Semantics, Semiotics, and “Girls” in the Blogosphere

Curator's Note

The New York of Girls is no more real than Hogwarts or Narnia, a fact that should not detract from one’s engagement with the series. However, Girls does not admit to being fantasy. Moreover, the blogosphere insists Girls is a groundbreaking  and salient portrayal of young adults living in the city. Problematic. What we see in Girls and how we write/speak about the series seems unhinged from all referents. It is detached in a way that feels empty of any cultural or critical meaning.

Articles use the language of culture and criticism while insisting the terms be allowed to float, not tethered to agreed upon understanding,  and should we fail to make these allowances we inevitably fail to understand. We don’t understand the author and we sure as hell don’t understand Girls. These problems of understanding can be sourced to the enigmatic worlds we build in an effort to sidestep nuanced discussions of race, class, and gender. Structures even Escher would be perplexed at the sight of.

Quite recently a blogger on Indiewire wrote: "the most radical aspect of Girls… is how it allows its characters to act like actual aimless young people...” What “young people” is the author referring to? What kind of young people have the time and resources to be “aimless?” What world do these young people inhabit? The language used is so broad as to be symbolically violent. Several commentaries tie themselves in knots in their efforts to muffle the chatter of race and class and convince us of the virtuousness of this particular media text.  

The discussion of Girls in the blogosphere highlights an emerging issue of false equivalencies in online commentary. Readers should not expect an engaged analysis from authors not willing or capable of producing one. The production cycle of the Internet is much faster than any peer-reviewed or even quasi peer-reviewed publication resulting in a great deal of opinion which sounds like analysis but is really opinion. For now, how the blogosphere speaks about Dunham and Girls has a quality best epitomized by her Golden Globe acceptance speech: half-hearted, without soul, and anchored by an awkward arrogance which can’t seem to recognize that telling the other women in your award category you loved them in middle school is not a compliment.

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