‘Girls’ Mania Reflects Certain Kinds of Media Bias


We hear a lot about “media bias.” But in the tons of coverage being showered on HBO’s “Girls,” we’re seeing some very particular kinds of bias, all coming together in one neat little package.

For starters, there’s a bias in elite circles toward HBO, which is seen as being more prestigious than most TV, and thus more culturally significant. Then you have the bias toward youth, and “Girls” fulfills that, focusing as it does on young women grappling with life in their early 20s.

Finally, there’s the bias toward New York, where the show is situated. Put them all together, and you get the onslaught we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.

I’m not talking about the positive reviews, including my own, which harbors more reservations than most.

No, I’m talking about all the political and general-interest columnists who have weighed in — or veered outside their lanes to incorporate discussions of the series — including Frank Bruni in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times’ Meghan Daum, and so on.

Such media infatuations happen with some regularity. Indeed, the New York Observer chronicles a sort-of “zeitgeiest twofer” involving “Girls” and the S&M novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” another recent preoccupation in cocktail-party circles, for overlapping reasons.

Still, the sheer weight of attention has the potential to make a project irritating even before the public gets its first exposure to it. For many, there’s almost an inevitable “Really? That’s what all the fuss was about?” effect, especially with a show as understated as this one.

“Girls” is an interesting show, and creator Lena Dunham — who made her debut with the indie film “Tiny Furniture” — a promising talent. But would the series be garnering this sort of attention if set a different city, on a different network, about a different (translation: older) age group? I sincerely doubt it.


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  1. DLW says:

    Having recently worked on an HBO show, set in NY, about twenty-somethings, from which similar cultural observers stayed away in droves, I must refute your theory. I suspect that sex, or more accurately, “girls,” having sex, is what’s provoked the attention. I too think Lena Dunham is a promising talent, and the show might be great, though I haven’t seen it, but the focus on the sexual habits of young women its what’s garnering the attention that will get people to weigh in for themselves.

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