Amber Speed could completely relate to TV character Hannah Horvath's panic during the first season of the hit HBO series "Girls," when the recent college graduate's parents cut off the financial support Hannah depended on to pay rent for her Brooklyn apartment.
While Speed, 25, doesn't have her own apartment, she does live at her parents' house in Huntington. "If my parents suddenly kicked me out, I couldn't afford to live in Long Island or Queens by myself, even with a roommate," says Speed, who works in the admissions office at St. John's University in Queens.
That the four female friends on "Girls" have the same reality-based anxieties Speed and her peers do -- stress over economics and careers, awkwardness with sex, boyfriends and friendships -- makes plenty of young Long Island women love the show. In the first episode of "Girls," Hannah called herself "the voice of my generation," a sentiment that has been echoed by many female fans.
"I love that they're not living in Manhattan," says Tracey Carnazzo, a digital media specialist who lives in Forest Hills but lived in Sag Harbor part-time growing up. "I'm 28 years old, and I'm not going to be able to live in Manhattan for another 10 years." And, she says: "I love that the main character is a little fat. She's not always put together. Her hair is constantly frizzy. I always want to comb her hair. But when I get home from work, I look the same way. It's realistic."
But the show isn't without detractors -- some in their 20s reject it as their mouthpiece, and others have criticized creator Lena Dunham, a 26-year-old Oberlin College graduate who writes, directs and stars in the show, for its predominantly white cast. Still, other 20-something Long Island women aren't even aware of the show's existence -- in a random sampling of women at Roosevelt Field mall, only three of 35 had heard of the series, which is now in its second season and has been picked up for a third.
"I know many girls, including myself, who can relate to the show, but I know plenty who can't," says Angie Florence, 29, who grew up in Malverne, and lives in Queens and works as a cardiac nurse at a Long Island hospital. She says she added HBO to her cable package just so she could watch the series. "I know a lot of girls who are married at that age, with babies. It's not fair of her to say, 'This is the voice of my generation.'"
"Girls" focuses on the lives of Hannah (Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke), and for that reason has been compared to "Sex and the City." But their lives are far from the glamour of the other show, with its ritzy Manhattan apartments and characters wearing Manolo Blahnik shoes.
While fans laud the show's realism, some of their favorite episodes include unrealistic scenarios. Speed, for instance, loved the episode last season when sheltered Shoshanna mistakenly smoked crack at a party, thinking it was pot. "That's the one that had me laughing out loud," Speed says.
Allison Leshowitz, 20, of Hewlett, is a junior at SUNY New Paltz majoring in English. She finds the show both comforting and scary -- that uncertain post-graduate life is still to come for her. She can relate to Hannah because she's also an aspiring writer, and she says most Long Island women probably identify with Marnie. "I think she's most relatable to Long Island girls," she says. "She has a snobbish quality. I say that in a loving way as a Long Islander." And when Marnie lost her job and broke up with her longtime boyfriend, Leshowitz felt reassured. "It's comforting because you see that it's happening to them on TV, so it's the norm."