…and how it can be RIGHT.
This week on Girls Hannah and her sisters besties head to the Hamptons, or rather “The North Fork. It’s very different from the Hamptons. It’s, you know, for people who think the Hamptons are tacky…”
It’s one of those stand-alone episodes that finds said Girls away from the city, away from the mundane boyfriend-gave-me-a-tooth-pendant monotony, and examines the truly interesting relationships at the core of this show. It’s the kind of episode that reminds the viewer why you started watching in the first place.
“The Beach House,” an updated, bat-spit crazy modern The Big Chill, finds Marnie inviting Hannah, Shoshannah, and Jessa to her aunt’s beach house for a summer weekend of exploring where their relationships went wrong and healing over a dinner of duck and a wish-burning bonfire. Of course the neurotic perfectionist does not get anything resembling what she envisions, as Hannah runs into Elijah and invites her erstwhile beau, his lover Pal, and their two Broadway friends back to the beach house to have a party.
After much booze, some silly choreographed dance numbers, and skinny-dipping, Marnie is fuming as Hannah surrounds herself with a gay buffer in an effort to avoid more of Marnie’s “healing.” The shenanigans derail quickly, as always seems to happen on Girls, and a truthbomb (read: alcohol) explodes among the friends, each finally dishing their true perceptions of one another. A thrilling couple of minutes highlighted by a surprisingly superb performance by Zosia Mamet’s Shoshannah, writers Apatow, Dunham, and Konner address criticism of their characters nearly breaking the fourth wall to do it. It’s all very meta proving the show can match, even eclipse, it’s former greatness.
It has been said, not by me of course, Lena Dunham is the voice of the millennial generation. That may be all well, good, and true, but Lena Dunham is not Hannah Horvath, and to aspire to be the self-involved, self-indulgent Horvath is a mistake among young women today. Let’s all move to New York, find a mildly-abusive sexually sadistic boyfriend with emotional issues, stumble into a job that is not our “dream job” (but would be anyone else’s), and somehow afford a HUGE apartment by NYC standards. This is not feminism, people — we’ll get to that in a moment. You should not aspire to be a woman of loose morals just because you might be accepted at Costco.
I cannot clearly state whether Girls is glamorizing its characters or offering these weekly tales of debauchery as satire because the show is based in reality, and yet, all of the characters are caricatures of people. Some episodes feel like you should want to be these people and others make you cringe like a late episode of Seinfeld.
Mental Illness is a Joke?
As I said, this show is all about the caricature. Hannah is an obsessive-compulsive narcissist with occasional bouts of mania, and more often than not, moments of true despair over the most insignificant of slights. And let us just halt at this apparently severe case of OCD for the moment. When the creatively weak season two veered toward a close, Hannah showed signs of true breakdown when she could not finish her eBook. Conveniently, the show never addressed a seemingly long-suffering Hannah’s acute OCD because she had “worked it out” since high school. Now, it is true that mental illness can suddenly appear in a person during their early twenties; someone who has never shown signs of said condition can be struck down from a “normal life” in a moment. But for someone like Hannah — who constantly lists the overwhelming life tragedies she has overcome — to never mention this profound impairment is ridiculous. The woman discusses venereal diseases over Frosty Cheerios, and her parents’ intense lack of respect for her life choices to the person waxing her hoo-hah. This was lazy writing, plain and simple. And it does not stop there.
Shoshannah may or may not have a learning impairment, and yet she is the one Girl still enrolled in University, not that this is a sign of intelligence on its own. In a recent episode, Shosh and Hannah attempted to explain Truth or Dare to Hannah’s beau Adam. When the former could neither explain the rules effectively nor settle on a Dare, Adam turned the lights off on her, and she just sat there. Like a doll. Using dime-words she probably picked up in her vast knowledge of “self-help” and Cosmo coupled with idioms gleaned from programs hosted by Jerry Springer, her mouth flaps like a bird in flight, never settling on her point long enough to fully represent her grasp on life beyond the effort it takes to mouth breathe.
Jessa has an addictive personality, possible sex addiction, and daddy issues. Eh. She’s the most overly cartoonish character of the bunch, but Jemima Kirke never plays it for laughs. Kirke’s Jessa is even understated, if you can believe it, prone to lines of wisdom that may have been a joke on page, but coming from Kirke, are gems of knowledge.
Marnie is completely unable to accept her flaws, see the reality of her situation, or adapt to her environment. This is less of an “illness” as it is a personality flaw, but it is still played for laughs, and the “character damage” is starting to pile up.
Sit down, Ladies, ‘cause Imma boutta drop some knowledge on ya. Girls is one of the least feminist shows on television. I’m not even going to duck whilst you sling your rotten tomatoes at me.
Just because a woman can do all things, does not mean she should. Behind the idea of equality is self-respect. I am not saying you cannot have your main character have sex with her boyfriend in obscenely-pretzel shapes and film it all completely nude but have it serve the story. We realize when Hannah closes her door she’s getting a little summin’ summin.’ What happened to modesty? And if Dunham, Konner, and Co. are trying to show real-life twenty-somethings, there are draughts. LONG draughts with no intercourse where people actually open their mouths and have conversations. Where problems occur. Where women go to work.
The first episode had friends Marnie and Hannah sleeping in the same bed like sisters, holding each other, and discussing real situations that are relatable, with which one could empathize. Now, the only characters on this show that are given “heart” and see past their own noses are the men. Isn’t this a show about girls?
And before Judd Apatow scolds me in front of a room full of reporters, please realize that nowhere have I complained about Lena’s (or really Hannah’s) penchant for being nude. She looks fine. Normal. Personable. But not vulnerable or attainable. Her whole schtick is one-dimensional over-confidence that masks true pain as evidenced by the jokes about her weight (which cannot possible match the country’s median. She’s smaller than the average-sized woman. And she’s rich! And pretty! And her character has a boyfriend that cannot keep his hands off of her! Who’s complaining?) written in this week’s episode. If she is totally confident in her skin, as is her portrayer, why make the jokes? Why this storyline?
No one is as confident as Ms. Dunham. So, instead of shoving it, literally at times, in our faces, maybe you should explore why we become obsessed with our looks these days…Might make for interesting television.
Maybe add a couple of characters, girl characters, that were not privileged most of their lives and really have to struggle. No? Please point to one character on this show that has not either lived in New York, traveled Europe in a bohemian lifestyle, is an artist, or has had to work longer than twenty minutes for someone other than a friend? Hannah began the show being “cut-off from her parents.” OOOOHHH! What a flippin’ nightmare! Mommy and Daddy are no longer paying the rent! Um…check your viewship, Kitten, most twenty-somethings never had that in the first place.
I guess this is another generational thing that I just. Don’t. Get
Brilliant Episodes Coupled with Mediocre
The first season had very few hollow notes; which is why is garnered so many fans and racked up the awards. Since then, we have had off-the-wall storylines, reversals of fortune not fully explored, and conveniently spontaneous mental illnesses. Last season’s brilliant but polarizing “One Man’s Trash“ saw Hannah having a New York holiday of sorts from her life with guest-star Patrick Wilson. The episode was a brilliant love-letter to struggle and “grass-is-greener” philosophy. Even with a sour note at the end, but rather true to character, it remains the best episode of the series. Unfortunately, it was bookend by mediocrity and bland entitled bull spit.
And now, with “Beach House” I feel like there is momentum to build a foundation on that success, not only for the growth the characters experienced but for the growth the show has shown.
Lena Dunham’s writing is superior, effortless, truly funny. I’m in awe of her storytelling ability both on the page and on the screen; she has an impeccable eye for shot design, movement between scenes, and where the actors fit in the space. Coupled with the dynamic team of Dunham, Jenni Konner, and Judd Apatow, the show is balanced equally with cynicism, laugh-out-loud moments, and heart (although, some of the comedy is “above” me). Getting back to the core of these relationships, friendships, the true trials of the twenty-somethings would make for great television. Friends went off the air years ago; you do not have to live in their New York. Show how hard that city is. Show desperation. TRUE desperation over failure. SHOW CONSEQUENCES! You can do it, Lena. I believe in you.