Department or Program

American Cultural Studies


In 2012, HBO premiered Lena Dunham’s Girls. This thirty-minute dramady focuses on the lives of four, white twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn, New York, and has attracted scathing critiques and abundant praise from fans, critics, and academics alike. My thesis aims to bridge the polarized discourse surrounding Girls by critically examining the representations of sexuality and reproductive health. I first explore Home Box Office (HBO) as a premium network that provides Dunham with certain freedoms as the author of Girls. Drawing on theories of television and film authorship, I argue Dunham occupies a unique position on HBO where she can display her unique feminist voice and artistic vision. I then offer a brief overview of first, second, third, and fourth-wave feminism and argue Dunham strategically integrates ideology of the different waves into her series in attempt to dismantle patriarchy. Using Munford and Waters’ theory on the “post-feminist mystique,” I examine how Girls appropriates tactics typically used to perpetuate misogyny in popular culture for its own political aims, thus moving beyond the “retrograde.” Girls offers a fresh representation feminism and femininity on television while making sharp critiques about our current cultural climate. I suggest that despite the limitations of Girls, this series presents a fresh and new representation of female identity, sexuality, and reproductive health that transcends the current television landscape.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Cavallero, Jonathan

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.