Did You Hate-Watch Girls? You Might Empathize Now

Taking a closer look at what's spurring people to revisit this show, and other old favorites
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2023 1:07 PM CDT
Are You Rewatching Girls ? You're Not Alone
This image shows Lena Dunham in a scene from "Girls."   (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO via AP)

The Last of Us has dominated the TV discourse over the past couple of months, but there's another show that has also been creeping up in chats: Girls, Lena Dunham's HBO "dramedy" that saw its final season end about six years ago. An HBO spokesperson tells Callie Holtermann of the New York Times that the series streaming on various platforms saw double the viewers between November and January compared to the three months prior. Holtermann tries to examine why this is, and finds that millennials especially seem drawn to going back in time. "It just resonates so much more now," a 30-year-old NYC photographer tells Holtermann, who observes that while the show may have felt uncomfortable for 20-somethings to watch in real time, as it may have hit so close to home, the distance they now have lets them see "their early adulthood with greater clarity."

Some don't technically consider rewatching the show a "rewatch," per se. That's "a misnomer," says Pepperdine University marketing professor Cristel Antonia Russell, because you're actually "reintrospecting." Russell adds that people will compare how they feel watching the show now to how they felt when they originally did, and assess how they've changed. Holtermann isn't the only one who's been wondering about the "return to Girls" trend. Sam Reed of Glamour says she began poking around herself when she recently noticed colleagues and acquaintances talking about their own revisiting, a quest that led to her own rewatching of the often controversial series. What she found was that "it feels almost like a therapy session—or like giving a hug to a younger version of ourselves."

Writing for Vox, Allie Volpe takes an even deeper dive into rewatching TV shows overall, talking more to Russell on the psychology behind the phenomenon. Russell reasserts what she told the Times on how rewatching can offer perspective, as well as comfort and a sense of control (e.g., being able to binge-watch three episodes in a row instead of having to wait till the next week for a new episode). But Russell also shatters some misconceptions—rather than rewatching being passive and "mindless," it's typically "very engaging"—and discovered something rather surprising: No matter how many rewatches, people keep picking up on new things: a form of hyper-responsiveness. "They've fully dedicated their attention," she says. "We're so distracted in modern life. This is actually a way of focusing your attention on something because you love it so much." Read more on her insights here. (Or read about the "atypical" finale.)

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