Girls & Can We Enjoy Unlikable Characters?

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After seeing The Rise of Skywalker twice, I wanted more Adam Driver media to consume. His portrayal of Kylo Ren was outstanding. One of Adam Driver’s first roles was in the HBO series Girls written by Lena Dunham. After getting access to Amazon Prime, I decided to dive right into watching this show. Many of the main characters in Girls are extremely unlikable. This made me wonder: to what extent do our characters have to be “likeable” to be able to sympathize with them?

Before I go through answering this question, I wanted to provide background on this show. Girls is a Sex in the City for this generation. It tells the story of four 20 something’s living in NYC after graduating from college. Hannah (played by Lena Dunham), Marnie (played by Allison Williams), Jessa (played by Jemima Kirke) and Shoshanna (played by Zozia Mamet) are the main characters this show focuses on. The girls go through break ups, hookups and career shakeups throughout the series.

Each of the four girls are unlikable in a different way. Hannah can be selfish in regards to how she views her relationships. Marnie can be super judgemental. Jessa is flaky and Shoshanna talks extremely fast to the point where it’s hard to carry a conversation with her. These flaws can be annoying to witness at certain times. It became difficult to continue on in the series because I never felt I could relate to their struggles.

There are a couple shows I like where the characters aren’t likeable, but I’m not sure what makes Girls different. For example, I love to watch The Big Bang Theory. However, if you pay closer attention to the male four friends, they make fatphobic jokes towards Howard’s mother and act misogynistic towards women they find attractive. I like the show, but the characters can be awful at times.

One reason why I believe Girls became hard to watch was because I didn’t see the girls maturing into better human beings. Hannah can’t take personal critisism when she goes off to graduate school. Marnie sleeps with men in relationships while Jessa (despite being an addict) is rude to her friends. Shoshanna is probably the most likable girl in the bunch, but I don’t see her maturing either. For me, I don’t want “perfect” characters in media, but I want to see them learn from their mistakes and become better human beings. I didn’t feel this way from watching Girls. 

Let’s go back to Adam Driver’s character. His character is also named Adam and for most of the show he’s dating Hannah. Adam’s character initially is a douchebag who only sees Hannah as a hookup. He’s a slob and has quite a bit of growing up to do. As the seasons progress, Adam starts to develop. In season #2 we find out Adam is in AA because of his problem with drinking. This information makes me love Adam’s character. When Hannah is having an OCD episode, Adam makes his way across NYC to comfort her. Adam isn’t a perfect character, but he’s the only character who has grown up over the course of the seasons.

I stopped watching Girls mid way through season #4 because I discovered this show wasn’t for me. I don’t regret watching the show because I believe Girls does a couple things right. The sex positivity in this show is what makes watching the first couple of seasons worth it. Lena Dunham doesn’t have the sterotypical Hollywood body and it’s refreshing to see a different body type on TV. Some of the sex scenes were hard to watch while other scenes felt accurate.

If you want to watch Girls because of Adam Driver, go for it. I recommend watching seasons #1-#3 because that’s where you will see the best of Adam Driver.

2 thoughts on “Girls & Can We Enjoy Unlikable Characters?

  1. I think we can enjoy unlikeable characters to some extent. I think it depends what we want out of it. For example, I like to watch dramatic reality TV sometimes like Kardashians or Below Deck or Real Housewives, and while I know they aren’t characters per se, they are all annoying and unlikeable, but I watch for silly entertainment, so I don’t care if I dislike them all. Whereas I personally find Big Bang Theory so annoying and offensive that I can’t look past their awful jokes to enjoy the show.
    I think seeing growth in characters is great but often it’s kind of hard to do and rare in TV because I don’t think writers want to change a character so much as it may lead to things not being as funny or relatable.
    Also, if you want more Adam Driver content, I recommend a movie called What If. It stars Daniel Radcliffe, but Adam plays his best friend, and it’s a cute romcom (made in Canada yay).

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    • Ooh I’ll have to watch it. True if you’re watching reality TV, that’s what you’re in for. With the Big Bang Theory, I felt the characters start to grow up and evolve from their offensive jokes. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but I saw growth from them. I would say character growth in TV can happen, but you’re right it doesn’t happen often.

      Like

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