Saturday, June 16, 2012

GIRLS, yeah all I really want is GIRLS

This past week I have immersed myself in the controversial HBO show, GIRLS, created by Lena Dunham. I also watched "Tiny Furniture", a short film from 2010, directed by and starring Dunham herself. In fact, my roommate and I power-watched the last three episodes of GIRLS and Tiny Furniture all in the same night, and then promptly wanted to fill our pockets with rocks and wade into the Charles.
Despite the shows occasionally depressing effect, however, I find myself torn. I believe, at this juncture, I have seen the entirety of the available episodes (that I was forced to come across by, perhaps, slightly less than legal means) and I'm not sure how I feel. I saw my first episode on my parents' TiVo.
"Oh, you guys are watching GIRLS? What do you think?" I asked my stepmother, Derby.

"It's...different. Your father could only watch half of it. It sent him into a spiraling depression about the state of the current youth and he had to immediately go to bed."

What I have to state, first, is that, I feel like I am (at least partially) the targeted demographic of this show, being a 20 something female and living in a fairly urban setting. I, too, am freshly graduated, slightly afloat, single, and perhaps clinging to my fastly fading relevance and accessibility to experimentation. My first pressing question about the show was related to who the audience is - I couldn't figure out who was watching this show and feeling represented by it. I posted a status on facebook (as I am want to do) about the fact that I was perplexed by the show, and I was suprised by the response. I expected people to be cautiously supportive - after all, like it or not, people are talking about GIRLS, they are watching and they are intrigued, if nothing else. However, the responses I got were more than supportive, more than positive. "I feel like it's my life on TV," one of my facebook friends said.

I was a little shocked. Really? Your life on tv? The responses came from girls I am friends with on facebook, some I've known since high school, some I've known since grade school. One of them, an ex-roommate, is extremely sharp and independent and now lives within her means in an apartment with some friends in Washington, DC, miles away from her (beloved) parents, whom she is financially independent from and has been for quite some time. So I'm not sure how the selfish, immature, stubborn,  and maybe even slightly delusional female characters depicted on GIRLS mirror her current situation.

I think a lot of ladies feel represented by some of the emotional notes in the show, mainly, what I refer to as Boy Problems. Each character has a unique boy problem, or a unique way of interacting with men, and of course these relationships  are caricaturized and dramaticized for television, but still, this audience is able to synthesize what is at the heart of each exchange. The main character, Hannah, has a lover named Adam who is kind of weird, absent - emotionally and occasionally physically, not texting or calling her back for weeks at a time. Yet she keeps going back to him, because she finds him intriguing. What girl (or guy, for that matter) amongst us cannot claim they haven't, at one point, liked what was not good for them? Gone back for more, even when they knew they shouldn't? That must be what viewers are picking up on and what resonates with them. And, in truth, there is a twist involved in that relationship that did intrigue me, and brought another level to the show for me, so that was a nice surprise.

In fact, I can't say that the show is not gripping. I can't say that it keeps you wanting more; the cast is great, the acting is good, and it's all new talent, which I like. The assumed protagonist of the show, Hannah, played by Lena Dunham herself, is the source of much of my joy, and much of my consternation. Just the fact that Lena Dunham is on TV is awesome, with her normal sized and shaped body, tattoos, and accessible brand of real-life pretty, is something I consider a win. Other, far worthier bloggers than I, have critisized the show's lack of color, and without harping on the subject, I would like to tip my hat in their direction. Although set in Brooklyn, the show centers around a gang of white, heterosexual girls, one of whom is chubbier. The rest have the same white girl model bodies, hair and faces you would expect to find on the television. So it's one small step, and I commend the show for it. But it's just that - a small step.

One amazing thing the show GIRLS has going for it? In a recent episode, we found out that Hannah, the aforementioned main character, has HPV. The second half of the episode centers around the fact of HPV; how she contracted it, how there's no test for men, what to do now. It is made very clear the HPV is not a death senteance, that she has options. I loved this, I think talking about a touchy subject such as HPV on a show targeted at 20 somethings, and doing it in a believeable, accessible way, is no easy feat.

In the end, it's not that I disliked GIRLS, it's just that I don't think it's for me. In fact, I'm still unsure who it is for. I think female audiences of my age are just so desperate to be represented by something other than a flighty college grad on some mediocre sitcom; the mother long-suffering, the father gruff and comically oversized. We get a taste of anything that might resemble our lives, and our first instinct is to cling to it, laud it, maybe give it more credit than it really deserves. I'm not saying, stop watching it, or stop relating to it, or take it off the air. I just had feelings about it, that's all, so I did what I always do: I puked them on to the internet. You can sort them out, or not, as much or little as you like.

Here's the part where I tell you what books to read if you're pickin' up what I'm layin' down here.

Wether or not you enjoy the show GIRLS, if you read through this blog post and found me to be funny (or whatever), you might like the essays of Sloane Crosley. Crosley is neurotic, unusual (unique?), and lives in a bustling urban environment. If you are into the trend of Funny Lady Neurotics, you should definitely check her out. Also, a quick read. I keep recommending this book for perplexed family members coming in, looking for a "summer read" for their recent female graduates. Everybody knows I don't really do "summer reads" (last season, people kept asking for books to read on the beach, and I could only recommend "Room" and "Let the Right One In", because those were the only novels I had read so far that summer. They were gripping; one is a horrific novel about kidnap and rape, and the other is a genderbending vampire novel. If you read a book at the beach, it is a beach read, that is all I'm saying, in the same way that if I put a bikini on my body, it becomes a bikini body, and I don't have to go on any fasts or anything. It is already a body in a bikini, ergo: bikini body. Science.) but I did happen to read Crosley's books while on vacation and I found it just delightful.  

In the same vein do I recommend Mindy Kaling's book, "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" except that I do it with more thumbs ups and winning smiles. I loved this book, I think Kaling is the perfect mix of memoir author, lady comedienne, and happening gal about town, whatever that means. Plus, this is also a good pic for recent ladygrads, because Kaling talks a lot about what she did after graduating, re: moving to NYC to make her fortune.

No comments: