This Anti-Girls, Anti-Birth Control Op Ed Gets It All Wrong
3:30 pm, November 27th | by Sarah Devlin
National Review writer Betsy Woodruff just got HBO Go and an internet connection, apparently, and has written an essay all about the moral implications of Girls (spoiler alert: they’re not good!). I have never been a huge advocate for the show, but there’s a lot to like about it! But more importantly, this very, verrrry tardy review is so obtusely ignorant of the body of criticism surrounding Girls — and, it seems, the show itself, as well as modern life — that I feel compelled to jump into the fray to defend Dunham and Co. Let’s break it down.
Girls is a wildly popular HBO show about four young women living in Brooklyn and trying to “make it,” whatever that means these days.”
Girls is not wildly popular — it’s not even close to the most widely-watched show on HBO. What it is is widely discussed, which can certainly give the illusion of widespread popularity for people who are not paying attention. This is a small error, but it does little to establish Woodruff’s credibility.
If you used the World Wide Web in the last month, you may know her as the tattooed brunette who made the “Voting for Obama is like losing your virginity” ad. Her show just got renewed for a third season, and she got a $3.7 million deal for her first book of essays, successfully lowering the self-esteem of 26-year-olds everywhere.
The “world wide web”?
But there’s an important difference between Apatow’s work and Dunham’s, and that is that Apatow tells and re-tells stories of growing up, while Dunham shows a group of women who stubbornly refuse to do so. Apatow shows characters learning the importance of responsibility and morality, while Dunham’s characters are largely devoid of the former and uninterested in the latter.
Here Woodruff makes an unfavorable comparison between Dunham’s work and that of her mentor Apatow’s. This is silly for several reasons — Apatow is involved in the production of Girls, even co-writing one of its most memorable episodes, “The Return,” which was all about how the lead character has changed and outgrown her suburban Ohio surroundings. Moreover, many critics of Apatow find his depiction of adulthood depressing — a bunch of man-children getting dragged into maturity by the harder-working and less good-humored women in their lives.
Her friends are equally appalled by the prospect of a 24-year-old paying her own phone bills, and, for the most part, they’re equally reckless. For instance, in the second episode, one of them misses her abortion appointment because she’s busy having sex in a bar.
Whoops, wrong again. Jessa skipped her appointment because she miscarried, something that came to her attention when she was hooking up with a random guy at the bar. Details, man.
But Dunham’s stupid little YouTube ad for the president might have ruined it all for me. That’s because she sounds like she’s channeling her character, Invasion of the Body Snatchers–style. They share the same baffling, naïvely egomaniacal understanding of justice — they both seem to think that because they exist, the universe needs to make sure that all the sex they choose to have is consequence-free.
You can almost argue that Lena Dunham sees President Obama as the perfect surrogate for everything missing in her characters’ lives: He’s their gentle lover, supportive parent, and empathetic friend. He’s special. He won’t let them down. He’s Prince Charming. And that kind of defeats the purpose of feminism.
Whaaaaat. First of all, sex has plenty of consequences in Girls — a debilitating fear of STDs (and actual STDs), pregnancy, even love. Sex is taken very seriously on the show; fitting, because it’s a serious subject and a tough one to navigate as a young person. Aaand here’s where Woodruff really starts to go off the rails.
In fact, for all practical purposes, the patriarchy no longer decides whom American women can sleep with and when. That’s great. But if you don’t want men in Washington telling you how to use your sexuality, you shouldn’t expect them to subsidize it. But Dunham seems to actually believe they should. Dunham makes tons of money, and I’m quite confident she can afford to pay for her own birth control.
Hahahahahahahahahaha. Oh right, true female independence can only be achieved when we all start paying for our own birth control, given that we have the biological ability to spontaneously generate babies and should probably see about getting that under control. It’s hard to get too upset about this, given that Betsy Woodruff’s attempt at trolling is at best a month late (the election is over, dude!) and at worst a year behind (Girls premiered last April!). But for all the criticism leveled at the show, saying that the characters don’t learn a thing, don’t take sex seriously and fantasize about a lover-slash-President who will solve all of their problems and buy all their birth control is not only incorrect and lazy, it’s actually bonkers. And as many members of the Republican party could tell you this year, equating asking insurance to cover birth control with a lack of personal responsibility is not a popular, winning, or reality-based strategy. Perhaps Woodruff will re-watch the show and correct some of her misconceptions, penning a heartfelt and apologetic mea culpa sometime in early 2014. Well, probably not, but a girl can dream.