The term ‘quality’ in itself is destined to be argued against. It could be used as a tool to describe quality television, or perhaps general content that is seen to be held in high regards, through its qualities, that make it the superior of competing texts. Personally, this is the soul reason I hated studying fine arts during high school; “quality art” is subjective in the eye of the beholder.
Texts which can be seen to register attributes of quality, more often than not, demonstrate a narrative structure that demonstrate complexity within sub-plots and, subsequently, the series as a whole. As both Hannah and Brian discussed throughout the tutorial and lecture, genre has a large part in the perception of how quality is both produced and perceived.
The genre of GIRLS cannot be predominantly classified as merely a drama and/or comedy (“dramedy”, as I like to call it). We must also take into consideration the objectives and context in which the series is made to accurately classify the show.
When you hear the term ‘indie’ you may usually think of the music genre or art house films that never make it to the big screens. Indie, meaning independent, usually refers to low budget content produced by aspiring artists or filmmakers who do not have the budget to create ‘quality’ texts.
GIRLS on the other hand is considered to be the baby of HBO due to its “realness”. It is not set in 1940s New York, or in a science fiction world. Compared to other HBO shows, GIRLS, is all too relatable for audiences. You don’t hear about people watching Game of Thrones and genuinely pointing out all of Khaleesi’s attributes to line up perfectly with their own now, do you? This indie sub-genre is partially camouflaged by the mere fact that it belongs to HBO. There are no hand held cameras to demonstrate the lack of production accessibility, nor terrible actors who have been pulled off the street to prompt a sense of realism. But it is realism that is the very essence of what GIRLS is able to illustrate through relatable characters who are generationally focused.
This generational focus, which is relatable to many audiences, is predominantly due to the storytelling within the show.
Jason Mittell asserts within his article, ‘Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television’, that “complexity and value are not mutually guaranteed” in regards to a new breed of genre, which he calls “narrative complexity” (pg30). The “…interplay between the demands of episodic and serial storytelling” (pg33) is the main attribute of narrative complexity. Yet HBO’s GIRLS feels more or less like serial storytelling of a reality television show that is inserted into a series of episodes. While the complexity of the narrative remains, it is not an ongoing one if compared to a series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Each episode in GIRLS grants viewers narrative complexity in different ways. Whether this be through character development, or something as small as every day things going wrong or right. In one episode of GIRLS, Shoshanna is overwhelmed with all of her necessary study for New York University and is unable to graduate on time. As a University student, this episode completely spoke to me in ways no other television show has been able to thus far. Different from Degrassi High, GIRLS is going through the ups and downs of being a mid-20-something-year-old who has yet to get their shit together. It’s not just female issues as well, it tackles the day to day relationships guys have with their friends and their girlfriends and how infinitely spontaneous life can be.
To be able to present radical events, such as abortions, girl on girl hookups and even characters who suffer from OCD, in such a realistic manner gets my tip of the hat.
- Mittell, Jason, ‘Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television’, The Velvet Light Trap, #58, pg 30-42, University of Texas Press, 2006, accessed 13/09/14