went to business school and never went to Raves or got tattoos.
But there's a way that generations get defined by their distinctive-from-generations-past young people and the definition sticks. Of course, no generation is monolithic. But Millennials are known to be entitled and want the corner office the day after they start work in a sort of charmingly naive way. Not everyone can be Mark Zuckerberg, right? But it's sort of cute to think so. Before life sets you straight. (Cynicism = Gen X).
As the story goes, these Millennials need lots of praise because they've always gotten it - this is the generation of 'everyone gets a medal, no one loses!' As their Gen-X bosses who expected little and often opted out because we didn't even want the little we might come across, we find them difficult to manage. We are forced to take classes and read articles and books on how to manage them, in fact. Though I opted-in to corporate America I was squarely, definitively an X-er: cynical, skeptical of wanting what everyone had always wanted, tattoos. And now I find myself to be a curmudgeonly 'kids today' parody of fading generations before me, of the ilk who thought the next generation was going to be the end of us. I'm embarrassing myself.
So these Millennials? That's Girls. And I like it. The show, I mean. They are hurting and talented and can't figure it out. Which is, universally, what it is to be young. They are this crazy combination of over-confident, exceedingly entitled and desperately insecure. In the opening show, Hannah (Lena's character) is cut off by her parents after 2 years of being on the dole, post college. She's flabbergasted. She can't imagine why they'd do this when she's a burgeoning talent, a writer. The voice of her generation, potentially. Or "a voice of a generation" as she puts it. See, there's a hint of self-doubt in there - barely visible, but there.
I love the aspiration. Of the show. Of Hannah. And she's clearly not as sure of herself as she might want to be. She's awkward, sleeps with men who treat her terribly because she must think she doesn't quite deserve more. But what I'm not sure of, is do the creators, does Lena Dunham think this entitlement is an annoying characteristic of her generation or does she think it's justified - simply how they ought to be? It feels like she knows how annoying they can be. And at the same time loves them. She is them. But she isn't. Clearly in real life she is dedicated, hard-working, successful, ballsy, not living off her parents and very privileged. She didn't have to wait long for her big break so does she get that her life isn't what normally happens to people? I'm assuming she does. And that she's grateful.
There's part of me that wants to not like it because of the hype (I'm a Gen-Xer at heart) and the overnight sensation-ism of this not yet thirty year old. Having friends and family that have toiled for years as writers to not meet with nearly the success that she has without even seemingly having to try... well, it's hard not to want to hate it. But I don't.
I'd like it that much more if I knew that this generation sees this quality of entitlement as slightly annoying. A tic to be outgrown rather than a birthright. I'm not sure.