HBO’s Twitter account unleashed a slew of hashtags and retweets in social-media celebration of the paybler’s 40th anniversary yesterday. Brand launched on Nov. 8, 1972, and those manning the Twitter post at the company used hashtag #ithappenedonHBO to emphasize HBO’s presence at the forefront of not only TV culture, but pop culture as well.
One tweet said “Inspiring @Time magazine to ask ‘is Feminism dead?’ #ithappenedonHBO (Turns out, it just needed a martini.)” and featured a photo of the “Sex and the City” cast.
“SATC,” arguably the most iconic femme-forward series of all time, came to a close on the paybler in 2004, though debates about the show’s implications regarding women’s perception of themselves, pop culture and, yes, feminism, remain.
This year, HBO launched “Girls,” a comedy that was bound to draw comparisons to “SATC”: four females living in New York, exploring their relationships, the lead is a writer. While the outline of “Girls” bore stark resemblance to “SATC,” the series itself breathed a different tone from the millenial Carrie Bradshaw hit.
“Girls,” for one thing, is a rawer, more awkward look at the lives of today’s post-grad femmes and lacks
the glamour that glowed around each scene in “SATC.” The four lead women on “Girls” also defy clean characterization, swaying between moments of conservatism and wild exploration of their sexuality. (Samantha on “SATC,” however, remained defiantly sexual throughout the skein.)
But like “SATC,” “Girls” has inspired conversation about what it means to be a woman in today’s world, and with that conversation comes the weight of being the exemplar for femmes in modern culture. Season one episodes of “Girls” covered topics from HPV, to abortions, from bisexuality, to struggling to pay rent. And viewers flocked to the show, hailing it as one of the most relatable series in recent memory. Instead of dubbing themselves a “Carrie” or “Samantha,” young women tweeted “#iamsolikeHannah.”
HBO wisely took to youth-skewing Twitter to market the series, launching the @girlsHBO Twitter and conceiving hashtags that fans began using on their own social media sites. #GIRLSATHON was tagged during multiple-episode airings of the skein, and #TeamAdam showed support for the sexually deviant yet lovable romantic interest of Hannah.
One hashtag, #mistakesGIRLSmake, became such a hit with fans that HBO launched merchandise like t-shirts featuring the phrase.
#mistakesGIRLSmake initially showed up on Twitter as a light-hearted recap of the leads’ foibles in each episode of “Girls,” mimicing the self-deprecating tone of the characters themselves. But, the hashtag eventually led to Twitter users tweeting their own stories with #mistakesGIRLSmake attached to them.
“I accidentally brought a pair of worn underwear to work…mixing your work bag with your travel bag #mistakesGIRLSmake,” tweeted one fan of the show. “Eating ice cream and Doritos after working out #mistakesGIRLSmake” tweeted another.
The @girlsHBO handle doles out “mistakes” from the show along with real-life examples: “I have been dating someone who treats my heart like it’s monkey meat. -Hannah #mistakesGIRLSmake,” tweeted @girlsHBO. “Forgetting to shave both legs” was another tweet with the hashtag attached from the show’s Twitter account.
Even @HBO jumped on board the hashtag, asking users what #mistakesGIRLSmake viewers would like to see in season 2 of the show. “Mistakes” is now a word commonly used by HBO’s social media team when discussing “Girls” content.
One of the brilliant elements of “Girls” is the self-deprecating, realitistic tone maintained throughout each episode. The characters’ bodies are not Hollywood-perfect, their habits are flawed, and their relationships are blurred and frustrating in the same way the relationships of many average 20-somethings are.
The #mistakesGIRLSmake hashtag, though, has transformed the acceptance that the show inspires to something less positive by dubbing these relatable on screen instances, well, “mistakes.”
Hannah’s late night binges or dubious moves with Adam led viewers to feel their lives — and consequently their foibles — were finally being displayed on TV, and in a non-pejorative manner. It created an implicit sisterhood of sorts that the @girlsHBO handle was able to bank on. While the hashtag and social media efforts are by all means well-intentioned and have been warmly welcomed by femme fans on Twitter, #mistakesGIRLSmake highlights a crucial difference between “Girls” and its predecessor skein “SATC.”
While “SATC” raised questions about how it portrayed women — how can Carrie afford rent when she buys designer duds? Is her pandering to Big a slap in the face to her supposed independence? — the show never stamped Carrie or the other lead characters’ decisions with the “mistake” mark. What’s more, the show never tried to capitalize on the poor decision making with a marketing campaign shaped by a slogan about the said “mistakes.”
HBO’s main Twitter was right: “SATC” did not signal the end of feminism as Time Magazine once suggested. And though it displayed requisite drama with boyfriends and style and gal pals, it was not a slap in the face to the socio-political progress made by women throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Instead, it shifted commonly held notions about what it meant to be a thirty-something female.
And “Girls,” without a doubt, displays a revolution in terms of how twenty-something women are portrayed on TV.
But with a hashtag that adds momentum to female stereotypes (even if done in a comical manner), that revolution can feel uncertain. Perhaps we will reach a point as viewers where a character’s questionable decisions and debatable relationships are not seen as mistakes, but rather as something far more simple — just life.
Until then, HBO will be able to add another marker to its 40th anniversary hashtag.
Undercutting a skein’s progressive tone through social media? #ithappenedonHBO.