…and the quest to see everything

Seminal Television: “Girls”

I first heard about Girls from Barbara Walters on The View of all places, talking about the controversial second episode and its frank sexual content – my sister walked into me while I was watching that. Later that month Ryan McNeil discussed it at a function we were both in, telling me and three other people about how nihilistic it is – I know. Then Spin’s Chandler Levack tweeted about the scene when Elijah (Andrew Rannells) comes out to the show’s protagonist Hannah (Lena Dunham) as well as how Dunham’s split second reactions to it.

From I thought ‘eyeroll into tears’ is humanly impossible and acting marvels make me say ‘I have to see this now.’

Watching that scene now, I though it was not what I expected – I thought the lighting, the setting and the writing would be more bittersweet but it,s nastier than that in a good way. That John Ford shot countershot between them just makes Dunham look like shit. Dunham makes herself seem unattractive and cartoony (her voice particularly fits this description). Hannah is kind of like in a Georgy Girl situation where the person in lead is the best friend type who we feel sorry for because the worst things happen to her.

It’s about sex and messed up, foul-mouthed girls who look too good to say ‘like’ a lot and secretly – or not so secretly – attracted to the rapey stuff spewed by the men around them. How fucking liberating. What Marnie (Allison Williams) tells Hanna in the fourth episode, that ‘you’re smarter than this’ is a mantra that young women and gay men tell each other, as we in our twenties can’t possible learn how not to make sex-based mistakes while getting our BA’s. Although some audiences who can’t relate to the show in a cultural sense will take the step back and call these characters stupid and just turn off their TVs.

I’m not sure if I’m in the place to do that – I know that the dialogue can make a case for the show not being rooted in reality. It’s sort of that trend now in television when characters are sexually sadistic or masochistic and say words like ‘asshole’ and that’s supposed to be funny (in this sense the actors serve the writing as opposed to the writing showcasing them). I thank or blame Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock for proliferating that trend, or maybe it’s because I saw it in 30 Rock first that makes me prefer that singular tone that I like hearing stays on that one specific show. I’m just cautious when I hear that kind of humour, no matter how fun it might sound.

One thing that does strike me as real is the middle class women walking around a city getting dirtier and dirtier by the day, the latter being just the way I like it. I resent having to do the comparison but I don’t remember Sex and the City dressing down New York and its women like that. I don’t really have the lifestyle to follow television but in many accounts, this show passes for honesty and bravery and vulnerability, and I didn’t waste my time watching these girls.

4 responses

  1. You dropped the mic, so I must pick it up and say that visually and, I guess narratively too – age wise – Girls is so removed from SATC I don’t know if the last points works as a criticism of the latter (if you meant for it to).

    GIRLS exasperates less for it than for the response, because I can appreciate what it does and still not think it’s specifically excellent, coherent and in that way not think it’s excellent and not be accused of not getting it. Also, the thing with this sort of self-effacing humour is sooner or later you end up going back on yourself and backtracking on what you mocked, which is something 30 ROCK (holding everything accountable) has managed to avoid. Kudos for bringing up that similarity, though, would never have occurred to me – but it works.

    (Also, eyeroll into tears, guilty.)

    June 14, 2012 at 12:19 am

    • Speaking of visual, I watch Girls through questionable sources but there’s this contrast between green and grey, the vintage(-y) dresses of Hannah and Jessa versus the jewel-coloured party dresses and jammies worn by Marnie and Shoshana. It’s total boho unlike the crass capitalism of SATC where Marnie types walk their stilettos between smokey manholes (that sounded gross).

      But that’s not my point. It’s also the best edited show on TV. Rewatch Hannah’s Diary and they cut from the scene with Charlie and Ray fighting over the diary to a scene where Jeff and Kathryn’s kids are in the playground. We can muse of what that means but that momentum is unmatched IMO. Best show on TV second to Mad Men.

      June 14, 2012 at 2:05 am

  2. As a “real Hannah”, I never expected the show to be factually accurate, but I did hope for more emotional realism. Check out my Dear John Letter for Lena Dunham: http://janetmackenziesmith.com/2012/06/14/dear-john-letter-for-lena-dunham/

    June 21, 2012 at 9:36 am

    • It’s funny how I see many women call themselves ‘Hannah’ while the previous generation might have called themselves ‘Samanthas.’ It’s like back then we’re projecting liberated sexualities to out friends while seeing the same thing to ourselves. But now we’re more transparent about our flaws, just like Hannah is.

      Anyway, I never found the lack of realism a problem because the transitions between the absurdism and the emotional cores are smooth enough.

      June 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm

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