As the curtain falls on HBO's "Girls" this Sunday, there is much to be said about its impact. A rich commentary on modern life for urban 20-somethings, the show rankled conservatives, disappointed liberals and kept those viewers willing to at least engage with its surprisingly lucid observations entertained until the very end.
The opportunities for reflection are plentiful, especially since so many people with the capacity to publish reflections live the life of the show's central protagonist — a liberal arts graduate working as a writer in a major coastal city. To be sure, "Girls" will be contemplated ad nauseum in the days and years to come, likely forever destined to serve as an accepted representation of life in the Obama era.
"Millennials" and their reputations, for better or worse, are permanently hitched to its depiction of inordinately ambitious, overprivileged, socially conscious narcissists struggling to cope with the darker realities of adult life in a politically-charged environment. But one hot take that seems to have found backers in this time of reflection posits that "Girls" itself introduced the world to those stereotypes, engendering a hatred of millennials among our disapproving elders.
It did not.
In fact, "Girls" exploited that stereotype, injecting its cast of insufferable antiheroes with the very tendencies people had already come to associate with our generation. Some of those stereotypes are fair, others are not. But everyone already hated them before "Girls" reminded us of it.
Take, for instance, the show's single most important quote, a resonant iteration of our pervasive self-importance: Hannah's early revelation that she "might be the voice" of her generation. The "everyone gets a trophy" trope existed long before Lena Dunham mined it for comedy, and that made it all the funnier.
A simple Google search yields endless examples of millennial-hatred in the years before "Girls" premiered. As one writer for Fast Company put it back in 2010, "Lazy. Entitled. Fickle. Freighted with their own inscrutable agendas. These are the kinds of things people say about cats — and millennials. For today's managers, the generation born after 1980 is a favorite punching bag."
"It's not hard to see why," the author continued, "given that they're the generation of Lindsay Lohan, Jersey Shore, and flip-flops as appropriate office footwear."
At "Girls," the Left laughed eagerly along with the show's skewering of white feminism, while the Right was able to appreciate its exhibition of millennial narcissism. Hopefully everyone who gave it a chance could at least respect its artistry.
But for all the ways the show was novel, it cannot claim credit for creating, or even meaningfully contributing to, society's reflexive hatred of millennials. For that, you'll have to thank millennials themselves. The Hannahs at Thanksgiving dinners around the country, the Marnies at neighborhood bars, the Jessas in line at the DMV.
As ambassadors to the world, armed with social media and an obsessive penchant for using it, we are all the voices of our generation. After all, isn't that why "Girls" was funny?
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.