Women of a certain age (18-30ish) seem to fall into a nebulous category best described by pop sensation Britney Spears – not a girl, not yet a woman. As cheesy as that comparison is, it becomes especially relevant when attempting to classify the young women seen on television. I realized this year that I had watched three different TV shows explicitly about the trials and tribulations of “girls” – New Girl (FOX), 2 Broke Girls (CBS), and Girls (HBO). Following in a long line of similarly-named shows (Gossip Girl, Secret Life of a Call Girl, and my favourite, Gilmore Girls), this year’s crop of girl-themed programs have little in common save for a few key features: the main characters of each show are white, they are all dealing with money problems, and they are all between the ages of 22 and 32 (give or take).
I started thinking about this trend when I realized that I could not think of a single television show that mentioned “women” in the title. A quick Internet search revealed only a few recent examples: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998), Bionic Woman (1976-1978), and TLC’s Police Women reality series (2009-present). In comparison, I thought of a few shows about “men” right off the bat: Mad Men, Two and a Half Men, and the now-cancelled Men of a Certain Age. The only recent shows about “boys” were Boy Meets World and My Boys, both of which are off the air now. Aside from these exceptions, current shows about adult men are explicitly titled as such, while women-centred shows usually involve a woman’s name, profession, or, as we saw this year, the word “bitch” (GCB, “Don’t Trust the B* in Apt. 23”).
Legally, the characters on New Girl, 2 Broke Girls and Girls are no longer “girls,” but they don’t exemplify many of the stereotypical traits associated with “grown women” – having children, having a spouse, working a stable job or owning a house. In contrast, their girliness makes them entertaining to watch because of the funny and odd situations in which they find themselves. The funny and quirky girls become separated from the invisible spectre of “serious womanhood,” and the former becomes more appealing to viewers.