Some critics have noted that these four white, privileged, college-educated young women, participants, no less, in that oft-maligned Brooklyn demographic whose name we ought not utter, certainly don’t speak for them. But that was never the point. Like Tiny Furniture, the series seems to draw on Duhnam’s own particular vision, if not her own experiences.
“It’s a weird subculture, the kids who grew up in New York," Dunham said. "I think we’ve seen the 'Gossip Girl,' Upper East Side kid. You see what it’s like to be really rich or duking it out in a street gang. But to just like be a kid. There are kids who live here who are nerdy, and they have the same kinds of anxieties that suburban kids have. They just happen to live in Soho.”
The beauty of Girls is that it seems to understand what it's like for those who are trying to figure out New York while they're still trying to figure out themselves. Dunham’s New York isn’t Bright Lights, Big City, though Hannah does have literary ambitions. It isn’t even Party Girl, though there is a lot of fretting over rent money. And it certainly wouldn’t be recognizable to Carrie and friends. Instead, Dunham’s is the New York of the fourth-floor walkups, unpaid internships, and the feeling that the city is mostly indifferent to your presence.
Dunham and her co-writers have an ear for the codes with which such New Yorkers speak, the ones that establish who is in and out, who gets it and who doesn’t. Cobble Hill is “grown-up Brooklyn.” Some people think the High Line is “bullshit,” while others think it’s a great place for an afternoon with friends or a book. Even the Weather Up blooper shows an understanding of how New Yorkers segregate by taste.
“I do object to any bar that calls its bartenders 'mixologists,'” quips Hannah, who prefers “a bar where the average patron could be described as crotchety.”
The funniest example of these distinctions are found in Shoshanna, who is the kind of young woman who moved to New York because she thinks Sex and the City is real. She buys Dylan’s Candy for a pick-me-up and reads self-help books that offer up real talk advice for “the ladies.”
“She’s not ever going to realize that New York’s not like that,” said Dunham. “She’s just going to think, ‘Well, where’s the part of the city where all the Sex and the City stuff is happening? How do I keep not getting there? I go to Magnolia. Why isn’t this going down like it’s supposed to?’ ”
Part of finding your toehold in New York is figuring out which New York to call your own. Those not interested in living in Carrie Bradshaw’s fantasy soon learn to peel back the city’s layers. By burrowing in, by deciding whether you’re the kind of person who waits in line at Magnolia Bakery or knows where to get the best Szechuan in Jackson Heights, whether you covet the phone number to Milk and Honey or prefer a corner table at the Brooklyn Inn, you can begin to crack it open.