Here’s a theory: Nobody cares about “Girls” anymore.
When Lena Dunham’s awkward, naked, hipster fever dream of an HBO series debuted back in 2012, it was “raw” and “real” because the main character has a far from perfect body, is often naked, and usually finds herself in compromising sexual situations. Also, every character in the show is the most vapid, deplorable person imaginable, which held some weird attraction for people.
But “Girls” also used to be, at times, genuinely shocking. There haven’t been any television shows whose sole purpose is to make you feel uncomfortable by explicitly depicting two average-looking people having sex. The asshole main characters were so horrible that we watched the next episode just to see what horrible things they would do next. And, while we’re at it, can you name another show that once featured Brian Williams’ daughter masturbating in a bathroom?
But now, no one is talking about “Girls” anymore because it’s no longer shocking. It’s boring, and nobody watches it.
The show, which is now in the middle of its third season, airs right after HBO’s most buzzed about show, “True Detective.” That show has 2.6 million viewers and climbing. The most recent episode of “Girls,” on the other hand, had about 916,000 viewers — a figure has been dropping steadily every week. That means that once “Girls” starts, about 1.6 million people change the channel from HBO. Ouch.
Back in the first and second seasons, “Girls” had just a little over one million viewers, and was inspiring nearly twice as many think pieces (this is a non-scientific calculation) as it does now.
A quick review of Slate, Salon, Vulture and Jezebel — sites that have frequently published exhaustive stories about the importance of “Girls” – reveals that the majority of the pieces now written about Dunham focus on her politically-charged celebrity status, not her “art.”
When we talk about Dunham now, it’s all about the Vogue Photoshopping incident (which doesn’t even have anything to do with the show), or the time that TV critic asked her why she was always naked and the feminist backlash that ensued. The reviews for the show are still good — professional television critics have always been Dunham’s real target demographic — but the praise is more muted now.
There are, of course, exceptions like Vulture’s “Is Hannah Horvath TV’s Most Selfish Character?” (The answer: DUH.) But all of these stories came out ahead of the third season premiere. Since it actually the show actually started up again, no one is talking about it. The TV writers who once wrote rhapsodically about Dunham’s televised humiliations now spend their energy dissecting the latest “True Detective” or “Hannibal.”