Lena Dunham wishes: I wish that Girls hadn’t been placed under such intense scrutiny before it had even premiered.
The Evil Genie replies: Boom, done. Your new HBO show, titled Specific Young White Women, premieres to very little fanfare. The internet fails to throw up on itself and then eat its own vomit, not unlike a dog, and you receive a handful of positive reviews from small outfits. You’re a 25-year-old woman with your own TV show! Crazy and amazing.
The week after the pilot airs, you feel fantastic. Your family and friends, all wealthy famous people, are incredibly happy for you. The women who seek out the show, hard as it is to find, really relate to it and think highly of your capabilities as a writer/director/producer/creator/actress. And no one thinks you’re racist or bourgeois or spoiled or disconnected or the product of good fortune! People don’t take any notice of any of you or your show’s flaws at all. #SpecificYoungWhiteWomen doesn’t trend on Twitter.
Feminist blogs discuss HBO’s Sunday nights with a passion, but the talk is all turned to Veep (Would you vote for a woman like Selina Meyer? What if she rocked flowery dresses and Doc Martens like Elaine Benes used to? Think pieces abound). There are no parody videos, or screencapped memes, or diatribes from men, or diatribes from women about the diatribes from men, or parody diatribes written by men about diatribes written by women, or parody diatribes written by women about diatribes written by men about women. There’s nothing.
In the second week, ratings fall. It turns out that your target demographic doesn’t really have HBO, unless they are living and/or staying with their parents. Unfortunately, after watching the first episode of your program like a family, many of these young women have been ousted from their homes. While your second show airs, your audience’s moms are watching The Good Wife on DVR instead, and your audience is getting wasted because they don’t have anyplace to be on Monday morning, or watching Mad Men, because AMC is part of a pretty basic cable package.
Five episodes of Specific Young White Women air before the network pulls the show due to criminally low ratings. You never managed to capture the zeitgeist or national interest or even the passing fancy of teenagers, and most people who discussed your show were actually talking unknowingly about Two Broke Girls. When Specific Young White Women is cancelled, there is a small mention in Variety and one line on Jezebel, and that’s it. Out with a whimper.
So, you’re a 25-year-old woman who had her own TV show! …Now what? The big networks aren’t interested in you. You’re burnt out, and the idea of going back to independent filmmaking seems daunting and pointless for all the work you put in and all the emptiness you get back. You feel lost, and adrift, and directionless, like everyone else your age. But you don’t want to write about it, you just want to put your head down.
You get a job at a coffee shop and a real apartment in Astoria with roommates who went to state schools. You take the subway and you go to bars where boys don’t talk to you. You talk a lot about volunteering, but don’t. You buy a yoga mat and yoga pants and yoga classes, but you only go once and don’t feel any inner peace at all. You keep an idea notebook, but the pages are blank. You consider interning in another field — you certainly have the connections — but you just don’t care to. You put your vision out there, and no one responded. No one cared. A customer comes in to the store and, seeing you glower, tells you to smile. You turn your back to him.