On Sunday nights, #Girls started blowing up my Twitter feed, alongside #MadMen and #GameofThrones. The show was highly anticipated and critically acclaimed, and has clearly built a rabid following. What's surprising, though, is that a lot of these fans are men. Straight men, at that, who usually are slow to warm up to lady-centric TV. Via social media and general conversation, coupled with the recently reported stat that the show's audience is 60% male, it's apparent men have embraced Girls in a way they never did Sex and the City — the comedy it's most frequently compared to.
Are they just watching the show in the hopes of catching the glimpse of a stray boob? Doubtful, since Sex and the City had its share of racy scenes, yet didn't keep the boys calling. Save for a recent make-out scene with Marnie and Jessa (which had male viewers high-fiving across the nation, I imagine), those expecting a lot of sexy naked women on Girls have likely jumped ship by now. The show's creator and star, Lena Dunham, has been the only one to truly strip down during sex scenes — an act of bravery considering her less-than-Hollywood-perfect body — and those moments are infused with far more awkwardness than sex appeal. By now, guys have caught on that Girls is usually not the place to ogle, yet they've stayed on the ride.
So what, then, makes Girls more approachable to men? I tapped a few nearby straight guys, all of whom call themselves fans, to find out what about the show keeps them coming back:
1. It's about women, but it's not “pro-woman.”
In other words, the female characters are not always right, which is refreshing for men, especially since that was a point often missed on Sex and the City. My own Sunday night TV-viewing partner recalls a scene in Sex and the City that irked him in this way: Carrie picks a fight with boyfriend Aidan when his dog eats her shoe, belittles him for using Rogaine, then usurps his cool-off walk around the block. “No, I'm taking a walk!” Carrie yells, as Aidan tries to escape.
“So first she fights with Aidan over something he can't control,” he says, “then humiliates him for going bald, then doesn't even do him the courtesy of letting him blow off steam. And we're supposed to have sympathy for Carrie?”
At no point in the episode is Carrie taken to task for being unreasonable.
Girls, conversely, does a better job of not situating women so squarely in the right. Hannah, for example, upon discovering she knows nothing about Adam because she's never asked, realizes she'd been treating him as poorly as he'd been treating her. Marnie pushes away her perfectly nice boyfriend, Charlie. In both cases, the guy plays the sympathetic character.
“I felt bad for Charlie,” L.A. Weekly food blogger Garrett Snyder says. “He was just trying to be a good boyfriend and Marnie dumped all over him.”
2. The problems faced on the show aren't “girl problems,” but “everyone problems.”
Unlike the fashion- and/or marriage-obsessed ladies on Sex and the City, the women on Girls are characters with whom male audience members can identify. “Much of what they're going through are the same things I'm going through,” college student and L.A. Weekly music intern K.C. Libman says.
Of course, starting out is tough on almost everyone. You're usually poor, confused and longing for direction. (If you didn't experience this, congrats, but count yourself lucky.) Hannah struggles with money, pride and the fear of being unsuccessful. She also, along with Marnie and Jessa, pursues dysfunctional relationships. Shoshanna isn't sure how to fit in. This is the plight of many 20-somethings, not just the female half of them, making the show more inclusive than Sex and the City, which focused mainly on female-centric issues like ticking biological clocks and the fear of never getting married.
3. It's about girls without being “girly.”
This is my own theory, which stems from knowing every Sex and the City episode by heart, coupled with years of watching men retch every time it comes up in conversation: Girls is a more down-to-earth window into girl world than Sex and the City ever managed to be, so it's intriguing to men without being offputting. Men couldn't care less about Manolo Blahniks. Ipso facto, they couldn't care less about a woman obsessed with Manolo Blahniks. (And frankly, the same goes for a lot of women.) The girls on Girls, it seems, are just a hell of a lot more interesting.
Sex and the City was girly in a more obvious way, but Girls goes a little deeper. Hannah getting caught singing a Jewel song by herself in the car or Marnie Facebook-stalking clad in sweats and an oversized T-shirt, or none of the characters knowing how to behave at an abortion — these are far truer “girl moments” than any shoe-shopping excursion.
Are you a boy who likes Girls? Is your boyfriend or husband or male friend? Let us know in the comments why you think guys dig it.