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Girls' Anatomy

All the inspirations behind Lena Dunham's series

Girls' Anatomy All the inspirations behind Lena Dunham's series

To talk about Girls is to talk about Lena Dunham.

At only 23 years old, with no real significant experience, the actress has created, wrote and starred in the show, gaining so much success and fame to be considered as a spokesperson for her generation and a symbol of the fourth wave of feminism.

An independent film, Tiny Furniture, was enough to get herself considered and appreciated by Judd Apatow, the man who revolutionised American comedy, and the result of the collaboration between the two is the HBO series. Daughter of a painter and a photographer, Dunham tells the story of four twentysomethings in New York between precarious jobs, aspirations, love, sex and friendship.

There is Hannah, played by Lena herself, an aspiring writer whose parents stopped financing her to push her to look for a real job, engaged in an on-off relationship with Adam (Adam Driver), but there's also her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams) assistant in an art gallery who wants to be singer. There is Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), the most naive and talkative with a vision of life filtered through the telly, and her cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke), the super cool bohemian world traveller with perfect hair and face.

Together the girls live in a Big Apple that's more real, more ordinary than as seen in projects such as Sex and the City or Gossip Girl, in which hard and awkwardly the protagonists try to understand who they are and what they want.

And this is the secret of Girls: removing the glamorous finish without turning into drama, speaking without paternalism of venereal diseases, mental and eating disorders, showing young imperfect women, ugly or overweight, often unpleasant, having sex, more often not even a good one, with guys who are lost like they are, they eat when they're nervous and seek economic independence without necessarily getting it.

In the series broadcasted by HBO inadequacy and self-irony win.


FEEL LIKE: Nigel van Wieck

Realism, melancholy and loneliness.

Nigel van Wieck, a British artist based in New York, portrays the ordinary, everyday scenes: girls sunbathing, travelling on the subway, getting dressed after having sex, dancing, people facing a window or walking on the streets.

It's a reality filtered by the style of Edward Hopper, the Hudson School, James Turrell, full of life, of a melancholy, sexuality, inadequacy, small gestures of daily intimacy in vibrant colours that seems to mirror the HBO series.

As van Wieck Lena Dunham tells our times through a gritty realism, no frills, honest snapshot (albeit partial, limited to the wealthy twentysomethings in New York), bitter, but illuminated by pop veins.

Girls is a hymn to the ordinary.


DRESS LIKE: Dusen Dusen, Rachel Antonoff, Anthropologie

Especially at the beginning, Girls has often been compared to Sex and the City. Ok, both series features 4 girls, friends in NY, experimenting love, sex and disappointments, but the similarities don't go much further. Above all, Lena Dunham's character doesn't show off any high fashion garments.

No Manolo Blahnik, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Gucci. The Brooklyn twenties make purchases mainly at low-cost stores such as Anthropologie, H&M and Zara or at vintage shops, and when they decide to buy branded clothes they opt for emerging designers like Dusen Dusen and Rachel Antonoff (Lena's "sister in law" – her boyfriend is the leader of Fun Jack Antonoff).

As any young woman their own age, they often choose the wrong outfit, the wrong occasion or the wrong match. Remember Jessa babysitting with a transparent white dress beneath which stood the fluorescent pink lingerie? Shoshanna with her dozens of different hairstyles, headbands and pins in the failed attempt to be cool? Or Hannah's layers of different prints?

Marnie alternates the working girl look to the sporty one, Shosh loves fashion, follows the latest trend and thinks that Juicy Couture's tracksuit is a must, Hannah is inspired by the sixties, while Jessa is the image of the perfect bohemian.

Each of them has her own style, but it is still in the making, as is that of any twenty-year-old.
THINK LIKE: Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl
"I am twenty years old and I hate myself. My hair, my face, the curve of my stomach. The way my voice comes out wavering and my poems come out maudlin."

Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham's first book, begins with these words. In this sort of autobiography-manual for the young woman of the new millennium, Girls' author talks about herself, so merciless, ruthlessly irreverent and sincere as ever.

She describes her 28 years, her eating disorders and antidepressant drugs, every hangover, crying, crush, sexual experience and suffered humiliation.

Not That Kind of Girl, as the HBO series, is a cross section showing what it means to be a young woman in our culture, between the courage to be yourself and the desire to be accepted, not to feel alone.

Because, even though she has become in a short time a symbol of the new generation and undisputed icon of feminism of the third millennium, Lena is always one of us, innocent, but determined, and she writes: "No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietitian. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle".


SOUND LIKE: Robyn’s "Dancing on My Own"

Girls' soundtrack, edited by Manish Raval who's already worked as a supervisor for Donnie Darko and Orange County, is damn catchy.

If the series is the cross-section of a generation, the music tries to do the same, with an eclectic mix of songs and genres. There are pieces of emerging young talents and other more famous artists, always cool and with an indie twist, as St Vincent, Icona Pop, Solange Knowles, Tegan & Sara and Azealia Banks.

The moments when the music invades the scene becoming the protagonist along with Lena, Jemima &co are many: Hannah improvising a dance on Beyoncé's "Halo" during Jessa and Thomas wedding, Marnie singing "What I am" by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians or making a disastrous cover of Kanye West's "Stronger", but what's the scene with the most memorable soundtrack? Maybe when Marnie, returning home after a not exactly happy evening, and starts dancing with Hannah on Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" and joins the best friend in a liberating dance.


TASTE LIKE: cakes, cupcakes in the bathtub and everything calms down when you are nervous

LOVE LIKE: Jemima Kirke

Lena Dunham's fine, but Girls' real gem is Jessa Johansson or better Jemima Kirke, her interpreter.

Born in London but raised in New York, she's the daughter of Simon Kirke, a former rock drummer, and Lorraine Dellal, owner of the famous vintage boutique Geminola. She has two sisters: Domino, a musician, and Lola, who stars in the interesting Mozart in the Jungle.

Beautiful despite the soft curves, the character of the series has much in common with her personality, starting with the boho style and the effortless cool attitude. Although she has become famous as an actress, she considers herself  an artist, in fact as a painter she has been featured in an exhibition in the USA and in Europe.