HBO’s ‘Girls’ shows the real side of sex and New York City

Studio 360

Lena Dunham is the creator, director, and star of the new HBO series Girls, and, at 25, happy to be called a girl herself.

The show, which premiered Sunday night, follows four young women trying to carve out adult lives for themselves in New York City, struggling with independence, sex, and work. Comparisons to Sex and the City are inevitable, but Girls brings a level of realism rare to TV.

The apartments are cramped, the clothes unfabulous, the sex awkward and unsatisfying. In the opening episode, there was even a poke at the popular progenitor.

Dunham grew up in New York, the child of two very successful visual artists — painter Carroll Dunham and photographer Laurie Simmons. They supported her early creative ventures but didn’t necessarily endorse them.

“The fact that my parents are creative and that I respect what they do doesn’t mean that we’re going to be in a constant dialogue of agreement,” she said.

She admits casting her mother and sister in her film Tiny Furniture (2010) “tested my dad’s boundaries.”

For all the realism of Girls, humiliation is the basis of television comedy, and Dunham revels in showing herself in the most unflattering light possible.

“Sometimes I have to pull myself back from my instinct to kind of overly humiliate my character,” she said. “Those are the scenes that are the most fun to play, those are the scenes that are the most fun to write, and I have to make sure I sort of keep the balance of the fact that life is not being tarred, then feathered, then covered in mud then put in a ketchup shower.”

Or at least not in the same scene.

Bonus: An extended conversation with Lena Dunham

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