Thursday, January 31, 2013

Brief Thoughts After Binge-Watching Girls

1) If nothing else, the show is kind of genius at creating buzz. The SATC nod in the first episode, the parody of He's Just Not that Into You in the second, to the Reality Bites-ish, "well, a voice of a generation. . . " the show practically wrote half the blog posts that would be written about it in its first few episodes. I just feel sorry for all the straight girls internet dating now who will probably be reading ads saying "don't even think of messaging me if you identify with any of those stupid girls" five years after it goes off air. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything.

2) Adam is kind of a legitimately great character: unlike any of the girls, he's sort of like someone you know but have never seen on TV. (On the other hand, I spent the first few episodes trying to remember who he reminded me of, and it was Jeremy Sisto's Billy on Six Feet Under. But still).

3) However. Hannah and Adam's relationship strikes me less as the dark, fucked-up thing the show seems to think it is and more of an unrealized S&M thing. I mean, they kind of both realize that they get off on treating each other badly, on power games, but I'm not sure if they don't know enough to be conscious of it. Yes, the awkward sex on Girls can be as good as the awkward sex on Louie, but there also seems to be this shorthand that kinky sex=bad/awkward/fucked up sex, like with Booth Jonathan in the last episode, whereas nice guy Charlie just wanted to look Marnie in the eye.  But chicks secretly like the jerks, am-I-right? In network land, the "jerk" was someone who "just wants sex." (At least that's how it was back when I watched network sitcoms. Even Six Feet Under kind of fell into that with Brenda and David.) Girls is too sophisticated for that, but is kinky=fucked up just the more sophisticated version?

4)  Speaking of which, sorry, that Booth Jonathan "I'm a man" line just made me laugh, and I didn't buy it working on Marnie. That whole storyline feels really forced and fake-daring.

5) Speaking of artists, to the extent that you I did have a pretty negative reaction to these characters, it comes from how fake their passion/interest in the "arts" they're supposedly pursuing seem to be. Yes, they're exaggerations, and ok, there are lots of superficial narcissistic types who think you don't have to be a reader to be a writer (and always have been), but Hannah does have a certain smarts and originality to her and you think she'd be reading something and talking about it.

6) I think the nepotism/spoiled/class charge is basically crap (when directed against Dunham rather than against the characters, who are indeed pretty oblivious). Her mom's an artist! Yeah, that and 2.50  . . . .The race thing is more complicated. I do think it gets more crap for it than more deserving sources (Looking at you, Breaking Bad). The response with the Donald Glover story line was clever in that it showed Hannah's incompetence in dealing with these issues (the deft portrayal of this incompetence being evidence that the show itself is less incompetent.) On the other hand, as with Hannah's narcissism, the whole "look, other characters are accusing her of what the critics do" has a bit of the "I know this is a cliche, but cliches are true" thing to it.

7) On the other hand, if the show was giving its critics the finger,  it was a much more playful, less capital F fuck you than when Woody Allen finally wrote a black character and made her a prostitute. Speaking of which, the father doing the Dead Shark speech at his anniversary dinner seems like a just as explicit and way more ball-sy of a call out about her ambitions than the SATC thing in the first episode.

8) Speaking of narcissism, I just reviewed a book about Philip Roth that spent a bunch of time playing around with character names. Stuff like that always seems a bit silly to me. But: Hannah H, Marnie M, Jessa J, Shoshanna S. What's up with that?

9) Speaking of class, the other Sunday night show I watch is Shameless, which is brilliant and fascinating, has even more of a mix of tones than Girls, and almost as many as Louie, and its class stuff could be a whole other post. I don't watch Dowton Abbey. But you do have to wonder: why do people hate on the Girls for being rich and spoiled but nobody looks askance at identifying with the Dowager?