Hannah’s another 24-year-old adrift on the sea of self-discovery and only vaguely aware that there is no promised shore. She’s writing a memoir but four chapters in has realized she still has yet to live the other nine essays she’ll need to make a book. “I want to be the voice of my generation,” she tells her parents. “Or a voice of a generation.” She works as an unpaid intern at a publisher.
The very first scene in “Girls,” which premieres Sunday night, shows Hannah — played by the show’s creator-writer-director-star Lena Dunham — wolfing down a fancy plate of pasta at a Manhattan restaurant with her visiting mother and father. Her mother tells her that they’re no longer willing to pay her rent and expenses, including her cellphone. They’re cutting her off. “No. More. Money,” her mother says, while her doting father (Peter Scolari) nervously backpedals, agreeing with Hannah that it’s a net savings to keep her on the family phone plan. But even he admits, “It may be time for one final push.”
“Do you know how crazy the economy is right now?” Hannah snaps. “All of my friends get help from their parents.”
Hannah’s mother (played by the great Becky Ann Baker, who played Lindsay’s mom in the seminal “Freaks and Geeks”) persists. “You have an internship that you say is going to turn into a job. . . . You graduated from college two years ago.”
“But I’m your only child,” Hannah complains. “It’s not like I’m draining away your resources. This feels very arbitrary.
. . . I am so close to the life that I want, the life that you want for me, and you want to just end that right now?”
You’d assume that we’re supposed to root for the tough love here. Much of the media response to the maturing of the millennial babies is to wish that they would stop whining and buck up. As such, “Girls” may be a difficult form of enjoyment for anyone still trying to nudge one of these underemployed, self-obsessed soul-searchers out of the 600-thread-count nest. What becomes of an America that never grows up?
Stipulated: A 24-year-old isn’t what she used to be, and adolescence may now be a decades-long journey.
They’re great at taking standardized tests and checking off the to-do lists, but the wheels come right off their carts as soon as they’re handed a diploma and a bill. Their relentless sunshine easily morphs into snark. If their press is to be believed, they don’t marry, they don’t move, they don’t work hard enough, they don’t pay attention, they don’t share, and, apparently, they don’t even have sex the right way. The nerve of them, really.
There are only a thousand or so demographic studies, surveys, parenting books, angsty memoirs and trend articles claiming to support this — most of it written in a way that ensures that anyone older than 35 will roll their eyes and leave righteously cranky comments at the bottom of the article. Whether we realize it or not, America is experiencing a spasm of cross-generational disconnect at a level not experienced since perhaps the 1960s.