Economic themes in *Girls*, the new HBO show

by on April 16, 2012 at 6:57 pm in Economics, Television | Permalink

The comic timing is very good, and the show also explains:

1. Why the “Rotten Kid theorem” fails and why theories of strategic bequest are unlikely to work,

2. The longer-term consequences of a slow job market for youth, and

3. What life is like when your IQ is high but the shadow value of your labor is low.

The first episode is now on YouTube.

Jonathan April 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Or how easy it is to get a television program when the four primary characters are the kids of someone famous.

Also as a native New Yorker, this is a fun program for older people to get the “inside” (albeit imaginary) look of today’s youth.

Don’t group me with these people, I have some pride.

how do i join? April 16, 2012 at 8:23 pm

why so cynical? the world needs to know about the travails of upper class white women, after now that sex and the city is long dead how else are we suppose to figure out what its like to have the hardest life in the world, after a tenured professor of course.

Jonathan April 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Yeah I was sitting with my sister (who has friends that are incredibly more wealthy than those portrayed on the show). She was pretty much laughing and saying that (a) that her friends do not behave in this manner and that (b) they will not watch the show because it is less interesting than their lives.

I just find it upsetting as all that my generation keeps getting lumped in as having to be defined by “xyz”. First it was Juno, now it is something like this. Just leave us alone…PLEASE!

Cliff April 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Your generation was defined by Juno???

Jonathan April 17, 2012 at 7:12 am

Too older people yes.

Dr. Manhattan April 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

What about the male character’s rant about the benefits of McDonald’s and standardization? That could have come straight from this blog or Yglesias.

Chuck Rudd April 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

that character is the only one with his head not fully in the clouds. i enjoyed the rant, and i viewed the other yuppies’ whining with an eye on the Occupy movement. the female lead refuses to work at McDonald’s and steals money from a harder-working, less fortunate person – the chambermaid.

Bill April 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Q: “What life is like when your IQ is high but the shadow value of your labor is low.”

A: You get scr-wed, which is appropriately metaphorical for the show.

Miley Cyrax April 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

People voluntarily watch shows in their spare time about naive girls in their early-twenties with entitlement complexes who are ill-equipped to live life independently?

Actually I shouldn’t be surprised given the past success of shows like Sex in the City and Jersey Shore, but the premise sounds absurd prima facie.

US April 17, 2012 at 3:32 am

If you remove some of the words, perhaps it makes more sense:

“People voluntarily watch shows in their spare time about [...] girls in their early-twenties”.

If you substitute ‘people’ with ‘males’, it makes even more sense. I assume the girls are beautiful, and if you add ‘beautiful’ in front of girls you’re pretty much there, right?

Miley Cyrax April 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

US,

We live in an age where internet pornography is free and ubiquitous… I surmise young men are the least likely to watch “Girls.”

Daniel Dostal April 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

Women watch these shows to learn signaling. The hottest girl at any bar is the one other girls wish they were.

dead serious April 18, 2012 at 8:56 am

Those girls are quite far from beautiful.

Vanya April 17, 2012 at 8:02 am

Most good comedies have absurd premises.

FE April 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm

I’ll bite. What’s the difference between shadow value of labor and ordinary value of labor?

Tyler Cowen April 16, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Whether or not you have a job, in this case…

dead serious April 18, 2012 at 9:58 am

Isn’t this how life has been for creative types in NYC even when the economy has been healthy?

Even in the 80s and 90s, entry level workers at book publishers couldn’t afford to live alone in the big city. Even with a roommate, I doubt most entry level staff would be able to afford to live in the closer areas of Brooklyn or Queens.

sc April 17, 2012 at 12:35 am
sc April 17, 2012 at 12:35 am

or even ‘helpful’

Corey April 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Wow. Nothing has motivated me to work on homework as much as this show.

Mercer April 17, 2012 at 12:56 am

The main economic theme I got was don’t move to New York if you don’t have skills the job market values. Parents of adult children living at home should feel better after watching this show.

KenF April 17, 2012 at 1:38 am

Americans have a weird cultural bias against adult children living at home.

asdf April 17, 2012 at 6:57 am

Some parents get all up in your business about who and when you drink and screw with.

Daniel Dostal April 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm

It’s my understanding the Puritans left Europe for America. Although the Puritan society failed, the cultural memes live on in our views of sex and family. No child wants to live under their parent’s room (it stops being “home” when we hit 18).

Daniel Dostal April 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

roof, not room….the basement is certainly the best part of any family house.

citi.zen April 17, 2012 at 2:45 am

There is also the theme about “conscientious” men who are “nice” and may do well in the workforce, but turn women off. See the exchange around 5:40.

Daniel Dostal April 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Yay, a sympathetic character for us males busy being lonely.

Steve Sailer April 17, 2012 at 3:46 am

When’s Roissy going to get a sit-com?

dirk April 17, 2012 at 4:21 am

He got a reality show featuring a cast of 300 million.

The Other Jim April 17, 2012 at 8:44 am

>the four primary characters are the kids of someone famous.

I saw about 10 minutes of the episode, and all I could do was recoil in horror at how talentless, unfunny, annoying and just plain repulsive-looking the lead character/show creator is. I immediately wondered who her parents were. I almost looked it up on IMDB, but that would have meant seeing her face again, so I passed.

So thanks for the confirmation. This is a horrible show. You could say there is plenty of room for improvement, but not with this lead.

Chet Manley April 17, 2012 at 10:19 am

Since when has comedy been the sole province of the good looking? You’re really missing out on “Louie”, “Curb”, “Seinfeld” reruns.

Nick April 17, 2012 at 10:28 am

Her looks were only one of four critiques he gave, it is you who singled it out.

Chuck Rudd April 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

I don’t understand why it matters that the female lead isn’t a 10. She’s Plain Jane, but so are most women (and men). If we are so hard up to see attractive women on screen, well what is pornography for?

This show is about something pretty interesting. People relying on and often using each other. The female lead is using her parents. The roommate is using her boyfriend. She hates him, but she’s willing to keep him around as insurance just in case she needs a roommate. The female lead is using the character Adam for a booty call, and he uses her. He’s also using his grandmother in order to focus on woodworking and acting.

As Tyler touches on, the fundamental point of interaction is money, money, money.

Daniel L April 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm

When your IQ is high, what can be done to improve the “shadow value of your work”? It seems that what the show’s character, Hannah, is going through in New York is pretty unfair, and it seems ironic that smart creative people like her have trouble finding jobs that suit their creative talents, while finance-types at Wall Street banks can make $60k in their first year out of college. Where is the justice in that?

Chuck Rudd April 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

is this a joke? those same “smart creative people” could go in a different direction if they’d like, but they choose a direction that everyone knows probably won’t lead to riches or luxury.

seems to me that the art requires the struggle. so how do we parse that? i mean, if these artists and creative types were making $60 k immediately out of school do we think that such art would exist and such stories would be told?

Tummler April 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm

LOL

Tylerh April 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm

“Where is the justice in that?”

Justice? what does justice have to do with it? As Deep Throat told an earlier generation: Follow the money.

Lindsey April 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Bummed to read all the hate comments on a site I generally associate with intelligent, thoughtful critique. It’s weird how many people seem to miss the extreme self-awareness that Dunham has already expressed in a bare 30 minutes.

Of course, I am on the internet, and these are “anonymous” comments, so I’m not sure what I expected.

JasonL April 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I at first couldn’t tell if it were self disparaging or if it was intended to be a comedic take on a delimma we are supposed to take at face value. In all the world, the plight of healthy young white american college graduates living in New York is something I simply can’t take as other than an ironic premise. If you have the ability to produce an iDocumentary about the injustice of your situation, it’s very likely you aren’t really facing all that much injustice.

Skipjack April 18, 2012 at 12:04 am

These comments indicate why you all come to Tyler for advice on the world and how to navigate it instead of the other way around. He’s spot on with his assessment of this show.

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