Girls: The Rise of the Anti-heroine and Viewership
Anti-heroinism is the process by which characters in a novel, or in this case a television series, lack the qualities of a traditional heroic figure (Antiheroism). The casting of characters that maintain this sense of anti-heroinism has become an increasingly popular phenomena throughout the past few years with shows such as Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, who do not possess qualities typical with that of the static roles typically seen with woman. They are beginning to stray away from the societal norms typical of women and more towards individualized characteristics of each woman, both positively and negatively. Lena Dunham encompasses these traits in her characters, who possess anything but traditional qualities with her television series, Girls. The television series exemplifies the increasing importance to view women in more realistic terms as empowering in their own rite, through identities such as vulnerability and self-doubt. Through the use of realistic lenses, she is able to attract an audience that would not be considered typical for a show of her material, that of 50 year old white men.
When Girls premiered, HBO determined that the twenty-something female characters were generation-defining and breaking boundaries that had never been broken up until this point, defining the show as a “younger, grittier Sex in the City” (Fallon). Considering the reviews and buzz about young, sexy, and generation-defining for twenty-somethings population, it was surprising to hear that according the New York analysis, that this demographic was not the largest viewer. In fact, the single largest demographic was “white dudes over 50,” making up 22 percent of the audience (Fallon). Continuing to delve into the viewership, 56 percent of the show’s linear audience, those who watch it on HBO or through a DVR, but not online is male as well. Continuing into these statistics surrounding the show, why are these numbers evident?
Is the reasoning for male viewers because of the numerous sex scenes and Lena Dunham’s continual unconventional nudity? Or are they legitimately curious about the lives of average women in New York City? Online sources seem to point to these two reasons being primary focuses on male viewers. However, I believe differently. Yes the nudity may be appealing, something that I would say is realistic and refreshing in contrast to other shows, but I think there is more to it. Old men may be tuning in for Lena’s unconventional body and nudity but leaving with a sense of something else. If 50-year-old men are tuning in, the women they are potentially watching are approximately the ages of their daughters, if they do in fact have them. Their curiosity may peak due to the interest in what their daughters may be up to when they are not with them. They may feel a sense of longing to “save” these women, because they weren’t raised properly. The anti-heroinism persona that is reflected in all of the women may be why this demographic tune in, so they can understand the contemporary women that is their daughter. I would like to think this demographic is trying to delve into the hearts and souls of their daughters, trying to better understand the diverging lifestyles that make up our once normative society.
Although this demographic of 50-year-old white males is interesting to analyze, there is still a large audience of women that are factored in through Video on Demand viewers, which consequently are predominantly female. A 63 percent of viewers who watch Girls on demand are female. Even after “video on demand and linear viewership are factored in, the show still has more male viewers” (Fallon). Therefor concluding that women are finding the show, they are just doing so in an unconventional ways. Even when they do find the show, the viewership is primarily male dominated, something that ratings cannot necessarily truly define reasons for why.
The appeal with the women seems to be the easier demographic of the two to understand. However, there are several factors when considering why female viewers identify, and some do not. Twenty-somethings seem to be increasingly intrigued of the alternate lifestyles that differ from the traditional paths their parents went. Hannah’s parents are continuously brought into the picture when placing their lives in juxtaposition with theirs. They are a traditional household, of which have been married longer than they have been apart. This normative household is held next to the life of Hannah someone who in the first season is seeing someone primarily for hook up reasons and minimal emotional needs. The juxtaposition of this lifestyle, something that continues to become more dominant, with that of that traditional parental lifestyle is something to take note of.
Although the two audiences seem to be viewing for differing reasons such as identification with the generational understandings or sex scenes; Girls has a wide audience viewer demographic that continues to fascinate researchers. This genre is a movement that Dunham has become a part of, something that is transgressive and changes the way society views women. Equally important, it challenges and critiques the honest portrayal of sexuality and experimentation of drugs, something considered taboo in most shows. The rise of the anti-heroin will continue to play an integral role in the equalization of female leads on screen and why shows have a wide audience range. "There's this cultural shift, this trend at the moment in publishing ... it seems there's a lot of female writers writing about transgressive antiheroines and it will continue to push through to make change” (Baillie).
"Antiheroism." Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
Baillie, Andrea. "The University of Iowa Libraries." Proxy Login -. The Vancouver Sun, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.