Girls and the Lure of Bohemia

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. Per Wikipedia.

Bohemia, the garrets, art. I touched on this in the last post, and thanks for the very thoughtful responses. I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole subject of “lady bloggers.” My end takeaway right now is: we need the blogging niches for the community and the term “lady” is offensive for all sorts of reasons: I agree with you all about that. But I am still convinced that there have been some great pieces of writing about many subjects other than ALI on ALI blogs which, if the author agreed to share them to the world at large, (and this point is a MAJOR IF, I feel you on not wanting something to go viral because of the privacy of your blogs) deserve greater circulation.

Maybe there IS a blogging platform out there that allows these pieces to have greater viewing and I am missing it. BlogHer is a syndication platform with curated content, and actually those two pieces I mentioned were “Voices of the Year,” which is how they went viral.

SOOOO, “Girls.” I have had a whiplash of emotions around the series. First, jealousy that the creator was 24 when she landed an HBO show contract!! Irritation that Judd “nerdy guys should only date hot girls” Apatow was involved. Hesitation about the way four women would once again be stereotyped by four specific characters. Concern that twenty-something women were calling themselves “Girls.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed the show. And am totally bummed out it’s over.

The character of Hannah, the creation of the story’s main actress and writer Lena Dunham, is someone I haven’t seen before on film. And it’s not just her body type or the way she’s painfully out there in ALL scenes.

She’s a real female Bohemian. And I can’t say that I have seen this sort of portrayal previously. I HAVE seen the romantic, tragic beautiful muse character of Bohemia-land. (See Mimi in La Boheme or her modern counterpart Mimi Marquez in Rent or even Jessa, Hannah’s BFF.) But a female whose art is the most important facet of her life, whose main goal is to live a fascinating life so she can write about it?

It’s a unique perspective for me, the person who lived and grew up with parents who were writers, because I firmly rejected that path due to the (relative) financial hardships that accompanied that life. I determined that I wanted a life of monetary ease, and quickly set about achieving that through my career and by working hard and pursuing the usual goals: love, marriage, house, kids.

The writers and artists I encountered when I lived and worked in London and San Francisco mostly fit into the category of Trustafarians. They didn’t need to worry about their financial concerns, so they could choose a life pursuing painting, fashion or music. A few of them repelled me with their rejection of the “American Dream”: it’s so easy to put down the “dorks” who work hard as lawyers or PR people or accountants when you don’t have to worry about paying rent…

That’s why Hannah is so compelling to me: her parents cut her off financially in the first episode and she has to scramble to finance her dream of being a writer. She gets fired from her salary-free internship at a publishing house when she dares to ask to be paid. (Her boss explains he gets hundreds of requests to work for him for free everyday.) So we see her flail through a series of crappy jobs in her attempt to, well, support herself.

Most striking of all: SPOILER!!!
She basically terminates her relationship with the guy she chases the whole season because it gets “too serious.” Because it might interfere with her attempts to live in this authentic way.

I found myself cheering her on, now, as a 39 year old, in the final wordless scene as she sits on a beach and calmly eats a piece of cake, even after her life has sort of imploded by everyone’s standards. I am proud of her, in that scene. That she has remained true to herself. I know that had I watched that scene as a 24 year old, I would have been appalled and scared for her future.

Have you watched “Girls?” Did you enjoy it? Does living a life dedicated to pursuing your artistic dreams appeal to you? Or does it scare you?



Filed under Blogging, writing

9 responses to “Girls and the Lure of Bohemia

  1. Julie Anita

    I love love LOVE Girls. I think my favorite takeaway from it is the line I included in my Twitter profile: “I think I just might be the voice of my generation. Or, at least, *A* voice of *A* generation.” (It’s charm is really lost when it’s not said aloud by Hannah, I think.) I love the complexity of the characters and their obvious flaws.

    Interestingly, I watch it not for the bohemianism, but because I identify with Hannah as an awkward and occasionally painful person to watch fumble her way through early adulthood. She’s a less ridiculous Liz Lemon and a more credible Bridget Jones (OMFG, 138 pounds is NOT FAT), and a younger version of the mold both are formed from. I never really even thought of her pursuits as a writer as much more than “yeah, when I was in my early 20’s I was trying to take my passions and turn them into a life, too.”

  2. Oh my god, I’m so glad you wrote this. My only IRL friend who has watched the show complained that all of the characters were completely unlikable. What? Which just made me really anxious, thinking I was weird and flawed for liking such weird, flawed, anxious characters. I would have loved to do what Hannah is doing, but I was too scared to do it when I was her age.

  3. Another nice post today thanks. I really enjoyed reading it very much. Have a great day.

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  4. Oh, my. I’m totally obsessed with thinking about Girls and have written the equivalent of a thesis to my friend, who also is obsessed about Girls, via email about each and every episode. She hated it, like in a deep, this is disturbing way, but she liked Hannah best. I really liked it, with reservations, but I disliked Hannah the most. I would love it if I were as brave as Hannah though, and that’s one thing that the show did right, by showing her struggle as one that’s really, really scary.

  5. Don’t watch the show, but I’ve been pursing my artistic dreams for years. Oh, sure, I wanted to be rich and famous, then when I realized I’d be stuck in Canada, I just wanted to make a living and that happened for about 2 years out of the 20 I’ve been in acting. There’s a reason a lot of actors are young and single – you have to have such dedicated drive and be willing to sacrifice quite a lot. It is not conducive to family and security. People call you selfish and lazy and spoiled (until you make it big anyway) and you are constantly asked if you are going to get a real job. I do have friends who have pursued their artistic dreams and missions into their 40s and 50s and beyond, and they live simple and fulfilled lives.

  6. I haven’t watched Girls, but I have heard the buzz. It strikes me that this character’s parents booted her out the door to fend for herself, when we’re hearing so much these days about boomerang kids who can’t/won’t leave home.

    When I was a kid, I wanted to write books. Then it gradually dawned on me that most people didn’t make a living writing books… so I decided to become a famous newspaper reporter instead. I did go to J-school & worked briefly on a weekly smalltown paper, but wound up in corporate communications (i.e., hack). ; ) It’s a living. (I always liked reading & writing about real people more than fictional characters anyway.) I don’t know too many creative types who don’t have some other type of work to help them pay the bills.

  7. I haven’t seen “Girls”,although now I’m intrigued. I doubt I would have ever identified myself as bohemian considering I’m in it for the financial security. I was too scared of being poor, not making it, and disappointing my parents to pursue my artistic dreams. Btw, in a world where lawyers are “dorks”, what are engineers?

  8. I don’t have HBO, so I don’t watch Girls. I’m not sure if I would like it or relate to them. I remember as a child that when I mentioned certain jobs like singer or artist or actress to my mother, her immediate response was always “you won’t make money doing that.” I don’t know if I absorbed her message or my natural pragmatism exerted itself, but I decided I didn’t want to worry about money and gave up on my dream of becoming the Best.Actress.Ever. I’m envious of those who pursue their artistic dreams. Maybe what I really envy is their faith, their hope, their naivete and their confidence.

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