Why Boys Should Watch ‘Girls’

I remember reading about HBO’s Girls when it was on TV. The critics would rave on about how ‘real’ the characters are and how controversial their sex scenes can be. What sparked my interest was the fact that Judd Apatow is the executive producer, and at the time I couldn’t get enough of his movies. When the first season was released on DVD, I picked it up at the store whilst recommending it to my girlfriend. She was always trying to get me to watch Sex and the City, so when Girls was released I thought this would be close enough. It’s all about girls (funnily enough) and it should share some of Apatow’s particular humour. Luckily I was right on both parts, and with the series half way through its third season I am still watching every episode.

Adam HBO Girls
Adam clearly knows just to listen in the relationship.

You might be thinking that it’s strange for me to be drawn to Girls instead of Sex and the City, when both shows have four main female characters. It’s not the girls that I am hooked on; I find that the male characters in the show are just as intricate as the females. Yes I also like the main character Hannah Horvath, which the show centres around, but it’s her spirited and narcissistic boyfriend, Adam, who draws me in.

In the first season, Adam was portrayed as a jerk and nothing more than a sex crazed lunatic who seemed to never leave his apartment. But as the show progressed and developed, so too did the male characters, particularly Adam. We all knew that Hannah needed Adam in her life. When the tables turn and we are told that Adam actually has true feelings for Hannah, we as the audience start to develop a connection with him. As I watch the show I can often relate to how he feels and acts towards certain situations. Certainly not all situations, but some. He holds a lot of emotions back, like many males. This certain trait is relevant to many men, but as Adam progresses as a character more of what he does and says opens himself up for more men to relate too. In the first season, his main locale was his dirty apartment where he would parade around shirtless working on wooden sculptures.

As he progresses forward through to the second season, Adam begins to deal with his inner problems and we start to see a much more real character who is even willing to step out of his apartment and go on a real date. That is of course after he partakes in the pathetic and somewhat relatable heartache over the girl he proclaimed his love to. Adam has proven to be more than just the sex crazed, arrogant giant that stomped around his apartment. His progression as a character makes the show interesting for the male audience to watch as he is a believable person who we can all relate to some way, shape or form.

Ray HBO Girls
“What do you want?”

On the other spectrum of the male characters is Ray. The oldest of all the characters, Ray runs a coffee shop and hasn’t done much with his life even though he is more than capable of doing so. In season one, Ray was nothing more than Charlie’s friend, not taking much of the spotlight off of the female characters. As the series moved on, and with the withdrawal of Charlie from the show, Ray has made himself known within the show. Initially his character grew through his relationship with the young and innocent Shoshanna, but has now moved to a fully developed character who has become even more prominent in the series.

His attitude comes across as very angry at first. He rants on about social problems as well as his own problems, but as you dig deeper into his character Ray shows true compassion towards his friends. He is a very smart character but is still yet to fully understand how girls act. A relevant trait for most men. Ray’s social commentaries and the way he is very abrupt and truthful are relatable qualities that I can see myself doing. I can sit back and listen to Ray babble on about relationships or watch him bob his head to a Smashing Pumpkins song at a party, to then get angry when the song is changed to ‘Sexy and I Know It‘. After which I can say “that’s something I’d do.”

His vocal personality puts Ray in some funny positions, making it entertaining for the audience to watch. He is a very cynical and judgemental character, which shows through his anger towards many situations. But these traits are just a shell over his insecurity as a middle aged man who can’t really get on his own two feet. This is why I find Ray to be such a worthy character within the show. I feel that this is a very true situation for men, and a relatable subject for those that watch it.

Ray is the typical male in some ways; his ability to be strong and truthful to others is just the barrier that covers his true feelings. While Adam on the other hand is more of the contemporary male; someone who is more in tune with his life and open about his insecurities and complexities. These small aspects further developing the characters are missing within the female cast. I find that the girls in the show develop into contradictory characters. They grow tired of being with men, but when that male moves on and becomes successful, they just want him back. To me, the girls remain the same character each season.

HBO Girls Charlie
Sensitive Charlie: the wallflower

The other main male character, Charlie, who I mentioned before has yet to make an appearance in season 3. We know that he ran off from an engagement, but nothing more has been said about him thus far. Charlie was the normal guy who was in a normal relationship with a girl that couldn’t stand him. His progression occurred mid-way through season 1 when he was dumped and he changed his persona totally; dating a much more edgy girl and not having things bother him which would have before. This phase didn’t last long, but is also a relatable trait to those men who have had someone break up with them. Personally, I didn’t think Charlie brought much more to the show other than his progression in season 1 and the show doesn’t suffer without him in season 3.

Girls has been able to showcase the struggles and the emotions that girls have to go through in their everyday lives, but it’s the inclusion of the struggles and emotions of the male characters that should earn the show even more praise. The title will always make men second guess whether they should flick the channel or continue watching it, but if they stick with it, Girls proves to be a rewarding show for both sexes.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Great insight into the male characters. I like the progression discussion of Adam–he really has proved to be a versatile character. I’m curious to know what you’re opinion is on the economic situations of the characters(?) I don’t mind a show that has non-realistic qualities, but I know Dunham has promoted the show as a real life depiction of NYC young life–yet I’m not sure where they are getting their money. I guess from parents? I also wish there was more diversity on the show. What do you think?

  2. Kerry Cunningham

    I am a young-ish Caucasian female, potentially a member of the target audience for Girls, yet I can’t stomach the show. Why? Because it depicts the “struggles” of overprivileged, whiny, navel-gazing women who have no sense of their place in history nor their responsibility to the larger society that awarded them the privileges that they enjoy. Most of their trials and tribulations are self-inflicted and pretty much a factor of their irresponsibility and short-sightedness.

    Does it ever occur to these characters that they might, as members of a creative class in an era of disillusionment and cynicism, have an obligation to look beyond their own limited, pseudo-intellectual bubbles and contribute something that is insightful or transcendent? No. Their posture is one of entitled consumption. They take what is handed to them, and then they complain when they are given any less. Their art is first about eating and then about shitting where they eat.

    One can argue that Dunham has worked hard for the attention she has received. But what does that really mean? She is the child of famous artists. More likely than not, she had opportunities made available to her, and roles modeled for her, that very few young artists do. Similarly, her cadre of “girls” are all the progeny of creative royalty: Simon Kirke, David Mamet, Brian Williams.

    There is a lack of representation of diverse viewpoints on the program, but I believe that to be a symptom of the larger problem.

    • Nicholas Devin

      Interesting point.
      But my focus wasn’t on the women in the show. I can’t relate to them. If I could, I would have included that in the article.

    • Annaliese Hooper

      Your points are very valid therefor I may be missing the deeper meaning here, but it’s TELEVISION. To touch on subjects and diversity that you want touched on as an educated viewer would be to create a show that is, well, yet to be created! (That is without bordering on the spectrum of ‘reality TV’ or ‘documentary’). Lena has created entertaining viewing that gives us a generous slap of reality and a relaxing dose of comedic delusion.

      However, the article wasn’t written to debate said topic. The focus (or at least what I took from it) is that in 90% of today’s viewing there is a target audience and it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that with a title like ‘Girls’ it is a show for just that, girls. Nick has given the male viewer however, great insight into what many of them may miss when denying shows like Girls a chance. Whether it be a fragment of relatability or a full blown epiphany, the author has simply indulged in the idea that as a male, there may in fact be something to gain and take away from watching a show you might find forced upon you by the girlfriend! Or, if you’re just a male generally interested in popular TV, then Girls isn’t the worst thing you could find yourself viewing and/or enjoying!

  3. Figueroa

    GIRLS is not a model of accessibility if you’re a male viewer.
    I know I am not Lena Dunham’s target audience–and it is hard to argue with her well-deserved success–but I wonder if the show’s positive momentum leaves its creators time to appreciate the following:

    * Few male viewers find any of the female characters to be sympathetic;
    * Few male viewers identify with any of the male characters;
    * A responsible filmmaker is conscious of his influence on society.

    What I find most impressive is the consistently heroic performances of young actors inhabiting such unflattering roles.

    • Nicholas Devin

      I disagree with your point that few male viewers can identify with the male characters. I’d like to think I proved why males can relate to the characters. To me, they have developed the atypical male and the modern male in an interesting way, which stays true for men to relate to.

  4. I tried watching the show, but couldn’t. It was just unwatchable.

  5. Jordan

    Interesting. I despise sex and the city (I’m a girl) but this sounds interesting. Cool article 🙂

  6. All I am going to say to this is that there has never been gender equality on television, and Girls isn’t making up only for Entourage, it’s making up for numerous portrayals of women who, even if we were allowed to hear their inside conversations, were simplified, dependent and unrealistic. Young women in particular have been left out of intelligent conversations, and lead roles, since television began, with few exceptions.

  7. Christopher

    If there is a lack of diversity on HBO programs that’s HBO’s issue to deal with, not the fault of the author behind the work.

    No one gets to dictate the content of the art except the artist themselves, whether we’re talking about Lena Dunham or Tyler Perry.

  8. A. Quinn

    The show is not that great. I watch each week now cause I’ve kinda gotten into the characters. The Hannah character, seriously, most scenes with her are absolutely hysterical. I’ve been roaring with laughter…the scene her parents tell her they are cutting her off, the sex scenes… I could go on and on. Oh, the eyebrow scene practically killed me. That was so damn funny.

  9. PatsBrock

    “GIrls” is a really creative show and Lena Dunham is one of the most amazing talents to come around in years. I don’t feel it’s up to a show to check all the boxes for people’s politically correct expectations – Dunham isn’t running for political office. I also think that because she’s young and a female a lot of people are feeling a little jealous re her. She is being true to herself and her life experience – not other people’s expectations. It takes a lot of confidence to do what she’s doing – and a lot of talent. Love the show for being as unique and sometimes as raw as it is.

  10. Jermaine Thompson

    If television is going to succeed and grow, it will have to reflect more of the broader demographic than we are currently seeing. And it will have to change with the changing demographic as well.

  11. I agree with your perspective on the character development of both Adam and Ray. It is nice to hear male commentary that doesn’t include a sword or a joystick and it is especially refreshing to read commentary by a man on an emotionally developing male character. Adam and Ray are much more real in their honesty, quirks, and imperfections then much of the male characters on HBO today-because we primarily see them against the backdrop of these…..girls. These male characters are allowed to be themselves only as far as their weirdness or emotion doesn’t surpass that of their significant others. Let’s face it … Charlie was wwaayyy to weak for Marnie…and Ray is too emotionally honest also. Marnie needs a guy with a sword or a joystick-someone who gives her a run for her money-like all female 20-something’s do.

  12. Felicia Bonanno

    One of my favorite aspects of this show was Adam’s character development. At first, I found myself cringing any time he’d come into the scene, but after the first season I realized he was my favorite character. His weirdness, depression, and honest love of himself are strangely endearing. It’s always the weird characters you always end up falling in love with.

    Has anyone else felt this show could be a little boring at times though because it’s almost too much like real life? Sometimes I don’t even find it entertaining because it’s not an escape into t.v. land, but a mirror of my own life.

  13. While I am a female, I also see what you are discussing in the male characters of the show. While I do relate more to some of Hannah or Marnie’s struggles, I love seeing how much Adam is growing throughout the series, and I see how a 20-something guy could relate as well. I see my boyfriend in both Adam and Ray at times. Great article!

  14. Charlie hasn’t made an appearance because the actor abruptly left the show before production started. If you paid attention in a recent episode, they allude to the fact that he left Marnie because he might’ve been gay (a shot from Lena Dunham no doubt).
    As for the show, I am a 23 year old Male, and I relate 110% to this show. First off I dont feel like this show is intended solely for woman in the first place. It is more intended for our generation as a whole. As the writer stated, the male characters have just as much development as the female ones, if not more. Hannah is still the same character she was in season 1, whereas Adam has grown tremendously. Same goes for Shosh, Jessa, or Marnie. I feel like that may partly be the point, that these characters are so self-involved that they dont give themselves room to grow. The way Season 3 ended last night gives me hope that the story is moving toward a endpoint, which I can’t wait for.

  15. Samuel Landy

    I like this article, I like this show.

  16. Emaloo

    I love Girls, it’s one of my favorite shows. It was interesting to read your take on the males on the show and how you can relate to them. I wish there had been more about Charlie because although he’s not on the show anymore, even when was I feel that no one ever talks about him in articles. I think Charlie is significant because he reverses the gender roles. Where we usually see females portrayed as clingy girlfriends, Charlie steps in as the clingy, sensitive guy. It was a refreshing twist on a male character just as Adam is a refreshing twist. And while I know your article was based on your ability to identify with the males and therefore enjoy Girls, I think it would be interesting to look at if you identify with the female characters at all, especially after you’ve been with them for three seasons. Why or why not? As a female, I can identify greatly with different parts of the male characters yet one rarely sees discussions about males identifying with female characters.

  17. I love the show and I absolutely recommend it to my friends as long as I think they will be able to understand the characters’ complexities. In order to watch the show, you have to be able to understand that these are not characters who are good/bad, they are complex and selfish and awful and wonderful.

  18. Anneka

    Good insight on the male characters, but I think you skipped out on the female characters, whom I definitely think are as developed as the male characters. The four girls have to remain relatively consistent over the seasons, so viewers still feel they are relatable and easy to keep up with, they still develop throughout the seasons. I think rather than character development, what you’re actually recognizing is the way the characters are revealed, which is different. From the beginning, most of the main four girls’ characters are revealed, so that as viewers, we relate to them, whereas the male characters’ personalities are revealed more slowly throughout the seasons. This way, it’s like we are getting to know them just like the girls are.
    Both sexes go through character development as well. Take for example Hannah. We feel like we know Hannah from the beginning, at least a little, because she is the main character of the show (much of her character is revealed from the get-go). There has to be an initial sort of understanding felt between her and the viewers. Then when it comes to her relationship with Adam, he is first presented as fairly mysterious and then more of his character is revealed, though the development of his and Hannah’s relationship. To find the way Hannah’s character develops, we simply see the way her opinion of their relationship changes. She goes from wanting him as her boyfriend, to realizing that their relationship isn’t the best. It’s painful to watch her ditch her friends, because you can see her beginning to realize that she really shouldn’t. She knows the relationship is unhealthy and we can see her struggle with this. Then, when she breaks it off, we see that she’s developed more of a sense of what she does want when she tries again with someone new, but she still flounders in making it work. Her development comes in the form of realizing that what she thinks she wants–a label for her relationship with Adam–turns out to not be what she wants. The unhealthy parts of the relationship aren’t fixed or changed by what she thought would help. After all, a large part of personal development is realizing what’s good for one’s self and learning what one really wants, and each female character struggles with this in a different way. There are plenty of examples if one takes the time to look.
    I think another reason you might have liked Girls over Sex in the City, is because in Girls, the men are actually given characters, whereas in Sex in the City, they are given absolutely no voice or persona other than through what the women tell us or how they respond to various situations. Sadly, in Sex in the City, the males encountered are only one dimensional plot tools.

  19. mazzamura

    Even as a female viewer, the male characters are by far more interesting than the female ones. And while the article does not mention Elijah, who does become a key character throughout the show, Adam and Ray are definitely the main driving force for the male spirit in GIRLS. Like their female friends, both Adam and Ray are deeply complex characters; however, they are passionate and loving in a way the girls simply fail to be, which in some ways, goes towards breaking pre-conceived notions of male-female behavior.

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