Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I think I might be the voice of my generation. Or at least _a_ voice of _a_ generation.
June 20, 2012 12:51 AM   Subscribe

"The world of entertainment still, all too often, values women only as objects of beauty to be placed on screen and ogled. [...] [T]he world is full of other women who have profound, intelligent, often hilarious things to say, and Dunham is very quietly making a space for those voices on TV, in a way that’s revolutionary both in terms of the show’s gender politics and in terms of its presentation. - AVClub critic TodVanDerWerff on "how [the HBO show] Girls challenges the masculine expectations of 'good TV.'"

The weird backlash against Girls has been going on on the AVClub boards already from the comment section of the review of the first episode. Here is the piece, mentioned in the article, Alyssa Rosenberg made to Todd's original response to a commenter who said that "Lena Dunham needs to be funnier because of how unattractive she is" (paraphrase, original comment deleted).

On a more positive note, here is Todd's review of the show's season finale.
posted by coraline (155 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
My dislike of the show is honest and true, and closely related to my deep and utter loathing for Sex in the City. I've only been to NY twice and even so I managed to notice that it wasn't full of privileged white people and their stories. Though I guess the onus for making it all about them is on HBO rather than anyone else.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


(not that anything justifies the misogyny of those attacks on Dunham)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:10 AM on June 20, 2012


Eh, I stopped watching after episode 7. Didn't hate it but it was just extremely boring. The characters don't have any real arcs, they just mope around.

Also, Dunham's character practically being raped but not seeming to realize it in the first episode definitely set off a lot of alarms.

Let's remember this is Judd Apatow product -- dick/vagina jokes on the outside, but pretty damn conservative deep down.
posted by bardic at 1:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"My dislike of the show is honest and true, and closely related to my deep and utter loathing for Sex in the City."

Well, that's interesting. I just started downloading the first few episodes on the basis of reading this link — I was a bit surprised at it because I'd formed the impression from somewhere else that there was something a bit anti-feminist about the show and not at all that the backlash against it was notably sexist.

But I think that S&tC was a sexist, ugly show for numerous reasons. It's full of some really awful stereotypes about women. And I know that there are women like that, but they're not any women that I know, or want to know. I mostly was repulsed by what I felt was that principal idea of patriarchal culture (or, rather, a particular version of an idea, the particular version of which is a principal idea of patriarchal culture) of the War Between the Sexes. I find that shit horrific and very far from funny.

So, I'm hoping that your objection to Girls is the socioeconomics implicit in it, of (as I understand) making it yet again about a certain economic class of white people in a milieu that is, though you wouldn't know it from television, composed of a lot of other kinds of people. Which may well repulse me, too, but on its own not as much as S&tC did in combining that bias with The War Between the Sexes is HILARIOUS.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I quite like Girls, and have enjoyed watching it. Didn't see any rape going on in the first episode, don't find it horrible in any way, actually find it refreshing as a funny show that isn't a sitcom.

It's certainly not the perfect show, but it's got a fresh take on television that I quite appreciate. I haven't been bragging to anyone about watching it, and can't possibly think of who I might recommend it to, but it works for me and so I'll keep watching.
posted by hippybear at 1:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree with lesbiassparrow's dislike of Sex & The City, but what confuses me is that none of the women I know who loved S&TC with a passion (which is more of them than I care to admit) have expressed even the slightest interest in watching it.

Even the ones who have read Candice's books.

My working theory is that some of the blame may lay with the taste that the last movie left. Still.
posted by Mezentian at 1:56 AM on June 20, 2012


Alan Sepinwall did a very long interview with the co-showrunners: part 1, part 2.

I like this show. It doesn't worry about always making the characters likable, and in fact it takes great pleasure in showing us that perspective is relative and that some of what we thought we knew of the characters was through unreliable narrators, and characters that we thought were well-adjusted have problems, and those we had initially dismissed as oafs might actually have substance. I disagree strongly that there was no arc; practically all the characters are in significantly different places after the finale than they were in the first episode. And it could not be any less like Sex and the City, except that they're both set in New York and are primarily about the lives of women. Also, hilarious.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I heard the whole idea with Sex and the City was that it was really about the lives of gay guys in NYC, but told using 'flamboyant' women as proxies. (The show was largely created by gay guys) I've only seen like one episode of it, and I think I saw part of the first movie on TV once.

The one episode I did see had one of the characters (the 'slutty' one) freaking out about getting an HIV test, which she was getting because she wanted to sleep with some dude who had a reputation as being epic in bed, but only slept with people with up to date test results. Sooo.... given an N=1 sample...

Anyway, Girls sounds boring, and Lena Durham sounds annoying.
posted by delmoi at 1:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's got a fresh take on television that I quite appreciate.

I watched Episode 10 last night and was reminded of why it is an engaging programme. There is a rawness and realness to the characters that is refreshing.

"Adam" as a great example. His character is that of a flawed individual with a deeply-held values system – very similar to many individuals in real-life. Navigating one's life is a real challenge. What values does a person hold? How do they respond when their values are in conflict? In the beginning of the season, Adam is very removed emotionally from the world around him. We primarily see him in isolation. He has a dark sense of humour and he is very street-smart but unapproachable.

As his character is built, we see a person with a good heart who has been through difficult times (alcoholism) and found a balance for himself. As he opens himself to a relationship, he becomes deeply attached and firmly committed. His attitude changes tremendously and we see a person with a calloused exterior who is vulnerable inside – he has developed the former to protect the latter.

Across that path of character development, he remains a self-directed figure, which is one of the themes of the show, and indeed of New York in fiction. New York men are often portrayed as gritty characters with a deeply-held conflicting set of values, and Adam is no different. Thus a solid blend of the person the audience expects to come from New York, overlaid with a well-crafted development of that persons inner story and humanity.

The journey for the audience is one first of not really knowing him and almost disliking him, to seeing the glimmer of a softer side and being seduced by his subtle charm, to seeing him as both a heroic and tragic character simultaneously for his struggles between maintaining his barriers and being open and vulnerable.

And each of the main characters exists in that depth to varying degrees. "Shoshanna" for example is literally lost in the world at large. She aspires to have the problems of her friends, however it is not in her character. She has an unformed identity, for she refuses to either accept she is more reserved and conservative or jump wholeheartedly into the maelstrom of sex and relationships.

It's actually quite similar to many AskMe questions, where the asker posits a problem in terms of black and white choices – "I either do this... or I do that." "It either means this... or it means that." Reality operates in infinite shades of grey.

Shoshanna does not see the complicated aspects of "Jessa's" relationship with "Jeff", the ongoing tension that Jessa, Jeff, and "Katherine" find themselves unintentionally involved with with the prime directive being to hide that tension from the two girls that all three of them care for. Shoshanna primarily sees the exciting parts of Jessa's life, whether that's a party, a spontaneously tryst with an ex-boyfriend, or her boss showing up out of context. She does not see the deeper conflicts that operate between individuals in the build-up and aftermath around the peaks of experience she does see.

And whilst it is television, and it is a story, it's a story that's being told unapologetically by conflicted characters. It part, it seems to be a reflection of both the current generation, and of the women in that generation. There are few rooted mores that remain today. They do not know the United States as the infallible superpower, but in the context of 9/11, Abu Ghraib, and the GFC.

For them, homosexuality as a concept has always been present and accepted. They don't reel against the concept of gay, rather are disappointed when they have relationships with men who then realise that they are gay. Homesexuality is not a social problem, but a dating problem.

And in their formative early twenties, when they are moving into the real-world and forming their lives and personal identities, they are in a world where it is not a given that men make more money than women or have more career opportunities. In fact, many of the women are in as strong or stronger career positions than the men. Adam is a part-time carpenter, "Alex" runs a bar (I think), "Charlie" is in a band. "Marnie" is embarking on a successful career as a gallerist and Catherine is the bread-winner between her and Jeff. In Episode 10, the choice Jessa makes is a perfect posit between exciting, dramatic relationships or a quieter life of financial security.

If the promise of feminism was "having it all" (and more so – as women entered careers, their time was treated as elastic, thus "having it all" meant having the full responsibilities of both a career and the home), for these Girls, they cannot have it all, often because the men in their lives are struggling to put "something" together. Thus, the world is infinitely more nuanced and filled with trade-offs; more shades of grey then they thought. And we travel with them as they learn about those shades of grey.

Overall, it's a brilliant and fresh voice. In terms of Judd Apatow's involvement, he does not write the show nor direct the majority of episodes. He's an executive producer, thus he influences the themes, tones, and presentation, however he is a step or few removed from the final product. His involvement seems more that he is a master of fictional authenticity. His films – filled with dick jokes and heavily sexualised themes – quite accurately reflect many people's real-world experiences with their friends and social circles. It's obvious why he was attracted to Girls.

The real genius of the show comes from Lena Dunham, the creator, often-writer, and lead star. In a way, this is a fictionalised version of her story. These are her conflicts, a world she has lived in, and characters that she has known, either individually or in aggregate.

It is slow. It can be boring. The conflicts are often overdone or understated. The situational comedy is overwrought with tension. Yet, that is closer to many people's experience of real-life than the scripted worlds of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds, or many of the other programmes that deal with realistic conflicts in very packaged, pasteurised presentations.

Overall, Girls is one of the most exciting shows on television because of the voice it brings, simultaneously the voice a young woman, and the voice of a generation struggling with its place and the world and the options available.
posted by nickrussell at 2:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [31 favorites]


It's not very good. It's bleak and depressing and it makes young women look stupid and unintelligent. I guess it might be good for teenage girls to watch to see what they shouldn't be like, but it probably would have been a better movie than a series.
posted by discopolo at 2:24 AM on June 20, 2012


Comparing Girls with SATC is kind of ludicrous and basically supports the idea that we're not at all used to approaching female-character driven texts. Of course we're not used to it, especially on television! The two shows share only basic similarities and are trying to engage their audiences in completely different ways. SATC is practically a single-camera asitcom and Girls is a dramedy. Two totally different generations told from entirely different perspectives.

Also, I hate the charge that SATC is about gay men just because it was written by gay men. It's entirely too reductive of gay men and women. But again, that's the issue here - we're so unused to women being depicted on TV, let alone as unlikable or in any way that's deemed non-feminine that it's easier to dismiss SATC as about gay men and Lena Dunham, as unfunny and unattractive. There's a long history of unattractive and unlikable men having their stories told. Why the double standard?

Sorry, that's not to suggest Dunham is unfunny or unattractive, just to point out the misogyny.
posted by crossoverman at 2:34 AM on June 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm not in love with the show, but it actually reminds me of real people and real conversations I've had with my friends. The female characters remind me of real females and the guys remind me of real guys. The show makes me miss New York because it presents it in a way that is much more real than any other show I've watched.

It actually reflects what it's like to be a young person living in New York on your own. Friends, Sex and City and any other show I can think of have failed to do so.

The apartments are dirty, the characters are poor, and we see them working at their shitty jobs. Everyone is flawed and relationships are handled honestly if a bit hyperbolically.

It's at least better than 90% of the sitcoms on TV. That being said, it's very uneven with long patches filler.
posted by Telf at 2:36 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I like it. It's really unflinching in it's portrayal of the characters and their immaturity and steep learning curves. I'm not sure I could stand to paint such an honest picture of my own early twenties. The ridiculousness of Hannah's conversation with the gyno about AIDS. Her making a rape joke in an interview and learning the hard way you don't do that. Having to realise that in the real world lots of people value practical photoshop skills more than a humanities degree. How the guy who runs the coffee shop and is a little bit older is really an idiot (see him in the kitchen in Ep 1) but can seem so cool to people ten years younger looking for approval and can easily domineer them. How they don't see that yet, but you the viewer know they will in retrospect. Flailing round with crappy boyfriends having rubbish/unfulfilling sex because you haven't defined your boundaries yet. Aligning yourself with a narrator who is flawed and imperfect, just as you are, acknowledges and forgives your own past mistakes and imperfections.

I've had to let go of 'LOL New York and everyone is WHITE?!?' and that I can't relate to the level of privilege (I couldn't take an internship for a week let alone a year). But I think this is cleverer and better written than the vast majority give it credit for, and I can't help but think that part of the pushback against it comes from the fact that the central characters are (young) women, and for some reason that is super intolerable and histrionics will ensue.
posted by everydayanewday at 2:49 AM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


i think i can safely say that i no longer know what misogyny means. is it not a generally distasteful yet recognised fact for both sexes that in our superficial and tactless society if you are not "really really good looking" you had better be either a) funny or b) wealthy? or, particularly if you are an actor, extremely talented? i would have thought that ricky gervais, woody allen and the like would have been on the receiving end of a number of similar comments regarding looks and humour. but if a woman made a similar comment about ricky gervais would we call that misandry, or just superficiality? this article is not entirely on point, but worth noting (leading one to think that if dunham had made girls in the uk her attractiveness wouldn't have been an issue, but on the other hand if it was ported to the us she would have been played by aubrey plaza, so...). and this is a genuine question, mind you, i'm not trying to start a fight here. i realise that centuries of inequality of the sexes means that the situation is not equal, but if we trot out "misogyny" for every situation don't we weaken the meaning?
while i don't find her or the show particularly funny or likeable, i absolutely do think that lena dunham is doing the world some good by refusing to be bound in regards to how she can present herself just because she's not a size whatever. but there seems to be a difference between a not typically attractive, chubby man getting naked for the camera, which is always played for either laughs or sympathy, and lena dunham's situation, where the only accepted response seems to be "goodness, such bravery!" and/or "what is everyone talking about of course she's beautiful every woman is beautiful it is this darn unfair standard we set for women everywhere models/actresses/airbrushing etc", which is a superbly wonderful point and a conversation worth having in regards to both sexes/genders. but if we just yell misogyny and run for the exits that conversation never happens.
also i am perfectly willing to admit that i am wrong, but please be gentle!
posted by los_aburridos at 2:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


los_aburridos, try to imagine a show just like the Drew Carey show, but with all the genders flipped, and run that against your attractiveness-is-equally-applied-across-both-sexes-innit hypothesis.
posted by fleacircus at 3:10 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Dunham's unapologetic nakedness and sex scenes are a blessing, because on TV if you're a woman who's not a supermodel it's all about how you're a gross sadsack and will be a forever alone virgin, and you have to struggle against adversity and accept your lowly station as a not-sex-object and men don't like you so you barely rank as human. Wheras Dunham's character is a lot more true to life:

In reality, you don't have to be a size 0 to get laid regularly and efficiently and have people lust after and care for you. That YOU can decide that you are attractive and feel good about yourself and not being a model doesn't have much of a practical impact on your life. That she can be naked and it's not part of a 'ugh I HATE MYSELF I'm embarking on an elaborate diet' story arc is a breath of fresh air. I say all this while also thinking to myself, 'I wish I looked like her. She is so pretty'. People call Woody Allen ugly? Really? Are there people on message boards across the internet defending him with 'but he's so talented!' Men just don't receive the same amount of scrutiny or opprobrium, and there is isn't a 'prove yourself to me so I may infer my hard-won good will to you, you have failed to give me a wide-on' vibe.
posted by everydayanewday at 3:19 AM on June 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


Okay, just watched the first episode and just this moment started the second. And this first scene is really funny:
"Where do you want me to come?"

"Uh..."

"Fuck!"

"Whe..."

"Tell me..."

"What are the choices?"

"Those little tits?"

"My tits...It seems like you want to come on my tits — so you should come on my tits. Because I want you to come...it seems like you're gonna do it."
If this is what passes for early-twentysomething relationships, I'm not surprised that DTMFA is the status quo on AskMeFi.

I have a hard time relating to 24-year-olds like this because when I was that age, I'd been on my own for seven years and was managing a retail store. And that was before I went back to college. But even then, I had a hard time relating to a lot of the kids I went to college with a couple of years later, and then again after graduation when they were doing things I'd done ten years earlier even though they were only about seven years younger, especially since a fair number of them came from privileged backgrounds.

Not incidentally, I also got married at 25. It's hard for me to judge from my almost-fifty perspective, but it sure does seem like at least a portion of our population lives a sort of extended adolescent for much longer than what I remember from when I was that age in the eighties. But one also has to account for socioeconomic differences, which I noticed even then. My parents didn't pay for college for myself or my sibling and there was never any question that once we graduated from high school we'd be on our own. And that was true for our extended family. We were middle and upper middle class. And my dad had a degree. And this was true for most of my high school friends, many of whom were university faculty children. On the other hand, when I moved to some much larger cities and met more people whose parents were from the professional class, and then especially when I went to a private liberal arts college, I met people whose parents supported them all through college and a bit beyond.

Obviously, the economic climate has changed in some very important ways in the last six years and that's long enough to have a big change on the lives of everyone who has come of age during this period. That plays a huge role. But I think there are also larger forces at work, too.

That aside, I think this is pretty funny and already pretty nuanced in characterization. And, yeah, I'm loving how Durham looks and is the protagonist and that she's unafraid of being nude and everything implied in that as everdayanewday wrote. After having watched a fair bit of British television, I've become even more sick of the extreme beauty standard that reigns in American film and television and that we rarely see the other 97% of the rest of us and the implicit message that we 97% are ugly. Which is not only stupid, but also wrong. I don't deny that her friends are more attractive than she is (to me, anyway) but I do deny that she's unattractive. She's like, you know, normally attractive.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:05 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I love Girls, and for one of the reasons already put forward above. It isn't afraid to wallow in some of the uncomfortableness of real life. Aside from its being television to begin with, it seems much more true to life than almost anything I see elsewhere, though I don't watch a lot.

I have flashbacks to friends reactions to "Thirtysomething" in the early 90's, a show that also prompted reactions, of "why would I watch that, it's too much like reality, where's the entertainment?" I guess it comes off for me as more of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with girls and not so much sadism, than SATC in Brooklyn with 20-somethings.
posted by hwestiii at 4:14 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really liked the second episode, which I just finished.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:34 AM on June 20, 2012


It's not something I'd have to own a TV to understand. It's not TV, but it's not HBO either. And it's not Apatow but it's given me a new respect for him because I now see it's what he wishes he could do but can't. It does away with many of the invisible conventions of TV and narrative itself, not by countering them, but by ignoring them. And it's not really about New York except in passing. It's about people pretending to be who they think they're supposed to be and failing but half the time not noticing, while having simultaneously having real relationships which are also failing most of the time.

In other words, I love it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:52 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I think I do, too. Just watched the third episode. I'm now convinced that Dunham is brilliant, really gifted.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am in love with this show and everyone who says it's boring or depressing or anything else is going to have to come through me first.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yet there’s something unsettling and troubling about the Girls backlash, especially when compared to another show that debuted on HBO around the same time with a female protagonist and glowing reviews: Veep, which has inspired essentially no viewer backlash whatsoever.

If Veep has received no backlash it can only be because no one is watching it. What a terrible show that is.
posted by enn at 5:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Comparing Girls with SATC is kind of ludicrous

The story of four women trying to make their way in love and life in New York City.

The good-natured writer who just can't seem to get it together!
The sexy free spirit who loves to crack wise!
The driven one that has to balance her desire to craft a life for herself with her desire to find love!
The uptight one that shows up occasionally for comic relief and ends up with the guy you would least expect!

Which show am I talking about?

(I say this as someone who has mixed feelings about both shows.)
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:12 AM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


Veeps ratings during the first few episodes were higher than Girls, if I remember correctly. And that show's awesome. You just don't understand comedy and I pity and feel bad for you.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:13 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't agree with the misogyny hurled at Lena Dunham.

Nor do I agree that Girls is groundbreaking or interesting.

I don't relate to Larry David or Don Draper or Jerry Seinfeld or Carrie Bradshaw or even the Huxtables. But I enjoy watching the shows.

There are shows I don't like simply because I don't like them.

It's frustrating that one can't criticize anything female-centric without being accused of being sexist or being swept up in image issues.
posted by girlmightlive at 5:20 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really miss the days of half-hour belly lack shows that didn't tax the brain.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 AM on June 20, 2012


Belly laff shows. Belly lack shows would be some kind of fitness thing, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 5:23 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think all criticism is a giant straw man.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The reason I love Girls and Fx's Louie is because both leads are presented warts and all.
Hanah, just like all of us can be base by stealing the hotel tip her parents left for the staff and Louie can flip off his daughter behind her back out of frustration when she says likes Mommy better.


by the way, by far, the meanest comments I've heard made about Girls in real life water cooler "what shows have you been watching lately" conversations have come from women. And it's some shocking straight out of the flick Mean Girls type of shit talk using the word "gunt" from someone I would have bet the farm did not know what that word was considering she was 40-ish and not a slang word using type of lady...
posted by stavx at 5:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am in love with this show and everyone who says it's boring or depressing or anything else is going to have to come through me first.

READY TO DIE!

That's so noble. When it comes down to it, our opinions of TV shows are all we can really hold onto in this vale of tears. Your bravery is inspiring. I hope you kick some serious ass before the inevitable end. After the dust clears we will raise a statue. You will live forever in legend.

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH! FOR GIRLS! FOR GIRLS! FOR GIRLS!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:52 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


argh. The only reason this show is being compared to Veep is that they both have female protagonists. Just emphasizing that really, that's the only thing anyone can focus on.

And I like them both, but they are very different shows.
posted by gaspode at 5:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's frustrating that one can't criticize anything female-centric without being accused of being sexist or being swept up in image issues.

I think the issue is that Girls is often being criticized in a sexist way. For every person who says, "Meh, I don't care for that" there's another who goes on and on about how Lena Dunham is ugly. It comes off like a lot of people are pissed the show even exists. I really feel like a gender-flipped version of this show wouldn't be getting the same reactions.

The critique that it's all white, well-off characters is true (and Dunham responded by casting some non-white actors for the second season, so she's listening), but so many shows are the same. Probably the majority of shows on TV. Which sucks, but it's not just Girls' problem.

I can't totally relate to Girls, but I still like and watch it. I mean, I can't relate to Game of Thrones either--those people aren't much like me, but that's not my primary criteria for watching a show.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just think it's interesting that all these issues and hand-wringing conversations spring up around female-centric shows, while dozens of male-centric shows come and go with minimal notice. Suddenly, all these people are extremely concerned.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 6:09 AM on June 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


Girls is not as clever as it thinks it is by half.

I don't find anything shocking or groundbreaking about it. And I think the characters are all "objects of beauty to be placed on screen and ogled", just in a different way than SatC. I think there are funny, engaging moments but it's also very painfully obvious that it's written by a rather sheltered young woman who is just starting out in life, so whenever the show tries to deal with Big Truths it comes off as trite and/or confused.
posted by Windigo at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


The story of four women trying to make their way in love and life in New York City.

The comparison is facile.
posted by crossoverman at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did anyone watch How To Make It In America?
posted by girlmightlive at 6:20 AM on June 20, 2012


I can't totally relate to Girls, but I still like and watch it. I mean, I can't relate to Game of Thrones either--those people aren't much like me, but that's not my primary criteria for watching a show.

I think that part of the virtriol that is directed at the show is directly related to the fact that it is meant to represent us. Or some of us, anyway. As a recently ex 20-something in New York City, I can tell you that authenticity is of incredibly high value in this city, and that's probably not just the case here. As such, there's a lot of attention paid to the authenticity of these characters and their lives.

As such, people are going to be judging, harshly, the perceived inauthenticity of these characters. Which is why so much attention is paid to the parents of the principal actresses. Which is why people are constantly talking about whether apartments really look like that, or the parties they go to would really look like that. And I think it's not a great way to assess the show because a lot of the emotional content seems very spot on.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:23 AM on June 20, 2012


I was skeptic of the show when it first started, but it really grew on me as the season went on. I love the unflinching nature of it, the way it's not afraid to make ALL the characters unlikeable and flawed but also so realistic in their selfishness. It is refreshing just like the way Louie is. And it's not like Dunham doesn't know that these characters are priviliged, in the season finale, Adam calls out Hannah for that very reason. But then you have all these commentators online that are like "these girls are so vapid and boring and I don't relate to them AT ALL." I don't relate to Walt in Breaking Bad at all, yet I am drawn into its world because the characters feel real, even if they aren't the kind of real that I am used to.

Frankly, it is refreshing to see young women portrayed in this way, as well as looking kind of unconventional (by Hollywood standards). All this rah rah they're so priviliged and so white talk, particularly about the backgrounds of the cast themselves just REEKS of sexism. Shows and movies that portray an ensemble of women are almost always dismissed as being vapid and shallow and yet shows and movies about ensembles of men are usually the most popular and well-received pieces of media out there. I want many, many more shows like Girls. They don't have to be groundbreaking, they just need to tell their own story and that's enough for now.
posted by liquorice at 6:24 AM on June 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


I just think it's interesting that all these issues and hand-wringing conversations spring up around female-centric shows, while dozens of male-centric shows come and go with minimal notice. Suddenly, all these people are extremely concerned.

But the show bills itself as being a voice of a generation. It's gonna hold up to closer scrutiny.

I will admit that when I first heard about Girls all I could think was that it's yet another show about white women and their problems (this coming after New Girl, Two Broke Girls, etc.) But I am a black woman. Talk about an underrepresented group in mainstream media.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:31 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Weird. We started watching Girls last night on a whim and it turns out we love it.
posted by Artw at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2012


"I just think it's interesting that all these issues and hand-wringing conversations spring up around female-centric shows, while dozens of male-centric shows come and go with minimal notice. Suddenly, all these people are extremely concerned."

Your point is well-taken but I think that what you're alluding to also sort of undercuts your argument. Because when so few shows are female-centric and ambitious the way this show is, then naturally it will carry a weight that a comparable male-centric does not.

"I can't totally relate to Girls, but I still like and watch it. I mean, I can't relate to Game of Thrones either--those people aren't much like me, but that's not my primary criteria for watching a show."

I agree and I hope that my comments about the things I have trouble relating to weren't interpreted as being some sort of criticism of the show. That said, while it's a sort of satirical, realistic comedy, there is a big dose of realism in this show and that affects how we come to it as viewers. Relatability is kind of a tricky thing and I think that pretty much most narrative requires some relatable way into the work for individuals members of the audience. And I suspect that each of us have both different experiences that make different things more and less relatable and also we each have different thresholds of the required degree of relatability. Generally, I think my horizons are wider than average — I mean, I'm a middle-aged heterosexual male and I like this show a lot and find a lot in these characters to relate to (and not particularly any of the male characters, actually). But the 24-year-old who's always been supported by their parents and has never really worked at a real job thing is a big stumbling block for me. It's a quirk. It doesn't say anything about the merits of the show and, in fact, it motivates me to try a little harder because one of the most important things that fiction does for me is to provide me with subjective views of the world that I otherwise could never see.

Anyway, I just finished the fifth episode and I really like it. I do find that I don't much relate to any of the characters except for Marnie and only partly with Hannah and I'm not sure what that might signify. Marnie doesn't seem particularly "adult" in the sense that someone middle-aged like I am would require. But she does seem less...narrowly defined...by this time and place in her life the way her friends are. Maybe that changes in the second five episodes. The rest of them, though, seem maybe a bit caricatured in that they are very, very much written and played as people of a particular age, socioeconomic position, and place that practically determines their characters, their behaviors. I'm not comfortable with this, now that I think about it. I guess I've really enjoyed and been impressed with the show and not thought about it because within that context, it's done this very, very well (and it's not as if this isn't something that most other shows and films do). And Dunham is exploring these characters in interesting and wickedly humorous ways. But maybe they could breathe more, I dunno.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:35 AM on June 20, 2012


I don't relate to Walt in Breaking Bad at all, yet I am drawn into its world because the characters feel real, even if they aren't the kind of real that I am used to.

Reading this made me realize that I actually do relate to Walt (at least through where I am in series), despite not having cancer, making meth, having kids, or really having anything in common with Walt. I think there are basically two ways of relating to characters. One is by relating to their external lives; I haven't seen Girls, but there seem to be a lot of people who are relating (or not relating) to those characters on that basis. The other is by relating to their internal lives, basically by relating to their emotions, the ways they make their decisions, that kind of thing. Obviously, if you relate to characters in Game of Thrones it is primarily along this axis, since you're not living a life like that.

Now, obviously, all shows engage along both types of "relating to" to varying degrees, but I think the problem comes when you lean too heavily on the first. Breaking Bad creates external circumstances that are well outside my experience*, so I'm not likely to criticize it by saying "but none of my middle aged friends are kidnapped by drug dealers." If it were a show about 20 something lawyers who goof off on Metafilter during work hours, I'm much more likely to nitpick the realism of it all. This isn't to say that you shouldn't make shows that are designed to resembles people's lives, just that when you do, you create different expectations.

*My wife has this theory that Breaking Bad is actually just a show about the health care system, to the extent that it is, it is not outside my experience. To the extent that it is a show about making meth, it is.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:48 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the show bills itself as being a voice of a generation.

Does it? Granted I haven't seen any ads for it, but this sounds pretty close to something Hannah says in the first episode in a moment that is pretty clearly meant to show that the character takes herself too seriously without actually taking herself seriously enough to work hard at anything. I'd be pretty surprised if Lena Dunham was going around saying the same thing about herself without her tongue firmly in her cheek.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


But the show bills itself as being a voice of a generation.

As shakespeherian said, that was about the main character's self-involvement (from the Sepinwall interview above)


Lena Dunham: Yeah. And I think when we called it "Girls," there was a certain kind of irony we felt, that wasn’t necessarily received by viewers, which was that the idea of calling a show about four girls in a really specific part of Brooklyn with a really like weird, kind of skewed POV — there's something funny about giving it that kind of universal title to something that's so itself. But I think people really went into it — from what I read, considering I do like half press avoidance —people really went into it with a sense that it was sort of going to be filling the gap for everybody. I think as the world of the show, grows and expands, there (will be) more cross-sections with more people with a varied viewpoint than these girls, but that takes a little time to establish the world.

Jenni Konner: Yeah. I kind of love that when she said "the voice of my generation, or a voice of a generation," that some people took it seriously. We meant it jokingly. But, you know, if they did and that appalled them, that's okay, too, like there's sort of a funniness about that miscommunication that I don't mind.

Lena Dunham: I always hoped that because she was like clearly having a very negative drug reaction that that would sort of excuse her from — I don't mind if it excuses Hannah, but that would sort of excuse me from calling myself out.

Jenni Konner: But you never said it was you.

Lena Dunham: It was a character on opium. It’s so crazy. I was not on opium at that time.

Jenni Konner: Well, does Shonda Rhimes — I mean, I know you’re playing the part and it’s blurry, but I wonder, because Meredith Grey is so flawed — she’s brilliantly flawed and I think incredibly well done — are people mad at Shonda because Meredith Grey makes a choice that they consider stupid or says something rude?


and


Sepinwall: The Kathryn Hahn scene is one of a bunch, like the ones with her parents in 106, or Adam at the warehouse party, where you start getting outsider perspective on what's going on and you’re realizing that things aren't quite what you think they are and Hannah and Marnie are really these unreliable narrators. Was seen that the intention that you were going for, because you’ve talked before about how this is their point of view and their point of view was just sometimes just wrong.

Lena Dunham: Yeah.

Jenni Konner: Yeah. I mean, I think we’ve always thought that, that they were not reliable narrators. I mean, she calls herself the voice of a generation, like that's the most extreme.

posted by theclaw at 7:00 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Everyone in the show is a terrible asshole. It is basically a taxonomy of a subtype of terrible asshole. That is what the show is about.

And it's probably less a generation of assholes or just a generation... of assholes.
posted by Artw at 7:00 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone in the show is a terrible asshole.

You're looking for the Arrested Development thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Breaking Bad creates external circumstances that are well outside my experience*, so I'm not likely to criticize it by saying "but none of my middle aged friends are kidnapped by drug dealers."

I think that is part of my issue with the criticism of Girls. It's often not 24 year old white girls saying "This show is so unrealistic!" it's generally middle-aged dudes decrying it as such. Yes, the lives portrayed are outside the norm of many people's experiences but I wouldn't say it is as outside the norm as a middle aged guy kidnapped by drug dealers. I'm 24, and while the characters experiences in no way relate to my own, the way they deal with said experiences, the way the feel about themselves and how they interact with their friends - that resonates pretty deeply with me.

But I also don't think relating to the show on either level is necessary to liking it. I love Mad Men but I think Don Draper is an awful human being that should be punched in the face. I don't get him and I certainly don't get the hero-worship that a certain segment of the audience has for him. Often Hannah deserves a punch in a face too. Both shows manage to craft a world around unlikeable characters, and for me at least, it works well.
posted by liquorice at 7:03 AM on June 20, 2012


I was similarly skeptical about Girls, but a friend suggested I watch it. He nervously knitted his hands together and said, "Hannah reminds me of you in an ugly dress. There's this scene where she's having sex and she's all awkward and says the most moronic things and, then she thinks she has HIV and gets all paranoid about it, and, look, just watch the show."

I did. And I haven't been able to tear myself away from it ever since. Living in the twilight of my 20s, I didn't imagine that I'd have a whole lot in common with these hipster chicks in NY. And yet episode after episode, I find myself hunting around for where Lena Dunham has hidden cameras to spy on my life. It is horrifying how many similar experiences I've had. It isn't that I "relate" to the characters in any great way. But every time they do something that I've done I just think "Ooh gurl, I feel ya." And then I laugh nonstop for about five minutes. At them. At me. At all the absurdity of taking ourselves so seriously.

Shoshanna's Cracicident is going to live in my mind as one of the funniest scenes I've ever watched on television. Her half-naked karate chop sent me into convulsions.
posted by jph at 7:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Her half-naked karate chop sent me into convulsions.

My main criticism so far is that Shoshanna isn't in the show more.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you're on to something, Bulgaroktonos. As it happens, I relate to Walt quite strongly, both inner and outer.

But I think I inadvertently implied what you're saying in my previous comment where I first wrote that I "find a lot in these characters to relate to" and then in the following paragraph wrote that I "don't much relate to any of the characters except for Marnie". Which seems contradictory, but the former is about "a lot [of things] in these characters" while the latter is the character as whole; or, really, about identifying with them in a stronger sense.

How we identify with characters and which we identify is sort of weird. Well, in some ways it's predictable. But, for example, I identify somewhat strongly with Walt in Breaking Bad, and I identify pretty strongly with...Arya in Game of Thrones. And Tyrion, of course, which is more predictable. Varys, some. Much less so anyone else. Buffy is still my favorite television show of all time, but I never, ever identified with her character. I didn't identify with Xander, either. I identified with Willow and Tara. I'm as likely to identify with a female character, providing she's of a certain personality type, as I am a male character and, likewise, a big range of male character types I simply cannot identify with at all. Even though so much of our experience of the world is so deeply influenced by our gender.

Which is why I didn't expect that S&tC or Girls would inherently have any barriers to me merely because I'm male. It was the kinds of characters in S&tC that was a barrier to me (as well as the implicit thesis). There's a lot about the experiences of the characters, female and male, in Girls that is alien to me; but most of them have different aspects of their implied inner lives that feels pretty familiar.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:07 AM on June 20, 2012


Let's remember this is Judd Apatow product -- dick/vagina jokes on the outside, but pretty damn conservative deep down.

This critique bothers me for its use of the word "conservative", which in our society can mean both "cautious and measured" or "batshit insane religious repressive". Apatow is absolutely the former: he makes films about people who, facing the plethora of choices and opportunities we're given, choose to ultimately take a more traditional route through life. He does this without criticizing people who take any other path, and often those characters are on the protagonist's side even if they're not the main central prot. Suggesting that films about people settling down and having families and waiting to have sex are inherently bad is stupid. And Apatow's films are devoid of that other kind of conservatism, which promotes ignorance and repression and denying people's rights to choose and so on and so forth. His TV work is even more humane.

Also:

I went into Girls expecting a "Freaks & Geeks for entitled white twenty somethings," and that's what I got. Compelling characters, smart situations, and writers who simultaneously let us see how idiotic and self-deceived these characters are while also showing us why they maybe act that way, and encourage us to root for these characters to grow up, because ultimately they're as flawed and human as any of us are. "Growing up" for them means shedding off the bullshit, but in the meantime the bullshit is funny, so we can simultaneously laugh at them for their flaws and hope for them to get better.

People who think Girls intended to truly be the "voice of a generation" are silly. Girls intended to lampoon privilege and entitlement while still creating characters we hope to succeed. Which is something I want a lot more of in TV. Parks & Rec is my favorite current show because of how much it lets us like its characters. And while I love that TV is getting so good at "prolonged and deserved downfall" a la Making Mad and Bad Ben I like seeing shows that care less about how people suck than about how they're secretly wonderful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


If Veep has received no backlash it can only be because no one is watching it. What a terrible show that is.

Veep is fucking primordial and people who say otherwise have parts of their brain missing. I need to watch the last few episodes again, but three episodes in I thought it was the best comedy of the year and I haven't entirely changed my mind. Faster jokes and better swears cannot be found on TV, and the way it depicts DC politics is at once hilarious and terrifying.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The one episode I did see had one of the characters (the 'slutty' one) freaking out about getting an HIV test, which she was getting because she wanted to sleep with some dude who had a reputation as being epic in bed, but only slept with people with up to date test results.

Samantha met the "male samantha". They went back to his place and he asked "do you swing?" and we got to see samantha flustered for maybe the only time in the series. She recovered by making a wiseass remark and he revealed he meant using a sex swing, he had a crazy sex trapeze in his 10m $ loft. The one catch was he refused to use a comdom. This prompted samantha to get tested for the first time and gave the girls a chance to have a discussion of the various times they had been tested while cruising down 5th avenue in a cab. They always had important discussions in cabs, the anal sex conversation was in a cab and I think the abortion conversation was in a cab.

Even at the time the perception was that it was a show about gay men.

I wasn't a huge fan of SatC since 99% of the experiences they shared were utterly and completely foreign to me, but I watched it with my girlfriend and was subjected to about a billion conversations about it.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The rest of them, though, seem maybe a bit caricatured in that they are very, very much written and played as people of a particular age, socioeconomic position, and place that practically determines their characters, their behaviors. I'm not comfortable with this, now that I think about it.

I think that this is the gulf that exists between people of your age and people who are younger. There is a pernicious narrative about "extended adolescence" and the ills of moving back in with your parents. But it seems to me that since the Regan Era, the steady erosion of economic mobility has, one-by-one, closed the doors of opportunity on young people.

Its so slow that it may be imperceptible by older people but its real and it is changing the culture. But this show suggests that even the kids who went to NYC prep schools and Oberlin are faltering ()maybe not Lena...but definitely Hannah and perhaps her others in her cohort?). Maybe there is something to this whole Law of Oligarchy?

Watching the series, I kept thinking about the movie Winter's Bone about a woman not much younger than Hannah. I also thought about the seniors in this set of pictures. How many of them will get to be the manager (a manager?) at the closest Walmart?

And then I think about another movie, October Sky about life in a similar place in the 50s. How different it all is. And at the end of it all, I can't help but believe that of course place and culture and socioeconomics puts a big old thumb on the scale that is a life.

/sad derail
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Parks & Rec is my favorite current show because of how much it lets us like its characters."

It really is a wonderful and exemplary show in that respect. I'm not yet seeing so much of that in Girls, though I'm happy to believe that it's very much there and will become more visible as I watch the second five episodes.

Because I really don't like misanthropic shows.

There's a distinction between misanthropic narratives and narratives which are merely very dark and punish their characters. For example, I don't think GoT is misanthropic, although I don't think I could say the opposite, either. GRRM is ambivalent about human nature, really, which is a very good thing.

Todd Solondz is, for me, the perfect case-study for this particular topic. I love Welcome to the Dollhouse, and think it's his best movie overall; while, in contrast, I think that Happiness is by a large margin his best film technically, thematically, and even (or especially) with regard to realizing his particular vision...but despite all that, I think Welcome to the Dollhouse is the better film simply because it's not utterly and unrelentingly misanthropic the way that Happiness is (and all his films which have followed).

I'm a lot more interested in art that is more interested in showing peoples' ugliness, in all its varieties, while nevertheless loving them than I am in showing their ugliness as a didactic and/or smug exercise. I once quipped that "Curb Your Enthusiasm was Seinfeld without all the heart" and that's why I couldn't watch it (and could barely watch Seinfeld) even though both were brilliant and often extremely funny.

Parks & Rec is really interesting in that it relentlessly mocks many aspects of its characters' personalities — and these are personality traits that, while greatly exaggerated for comedy, are nevertheless the kinds of things that annoy us in other people in real life — while somehow being extremely generous to these characters, not letting the bad and mockable erase the good, noble, and admirable. And that's a good thing, and something that the best art often does, because real people are like that. There are pretty much things to hate and love about everyone.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


To derail, one of the things I love about Happiness is how much it seems like the film purposefully creates a need for me to put in a concerted effort to empathize with its characters-- it's like a lesson in getting past the easy out of misanthropy, or something. I don't think I'm articulating it particularly well.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:39 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most relationship dynamics on television leave me thinking "Is it really like this for people in the real world?" Relationship dynamics on Girls make me uncomfortable with how much I see of myself and my friends in them. And it's about fucking time dudes into ballbusting were represented on mainstream TV!
posted by Lorin at 7:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I loved Creative Nonfiction and liked Tiny Furniture, and I will watch anything Lena Dunham does. Anything. She's like Ursula Le Guin. I basically see Girls as the 3rd Lena Dunham movie. And it's the longest but best of the three.

That said, there is nothing suspicious about someone hating her work. It can be extremely difficult to take. The most uncompromising episodes of the show have been the ones credited as "Created by L.D., Directed by L.D., Produced by L.D., Written by L.D." with no assistance from anyone else. The episodes with other people doing some of those jobs tend to be less viciously bleak.

Comparisons to Sex & The City are not unreasonable -- the scripts have been making a lot of overt references in that direction, and in the Alan Sepinwall interviews mentioned above, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner talk extensively about it. (They also talk about the other major influences: Manhattan and My So-Called Life.)

There was a good deal of talk when the show started about its lack of character "diversity." I think some of this was based on the mistaken assumption that the show was going to be about "life in New York City." It's not -- it's about a small group of people living in a small self-contained world, self-selected of people exactly like themselves. All the Girls and most of the guys went to Oberlin together and some seem to have known each other from high school. The final episode takes Hannah accidentally out of that little region of Brooklyn, and you see the NYC skyline for the first time ... it's kind of a shock to realize how small her life has been despite "living in the city."

I have to admit I am going to be really happy when people stop expecting media artifacts to do activism, and stop interrogating everything for its potential cultural-political effects. It seems like 20 years ago it was hip to discuss movies by pretending to be an amateur D.P., and now we're all supposed to be amateur Judy Butlers. This is why it helps that Lena Dunham is a giant freaking narcissist -- she really does believe that what she thinks about her personal life and her experiences and her peers is worth making two films and a TV show about. And the best thing you can expect from that is that you, the viewer, purely as an individual (from whatever subculture or socioeconomic background) will see something in her vision, and say "hey, that resonates in some weird way with my own feelings; that kind of helps explain a little bit of my experience of the world." I think whether Girls is good or bad should be judged solely on whether its choices seem artistically valid and how well it expresses the author's genius. On those grounds, it's the best thing on TV since Freaks and Geeks.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


"And at the end of it all, I can't help but believe that of course place and culture and socioeconomics puts a big old thumb on the scale that is a life."

Oh, I agree with you, mostly, that this is a real social change, and one that is a very bad change. But I also think that part of why I have some trouble with that cultural gap is because it's not entirely a generational gap, but a persistent socioeconomic gap that certainly predates my transition into adulthood in the early eighties. That is, there are a bunch of us from one particular social class (and it's not merely about our parent's income and education) for whom it was normal that they move out after high school and it's not at all guaranteed that our parents would pay our college tuition, much less support us. And then another class who was, even then, supported until after college by their parents.

For example, if you look at the stats, the most recent time when young adult unemployment was as bad as it is now was...the early eighties, exactly when I graduated from high school and moved out on my own. And, you know, we struggled. But we did it because it was basically unthinkable to not do it.

But, on the other hand, for other adult children at that time but from other places and other subcultures, their parents supported them independently of whether or not there were jobs available for them. I couldn't relate to those people then. I mean, really. I waited tables with a guy that I became friends with in 1984 who was also the son of someone at about the same executive level that my dad was at the same company my dad worked for. I was only about a year older than him but I'd been supporting myself, in and out of university (and paying for university myself without any help at all from my parents), for a couple of years. Superficially, our socioeconomic status was the same (although I don't think his father grew up dirt-poor like mine did...but also his mother didn't grow up the child of the state's most prominent banker, like my mom did) but he was completely supported by his parents, even though he was working. We got along well, but that aspect of his life was very alien to me. He seemed, well, sort of infantile in that respect.

So, I think there's a cultural divide here that's independent of the generational/economic divide and the two in conjunction create a pretty big gap between my perspective and those who, like you say, are much younger.

To be clear, though, I also think that there's a much more longstanding trend toward lengthening adolescence and I think that's a good thing. Pretty much for exactly the same reasons as I think it was good that we transitioned from everyone working full-time at fifteen and getting married. There's definitely some negative implications in how I think/speak/write about young adults supported by their parents, but I'm aware that most of that is just a baseless chauvinism on my part. But it is relevant in that I don't think you fully mature into an adult until you're out there on your own and so in the same sense that I can relate to narratives about teenagers as human beings, with the issues and inner-lives of human beings but not as much to narratives about teens dealing with issues as adults when they're clearly not adults (like, say, their thoughts on committed long-term relationships) I have some trouble relating to narratives about these young adults as adults when they're clearly not quite adults. And it's just sort of weird to me given that I was an adult (though, to be sure, deeply confused and flawed) in that sense at that age.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:04 AM on June 20, 2012


It seems like 20 years ago it was hip to discuss movies by pretending to be an amateur D.P.,

I have no idea what a D.P. is, so I foolishly Googled "amateur D.P." on my work computer.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:07 AM on June 20, 2012 [26 favorites]


(D.P. = cinematographer, person involved in the mechanics of movie making. It seemed like when I was in school the sophisticated way to talk about movies was to sound all technical about filmmaking.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2012


That is the actual Urban Dictionary definition.
posted by Artw at 8:15 AM on June 20, 2012


I'm so out of the loop that, when I hear people talk about "Dunham" all the time, I'm like, "Wow, that dude with the racist puppets has more enlightened views on gender than I expected."
posted by jonp72 at 8:25 AM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I think any similarities between Girls and SITC come just from the influence, subconsious or otherwise, SITC will have on a woman living in New York. Otherwise I see very little comparisons between the two that aren't completely facile. Hannah and her friends are not glamorous in any sense of the word, rarely likeable, and the show clearly doesn't set out to define a Universal New York Woman.

I see two main criticisms of Girls:

"The characters are awful/ugly/unlikeable/etc"

It's one thing if you just don't like misanthropic protagonists. But many people who hate Girls don't mind Breaking Bad, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Arrested Development, East Bound and Down, or any of the other myriad shows out there with male protagonists or ensemble casts largely composed of losers and shitheads. People are not used to seeing shows about women where the female characters are just allowed to be and there is not an overtone of This Is A Woman Who Represents All Woman. That is, the writer has not tried to write the female character as some facet of the Ur-Woman, whether the writer things an Ur-Woman is a collection of awful vapid stereotype or a heroic Good Role Model who may have some failures but is largely a Good Person. If you're a misogynist you're mad because Hannah & Co. are not hot and pretty and fitting into whatever safe roles women are supposed to be playing. If you come from the ultra-liberal viewpoint you might be mad that Hannah & Co. are so damn shallow and unlikable and do not represent How Women Should Be Seen.

But there are no people of color/this isn't me/I don't relate to these specific experiences/etc

I think this kind of ties into our expectations that any show with a female protagonist is immediately Othered, in that we are expecting the female protagonist to represent a larger statement about women, or about all women.

We don't look at Arrested Development and say "I haven't been in situations like that, my life isn't like that, those people don't look like my friends, Gob Bluth is a terrible role model for men and this is an awful show." We take the show as portraying a particular situation in time with particular characters who demonstrate emotions and reactions that we either relate with or find incredibly outrageous and hilarious.

But when we look at shows with female protagonists, we think "Is character reinforcing stereotypes? How does she represent women as a whole? Is this show sufficiently transcending traditional race/gender/socioeconomic boundaries generally set by mass media? Let me analyze it for its larger cultural impact!" I think that kind of reaction is important, that it is good to have media where women are portrayed in a positive, complex light and we play with all kinds of race/gender/socioeconomic expectations.

BUT . . . by automatically approaching all media with female protagonists that way, you are implicitly Othering it, in that you lay down expectations for female protagonists that you don't for male. If you want to talk true gender equality, it consists of shows where the female characters are neither playing into traditional expectations nor fulfilling a hero-worshipping wet dream, but have portrayals that are as varied and complex and flawed as we see in the variety of male characters and male-led shows out there. One of the reasons I like Girls is Dunham has done just that. Despite the title, she's clearly not trying to make a statement about women in general, she's not trying to pander to any traditional female portrayals, she's just writing a very personal show with ridiculous, fucked-up people who are exaggerations of some of the things she's seen in her own life. There was an interview with her where she pointed out she did not want to include any POC characters because that wasn't her experience, and she didn't want to engage in any tokenism that might result from her trying.

Girls is not about all girls, or all women, or bashing men, or any of that. It's just about the messed-up people Dunham has created and how they crash into each other and the world around them.
posted by schroedinger at 8:26 AM on June 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


It seemed like when I was in school the sophisticated way to talk about movies was to sound all technical about filmmaking.

Every time I encounter that, all I can think of is the audition scene in Waiting for Guffman wherein Ron Albertson asks Corky if he should "strike" the chair.
posted by griphus at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


That is, there are a bunch of us from one particular social class (and it's not merely about our parent's income and education) for whom it was normal that they move out after high school and it's not at all guaranteed that our parents would pay our college tuition, much less support us.

Leaving aside people who are supported after college by their parents, I think the fact that your family expected you to pay for your own schooling is more a factor of the tuition rates at the time than any larger cultural shift. I think it's very unlikely that a similar family would not make some arrangements to pay for their kid's college today; consider that in 1980, the federal minimum wage was $3.10, for a yearly salary of $6,448—and the average tuition at a four-year school was $3,499. In 2010, the minimum wage was $7.25, for a yearly salary of $15,080, but the average tuition at a four-year school was $21,189. So the cost of tuition has gone from 54% of yearly minimum-wage income to 141% and obviously that makes it much less feasible for someone to pay their own way through school working a low-wage job.
posted by enn at 8:32 AM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


stavx: "The reason I love Girls and Fx's Louie is because both leads are presented warts and all."

Now that would make a great crossover. Like when Arnold and Willis would visit the Facts of Life girls, with more skin-crawling.
posted by mkultra at 8:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I think it's very unlikely that a similar family would not make some arrangements to pay for their kid's college today..."

I disagree. This is a subcultural thing, mostly. I mean, note that when I did get serious about my education, I went to a school that was $28K a year just in tuition, twenty-one years ago.

My sense is that there's some strong regional cultural differences involved with this. It's partly about class in conjunction with a family's educational expectations. But it's other things, too.

And people (including me) tend to incorrectly universalize about things like this.

I tend to think of the defining characteristic of the few people I became close friends with at my liberal arts college as that they were a few years older than the other freshmen. But, really, just the fact that they were a few years older said something. The two who became my closest friends (and remained so for twenty years) had both lived on their own, supported themselves, and gone to school elsewhere before they had made their way there. And one of them was married, like I was. They were both only about four years older than the freshmen right out of high school. But in other respects their background was a lot more like mine than it was many of the other students.

I mention that because at my school, just like Oberlin, there's a whole hell of a lot of cultural uniformity. In many respects, I'm a quintessential "johnny" (someone who goes to St. John's College) — that is, the intellectual respects (which are almost all-important there). In others, not so much. And people tend to self-select culturally and that can cause us to not be aware that people vary much more than we realize they do. So, upon reflection, I don't think it's an accident that I ended up associating with people who were more like me, socioeconomically and sub-culturally with regard to my childhood, than were the majority of my classmates. Most of whom had parents who paid their way through this very expensive school — middle-class or upper-class or even lower-class.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2012


Todd VanDerWerff is just the worst. He's one of this new post-ironic, post-asshole breed of commentator who's taken the debatable mantra "liking things is more interesting than not liking things" to heart to the point of forming a completely new asshole generation, whose every child is totally powerless to deal with the fact of people not liking things they've decided are objectively important and worthy without a whole lot of tiresome hectoring and accusing.

At first I was right there with him on Girls, because his original comment about the horrifying looksism and sexism people were showing off in discussions of the show was right on and necessary. But as far as I'm concerned, this piece comes down to, "Hate this show? Well, you CAN'T." For all his concessionary "certainly"s and "to be fair"s, he's not really willing to take any bad thing people say about the show on board.

"But [sexist attitudes have] also manifested in more subtle ways, in the way too many people don’t seem willing to give the show any benefit of the doubt. Since when are TV shows, particularly ones that have practically completed their first season, entitled to anyone's benefit of the doubt (or else they must not respect women)? "One week, [the goalpost is] the idea that the show’s “not funny enough,” whatever that means." How can he possibly not know what that means? And he just brushes off the central reputational weakness of the show, which is that, unlike any of the shows he compares it to (most hilariously I Just Want My Pants Back - come on), it arrived on a towering wave of hype that it could simply never have lived up to for many, many viewers, even if it had been twice as good as it is.

And, by the way, I say this as someone who fucking loves Girls.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've found the criticism of the show for its lack of racial diversity to be pretty strange. I mean, there have been how many shows about groups of friends in New York, very white groups of friends, and we're going to choose this one to complain about? I mean, media representation of racial minorities is certainly an issue worth discussing, but I don't understand why Girls should be singled out more than any other show. My reactionary backlash would go more like, "oh god another show about a group of friends in New York, how original". But I think Girls is great.

I do think the series is in a kind of "character development or else" position for me, though, where I know I'll end up hating the characters if they fail to grow at all and continue to have bad decision-making as a source of conflict. I think the first season did a great job, with Hannah at least, introducing the character and slowly exposing her flaws and her perception of her place in the world, then ending the season on a note that can point to growth. This isn't to say that it can't or shouldn't be a show about characters who never learn anything, or learn the wrong lessons, just that the chances of me continuing to like the show in that case go down.

Also, whoever said Veep is terrible is OBJECTIVELY WRONG FOR ETERNITY. Oh my god that show is so perfect, I love how it replaces the typical life-affirming pathos of most sitcoms with these dark, dark politics-is-soul-crushing emotional moments. So wonderful. It's a crime there aren't more clips of the show on YouTube. I could only find this one, which is pretty good, but that show is just an endless stream of hilarious lines.
posted by palidor at 9:13 AM on June 20, 2012


I apparently live under a rock (a rock which does not have HBO) so I'd actually never even heard of this show until this thread, but...

I am extremely wary of anyone who starts from a position of "the masculine expectations of good TV". Television is advertising- and marketing-driven, and I dunno if you've looked at the ads any time in the last, oh, decade or two, but it's pretty obvious who TV -- as a general cultural medium -- wants to be appealing to (and with good reason, when you look at things like who controls spending and purchasing decisions). And if it's succeeding in that and making money, then we can have some useful discussions about why the particular tropes they use are successful, and what that says about the way our society works, but that's going to be a very different discussion than this one.

Meanwhile, I went and looked up the show on Wikipedia, which summarized the premise as

Aspiring writer Hannah gets a shock when her parents visit from Michigan and announce they will no longer financially support her as they have done since her college graduation two years prior. Left to her own devices in Brooklyn, she and her friends navigate their twenties, "one mistake at a time."

Which, to be honest, does make me think back to SATC and suspect it'll be "Privileged in New York: The Next Generation". It also makes me think less "good TV" and more "formulaic TV". The character descriptions (The One Who Has a Stereotypical Female Job, The Other One Who Has a Stereotypical Female Job, The Unpredictable One and The Ditz) also do not inspire confidence.
posted by ubernostrum at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2012


I love how it replaces the typical life-affirming pathos of most sitcoms with these dark, dark politics-is-soul-crushing emotional moments.

It's amazing how differently other people read this show than I do. You see dark emotional moments, I see a Bill-O'Reilly-level hey-guys-politicians-sure-are-creeps-huh one-trick pony that's about as cutting, dark, or fresh as jokes about airline food—I can almost hear the laugh track. And I loved The Thick of It. I haven't watched Veep in a week or two, maybe it's getting better?
posted by enn at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2012


Also, I don't think it's untrue that Lena Dunham is ugly, and I definitely don't think it's irrelevant. I think it's fucking awesome. Ugly men rule the whole world. It is a joy to watch an ugly woman not only do her thing for months on probably the most-discussed show of the year, but do it without trying to apologise for her looks in any way. And, while I understand it, I personally think the insistence on referring to Dunham as "not traditionally attractive" or "not like the other women on television" - as distinct from the things people who do find her attractive say, which, why not - just marginalises ugly women further, as if ugliness in a woman is too awful to even be contemplated. I honestly feel like this is a watershed moment in the struggle against looksism, which should be celebrated.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


"And, while I understand it, I personally think the insistence on referring to Dunham as 'not traditionally attractive' or 'not like the other women on television' - as distinct from the things people who do find her attractive say, which, why not - just marginalises ugly women further, as if ugliness in a woman is too awful to even be contemplated."

Well, the funny thing is that a while back I took the pretty unpopular opinion in a MetaTalk thread that it is possible to be "ugly" and that this is a big deal for some people and not something that can be cured by a better attitude, self-esteem, the right partner, or whatever. That is to say, I absolutely agree with your underlying argument that just waving away almost all possibility of any sort of ugliness that actually matters and is oppressive is inadvertently reinforcing lookism.

But I don't think that Dunham is an example. I'm more than a little surprised that you think she is, coming from your point-of-view on this. She's maybe average or slightly-below-average for my peers and I just don't consider that "ugly". I consider that "how regular people actually look". Or "how people look on British television". Allison Williams (Marnie) is Hollywood typical attractive and that means she's way more attractive than the average woman. Maybe Dunham looks worse in contrast.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2012


"liking things is more interesting than not liking things"

That goes against the Metafilter code!
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched Veep in a week or two, maybe it's getting better?

Did you see the episode where she has to make the tie-breaking vote in the senate? That might be the perfect example of what I mean, where the emotional payoff of the episode is tied up with how she's voting against something she believes in because of the political maneuvering around it. I guess I can see how someone can take away the "politicians are creeps" thing, but for me it's just this dark pathos built on a kind of political gallows humor.
posted by palidor at 9:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty confident that anyone calling Dunham unattractive just lives on the Internet and has a distorted perception of beauty involving airbrushing and giant boobs and what-have-you and has never interacted with an actual woman in real life.
posted by palidor at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Funny, I think she's pretty cute. True ugly just doesn't make it on TV. What she is not is "conventionally" (i.e. beauty magazine model) attractive, but I don't think that's a euphemism for ugly. (Ugly is ugly, though we're not supposed to say it.) By most objective measures (facial symmetry, straight teeth, nice hair, no giant facial scars or burns, etc.), she's well "above normal."

I do agree it is a win in the battle against looksism, but a very small one, no? I suppose in an industry that casts a gorgeous woman and makes her "ugly" by adding braces and glasses, it could be considered a watershed... ;)

Anyway, I like the show so far (3 episodes) too. The characters are privileged but seem pretty real. I like that they didn't dumb down the male characters either, but still show how fucking stupid they are.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is Lena Dunham at her most attractive
posted by palidor at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obviously the answer is to just have tv shows about anthropomorphic, gender-neutral furniture.

(admission: I love Girls, and relate to it a lot more than I should for someone my age. My mother has compared me to Hannah a number of times, and I can't say she's wrong. I have some what ambivalent feelings about this, though she is a pretty great character. )
posted by tittergrrl at 10:10 AM on June 20, 2012


I have never heard of this show before today (I don't really watch a lot of TV, don't subscribe to HBO etc.), and this article/thread have left me sort of nonplussed. I can't pick up enough character/plot details to have much of an idea of the show, and everyone is throwing around comparisons and summaries that both excite (LeGuin! Freaks & Geeks!) and repulse (attractive people enjoying privileges I'll never know in the best US city) me.

I guess I'm curious, but my expectations are probably way too high now. If lots of MeFites like it, it's on my radar, though. That's always worked out to be a pretty good rule of thumb for me.
posted by byanyothername at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2012


I like the show. It seems to capture a lot of the awkwardness of becoming an adult. It also makes me uncomfortable. I had to stop watching it in the middle of a show and come back later. (the scene where she quits after being influenced by Marnie's suggestion) I love that the characters are flawed, not perfectly hollywood beautiful, and dirty.
posted by annsunny at 10:17 AM on June 20, 2012


Here is Lena Dunham at her most attractive

I can only hope that's for a karaoke performance of Party Rock Anthem.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2012


Well, I don't want to debate whether Lena Dunham is really ugly or to what degree. Because it's also a subjective thing, and it seems to me that there's a particular way of not recognising this that, along with treating fatness and ugliness as one and the same, is one of the incorrect and sort of fucked up ways we think about beauty (those of us who are still willing to allow the concept any meaning) and that nobody talks about. What I'm referring to is the really common idea that if you, say, think Kim Kardashian is ugly, you must think her sisters, whatever they're called, are even uglier and you must never have even met a woman who isn't on television who meets your ridiculous standards. But underlying all that is the false notion that there actually is an objective standard of beauty and that it's fairly perfectly aligned to media standards. When maybe you just think Khloe or whoever is the prettiest Kardashian, and Camilla Parker Bowles is the most beautiful woman of them all. Because you can do that.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2012


It's her Louis CK Halloween costume, from this interview I read a month or so ago.

AVC: Oh that’s marvelous.

LD: [Laughs.] Thank you. Except that I have to tell you that going to a party where everybody is dressed as a sexy cat and you’re dressed as Louis is not… You feel better in your home than you do when you get to the party.

posted by palidor at 10:24 AM on June 20, 2012


HBO Should do some kind of show that's an epic study or race and class and the the fucked up underside of American culture.
posted by Artw at 10:29 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Entourage?
posted by palidor at 10:30 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


I heard the whole idea with Sex and the City was that it was really about the lives of gay guys in NYC, but told using 'flamboyant' women as proxies.

This sentence in Lindy West's review of the second movie beautifully sums that opinion up:

This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls.
posted by formless at 10:32 AM on June 20, 2012


I wonder what Sojourner Truth would say if she saw a show like this being touted as making some important statement or holding some important meaning for women.

Probably what she said back in the day: "Ain't I a woman?"

Curious as to how many people -- in particular males enthusing over Girls -- have heard of the show Girlfriends? It ran for 8 seasons on UPN/CW and is in syndication now. I can't recall that show ever being touted by critics on the A/V Club or in the mainstream media as groundbreaking and realistic for its depiction of women. It did receive a lot of awards though -- NAACP Image awards.

I'm starting to think that sometimes -- by no means every time -- something really ugly happens at the intersection of feminism/female empowerment and race. Something that Sojourner Truth recognized over 100 years ago and that seems to still be in play.

Maybe I'm becoming cynical and bitter in my old age -- especially now that I am the father of a little black girl -- but I really don't think there'd be as much adoration or viewership for Girls if you kept everything about it exactly the same and cast young black women in the main roles. I think black women are still very much the Otherest of Others.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that the creators, actors, producers, and those who enjoy the show are racists who obviously hate black people and want to return us to the days of Jim Crow or anything like that. Just that, again, I think there's something "off" about how white women -- young white women in particular -- are so frequently held up as representatives for all women with no one batting an eye and/or reacting with antipathy when people do question why this is so.

I think we can do better. A lot better. I know we can do a lot better, and I'm willing to give Dunham et al a chance to prove me right. In her interviews, she strikes me as someone who is talented and willing to listen and learn, so despite my criticisms, more power to her.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


How gracious of you to give her a chance to atone for the terrible crime of having told a story without consulting you.
posted by Artw at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nobody is holding this show up to represent all women. Hell. Nobody is holding ANY show up to represent all of anything. Though, that does give me an idea for a pilot I'd like to pitch.

Working Title: ALL THE THINGS

In this 30 minute docudramedy, a racially diverse cast of men, women, and intersex individuals of varying gender identities and sexualities, with disparate social, educational, and economic backgrounds, explore life and death and love and not-love and singlehood and happiness and sadness and some other emotions too set against the backdrop of Earth, during many different time periods and in many different locations.
posted by jph at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


I like the concept, but can we call it Seven Billion Short Films Not About Glenn Gould?
posted by griphus at 12:24 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


jph, that show sounds awesome.
posted by eurypteris at 12:27 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason I think this show is billed, intentionally or not, as a voice of a generation is because most of the praise of this show comes from people saying it represents what they're going through, however dramatized. They find it relatable and they respond to that, the same way a lot of people thought Sex and the City was the voice for a certain type of 30-something woman. Remember those "I'm a Carrie" and "I'm a Samantha" tshirts? Viewers seeing themselves in the characters of that show is really what drew people in.

Whether it's true or not, that's what it became. The creators and producers of Girls cited SATC so much when they were promoting this show--and maybe that was just lip service to HBO--that I can't help but believe they aren't aware of that.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2012


I'm pretty confident that anyone calling Dunham unattractive just lives on the Internet and has a distorted perception of beauty involving airbrushing and giant boobs and what-have-you and has never interacted with an actual woman in real life.

Those are our options?
posted by girlmightlive at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think she looks like a Croat.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 12:53 PM on June 20, 2012


It's her Louis CK Halloween costume

Huh. Now I think that Louis CK--or at least Dunham dressed as him--looks like Shakespeare.
posted by gladly at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2012


Well, that fits perfectly well with the Timetravelian Theory of Authorship which claims that the son of Lena Dunham and Louis CK traveled back in time, killed Francis Bacon, stole his works, and published them under the name William Shakespeare.
posted by griphus at 1:15 PM on June 20, 2012


Metafilter: dick/vagina jokes on the outside, but pretty damn conservative deep down.

Ugh, I am so fucking tired of reading about Girls, because it's so goddamned depressing. What's with people shitting on it before they've even seen it? I mean, really? Anyway, Girls sounds boring, and Lena Durham sounds annoying. Really? It also makes me think less "good TV" and more "formulaic TV". The character descriptions... also do not inspire confidence. Watch the show!!

It's bleak and depressing and it makes young women look stupid and unintelligent. I guess it might be good for teenage girls to watch to see what they shouldn't be like

This is the kind of paternalistic critique that really wigs me out-- teenage girls don't need anyone to tell them what they should or should not watch and why. They already know what they're going through and what mirrors their experiences. I think the best side of Girls addresses exactly that issue-- it's about a group of girls who have been told what they should do, who know what's "right" and how empowered women are supposed to act, who have good female role models, a good education-- and who are still attracted to the cute asshole, still don't know how to live on their own, are trying to be the Right Kind of Person in a sexist world with a downwardly-mobile middle class that tells you how empowered you are while erasing all the unpleasant details. Like trying to date as a Modern Feminist Woman armed with all the truisms in the world and yet still helpless to your own murky, developing desires. I agree with the comparison to AskMeFi-- it's not always as easy as DTMFA, because people don't always want what's best for them, and "what's best for them" is sometimes a fantasy. Sometimes it's better to be meeting one need in a fucked-up situation than meeting no needs by rejecting everything that's problematic. And I think Girls is about acknowledging that received wisdom is not a perfect fit with reality, and real people have to grow into or out of their youthful principles.

Shows about men really aren't criticized in the same way-- people might take issue with the show's humor or production or diversity, but they don't doubt its legitimacy to exist as a show. I mean, shows about men have to be Two and a Half Men-level offensive and bad for people to tear them down as much as Girls. Sorry y'all hate that some young ladies have a show to hold their foibles up to the light.

Men who call Lena Dunham ugly are fucking idiots. I think ugly women have a right to be on television as much as anyone, but it matters that they're wrong (she's definitely at least average looking), because it shows how deluded they are about women. I think they're just pissed that they have to acknowledge a successful woman who they can't put in her place by talking about how fuckable she is. What a bunch of nitwits.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [18 favorites]


I despised the first episode; hated it with the white-hot fury or 10,000 dying sons. I hated the second episode. The third episode knocked me over. The fourth one had its way with me. It's been having me ever since. And I think the episode about the warehouse party was perfectly observed and fantastically funny in about 200 different ways. And it only got better.

Also? Please stop comparing Girls to Veep. Why? Because they both have female leads and air in the same hour? No, if you want to compare this show to an HBO sitcom, you clearly should compare it to Enlightened. Because that show also portrays a conflicted, complicated woman who's problems the viewer isn't always sure he or she wants to relate to, and then midway through the season there's a few episodes in a row that just gobsmack you with goodness and humanity and a deep understanding of what it means to be a person.

So what I am really saying is fans of Girls who haven't seen Enlightened, please do so. And note that just like Girls, it takes a few episodes to reveal its brilliance.
posted by old_growler at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


/tries to think of shows produced by women that weren't pilloried from the get go... Not this, obviously. And not My Little Pony... Not the Sarah Silverman show... ideas?
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2012


Yeah, Enlightened is great. Though you definitely have to like your comedy depressing and uncomfortable.
posted by enn at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2012


Oh, also, that's why I thought the "coming on my tits" scene was funny-- I mean, is a Modern Post-Feminist Woman supposed to be cool with letting a guy come on her tits? Is she supposed to like it? Why? Obviously because it signals male desire, but is that erotic in and of itself? Is it okay to be turned on by male desire when male desire has created such a poisonous cocoon of female vulnerability for us, and when we now know that so well as a society that it doesn't even need to be said? What do we do in that formative period where we know our sexual performance as women is erotic but feel ridiculous performing? Why is the female body supposed to always respond to what the male psyche finds arousing, against all common sense? Does the fact that we have deconstructed the hegemony of male desire make catering to that desire just, you know, embarrassing? Stupid? Degrading? If so, what do we do with a bunch of 20-something guys who are used to indulging a scopophilia shaped by theatrical porn?

These are confusing, awkward questions, and that's where, you know, jokes come from.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:40 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to have a TV to underst...OUCH! Hey, who threw that?
posted by MattMangels at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2012


As a good portion of the conversation in this thread indicates, no, you do not have to have a TV to have an opinion on this show.
posted by griphus at 2:10 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


lord_wolff: did that Girlfriends show feature a really geeky white guy as comic relief? I vaguely remember ads for that, I think.
posted by jonmc at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2012


Oh, also, that's why I thought the "coming on my tits" scene was funny-- I mean, is a Modern Post-Feminist Woman supposed to be cool with letting a guy come on her tits?

I think her indications with Adam or whatever his name is are the most interesting part of the show so far.

Along with the "what are my options" line, which is classic, the scene when she leaves was wonderful too, when she's continuing the "going home to my parents with cum all over me" scene, and he's totally nonplussed, like "do you want to have sex again?"

I enjoyed his reaction to the HPV reveal too. Very real to me, yet still funny. "when it's appropriate," indeed!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:02 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


@mrgrimm Or that scene when he was jerking off while she was leaving the apartment. He Mary Gaitskilled the shit out of it. Some deep, twisted shit in that scene, which also had some laughs, I must admit, and it's hard to accomplish those two so well in a scene like that.
posted by old_growler at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just finished the season last night and immediately searched Metafilter for a thread just like this one. And now here it is!

I have to say, I really dig this show, for all the reasons people have said: it's relentlessly uncomfortable, unflinching, and raw in its portrayals of an [admittedly narrow] spectrum of characters, but treats them all with a sort of peculiar tenderness balances with honesty. It makes me laugh at least as much as it makes me cringe, and there's something really magnetic about it (especially Adam in the second half of the season.... what a 180!). Glad it's getting a second season to show us what else is going on in Lena Dunham's brainsauce.
posted by Zephyrial at 3:35 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


OH, the AV Club WOULD.
posted by kettleoffish at 6:14 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Zephyrial, that 180 is because through the entire season we have seen Adam as Hannah sees him, which is not really at all. She's looking at him as a young writer looking to experience things that will give her a story later on. To whit, she's seeing what she thinks should be there in her idealized will-look-good-on-the-page way. And with each episode, a little bit of what Adam _really_ is is forced upon her. Yet she still takes that and reinterprets it and makes it what she wants it to be. Like after the party near the Navy Yard when he confronts her about does she want him to be her boyfriend. It's the realest he had been till that point, yet it's all turned around to be all about Hannah when she gets that grin in the back of the cab. And Hannah keeps doing that. The apology wall, the wedding, everything.

It's really intriguing to watch a show that so many right off as being filled with shallow characters with no depth when it's really a show about characters whose true depth we might not actually ever know because they are all filtered through the perceptions of four young fuckup girls who are too caught up in trying to figure themselves out.
posted by old_growler at 6:21 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


"One week, [the goalpost is] the idea that the show’s “not funny enough,” whatever that means." How can he possibly not know what that means?

In the context of goalpost moving, clearly he doesn't understand why this show is being judged solely on whether it's funny or not. I don't find it hilarious any more often than very occasionally, but I still like it. Judging it on whether it's funny enough is a meaningless criteria for a show that's not a sitcom.
posted by crossoverman at 8:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Those are our options?

No. I mean, everyone's free to be attracted to whatever they like, of course. It's the act of calling Dunham ugly itself that I'm focusing on. It's just hard for me to believe that someone who puts the time into denigrating the looks of someone on a show they apparently don't even like would have many constructive relationships with women, or even humans as a whole, in the real world. Or I just choose to think this way so I can go on believing that all Internet trolls live in their parents' basements and never leave. Because otherwise it means that they lurk among us. It's too terrifying to consider. even if it's true
posted by palidor at 8:57 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hell no, Girls is supposed to be funny. (And, I think it is.) It's not a Friends-type sitcom, but it's definitely a comedy - just more along the lines of Louie or Curb Your Enthusiasm or even The Comeback. If somebody was like, oh, I hate Louie, it just isn't funny enough, you might disagree, or you might think they didn't get what Mr. CK was trying to accomplish, but you wouldn't go all puzzled and self-righteous and treat what they'd said like nothing but an excuse for some secret bigotrous shame. At least, I don't think you would. Again, I don't understand why VanDerWerff can't accept the fact that people might have legitimate problems with this show.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:24 PM on June 20, 2012


She's funny. She's assembled a great cast and they are very good at delivering her funny lines. It's breathtaking and a huge accomplishment. I wish the people who don't like it would at least admit it is masterful in execution.

Why does everybody hate the characters? What's so terrible about sponging off your parents? I don't know any young people who aren't if the parents have any resources at all. What's so great about being middle aged in terms of the amount of responsibility taken on? I think the hard-asses must be very young and very proud of how much independence they have achieved. I don't understand this rush to judge young people based on how much they rely on their parents. And if you are offended because only privileged people can afford to support their adult children, you must not know any poor people. 'Cause poor people do that too.
posted by cloverflowers at 11:28 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Again, I don't understand why VanDerWerff can't accept the fact that people might have legitimate problems with this show.

I think he's perfectly capable of accepting that. My guess is that he's just extremely frustrated with the position he's in and feels he has to defend the show against the audience for his reviews. I haven't read the comment threads, but assuming the majority of people reading them are young and male, they're guaranteed to be filled with straight-up misogynistic bullshit. This show attracts hate from these people because it's created by a woman, plain and simple. That's the world we live in and it's pretty depressing sometimes! He's probably foolish for trying to engage with that, but I can imagine it might be frustrating to hear the same bullshit drowning out actual thoughtful critiques week after week. Like, the same I-can't-believe-this-is-still-how-these-people-think shit. I mean, when he discusses how media codes for different genders, that's like really basic obvious stuff if you're someone who's even vaguely aware of how our culture treats gender generally. I think the fact he has to explain that stuff demonstrates how he sees this portion of his audience: hopelessly ignorant. Unfortunately I think he's ultimately just feeding the trolls.
posted by palidor at 12:59 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any show getting the immediate hype it did would be in for a backlash. I hadn't heard of it or the star and writer until seeing countless articles about it and "Mad Men" level analysis at Slate. And then found out that only one episode had aired. And for what, why? Left me wondering whether someone on the show was just really well connected.
posted by raysmj at 9:41 AM on June 21, 2012


It took "Louie" a while to catch on, she something even more true with "Breaking Bad." "Mad Men" received some scathing reviews initially. Are entertainment editors just desperate not to miss out next time on the Next Big TV thing?
posted by raysmj at 9:48 AM on June 21, 2012


"Mad Men" received some scathing reviews initially.

Mad Men received almost no bad reviews when it was being written about as a new series. Here you can look at a summary of 31 published reviews. All but 5 of them are pretty enthusiastic.

Breaking Bad was also a darling of critics right out of the starting gate.

Girls has performed similarly well with critics.

I think you're confusing what random people have said in blogs and website comment streams with what is actually published about these shows. This has nothing to do with entertainment editors, and everything to do with faceless people on the interwebs.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


check out the metacritic profile of Mad Men. I. checked that out not too long ago,and was surprised at how hostile some of the early reviews were. And "Breaking Bad" was raved about, but it didn't receive even an eighth as much attention before the airing of even one or two episodes. Note that I made reference to entertainment editors, not critics alone.
posted by raysmj at 10:34 AM on June 21, 2012


Yes, I linked to the metacritic page for Mad Men, season 1, published as preview reviews before the show went to air. 31 published reviews, 26 of them were in positive territory, many of them with a score of 100.

I'm not sure what you're looking at, but I'm not seeing what you're seeing.
posted by hippybear at 10:41 AM on June 21, 2012


One of the poor reviews for "Mad Mrn" came from New York "Vulture," which now hopes the shit out of that show. Another came from Tom Sales, then the most influential TV critic around. But I'm really talking about a qualitatively different level of media focus, not reviews alone. The coverage this show has received, even before nary an episode had aired, was striking. How is that even arguable? It was high profile, A list attention.
posted by raysmj at 10:45 AM on June 21, 2012


Okay, so we're talking about two entirely different things. That clears up the confusion.
posted by hippybear at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2012


The coverage this show has received, even before nary an episode had aired, was striking.

Easy to explain. Name the last show written by, starring, and about women that was any good. There you go.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:12 AM on June 21, 2012


My partner loves this show and I've attempted to get into it but I just can't. While I recognize that there's something going on, and there is a lot of really smart writing, it ends up feeling too put on for me and not anchored in anything 'real'.

However I will note that one of the producers who has an active role in the show is the wonderful Bruce Erik Kaplan, who you'll know as both one of the lead writers on 6 Feet Under and the cartoonist BEK from the New Yorker.
posted by cell divide at 11:18 AM on June 21, 2012


"30 Rock" starred a woman, and was created by one. It's not about women, as such, but... One of the episodes I watched recently focused heavily on Adam, a man, albeit via his relationship with the main character.
posted by raysmj at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2012


And "30 Rock," while well received with the critics, took a while to find an audience or much hype, despite the fact that Tina Fey was already well known and had written a big hit movie, "Mean Girls. "
posted by raysmj at 11:30 AM on June 21, 2012


30 Rock seems to be the target of an awful lot of undeservedhipster hate, FWIW.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on June 21, 2012


I no longer understand what anyone is arguing for here.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:37 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now, yes but not around the start of Season 3, say. It's no. longer as popular with the critics either (or me, although I liked this year's live shows).

And, apropos of nothing, I think "Archer" is the best comedy on TV, but you can't do deep sociological analyzes of that show. Unless you're really skilled.
posted by raysmj at 11:43 AM on June 21, 2012


I am here arguing for the mantra "liking things is more interesting than not liking things"

GO TEAM JOFFREY! ©
posted by palidor at 12:29 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. Just watched episode 4, introducing the terrible boss and the terrible co-workers. I love the terrible people in this show.
posted by Artw at 9:04 PM on June 21, 2012


Episode 7... This show is really moreish.
posted by Artw at 10:52 PM on June 21, 2012


Sigh. I think if you can't relate to the girls in the show Girls, that's fine, but to say it can't be criticized without the charge of misogyny being hurled is naive. Go read the critical threads on IMDB about the show.

So much about the Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm and Mad Men and almost EVERY OTHER show where everyone is an asshole is worthy of criticism, but it is not as prevalent as when the show is about women, and almost none of those show's criticism is because of the gender of the characters. Almost all criticism is holding this show to a double standard of sex and gender, as usual.

Don't believe me? When SATC's first movie came out, oh my god...the ANGER and RAGE on IMDB was incredible and prolific for months. People were outright pissed off about the effrontery of women daring to be as silly as stupid as men, plus saying the women in the show, like all women, were entitled gold diggers (despite 3 of the four having careers). And it was all because people dared to make a comedy where the women were the centerpiece instead of serving purely ornamental purposes. If you think Girls is being spared the irrational misogynistic hatred that SATC received, you're wrong.

I don't find anything shocking or groundbreaking about it. And I think the characters are all "objects of beauty to be placed on screen and ogled", just in a different way than SatC.

That says more about you than it does the quality of the show, if you don't mind my saying so.

I don't even watch most of these shows. But I appreciate shows where women are portrayed as real. And the girl in Girls are real, because I live in Seattle and I swear I have met each of these characters.

As a feminist, it isn't hard to hear these shows being criticized, but it is pretty awful to hear WHY they're criticized.
posted by JLovebomb at 12:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


To be fair the SAtC movies were awful, and probably responsible for 90% of the bleating you hear about the show now.

Also the Seattle version of the girls from Girls would be exactly the kind of person to spend their time online complaining about the show Girls.
posted by Artw at 12:46 AM on June 25, 2012


Also the Seattle version of the girls from Girls would be exactly the kind of person to spend their time online complaining about the show Girls.

I hope the show is successful enough that in season 5 Hannah gets a TV show of her own and has a metaepisode where she goes too far in responding to online criticism of it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:21 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


TBH the Seattle version of The characters from Girls probably moved to Portland anyway.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like this was all a game to get to Portlandia--and I'm fine with that.
posted by gladly at 9:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, nobody mentioning Chris O'Dowd?
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on June 25, 2012


This thread is way dead but I wanted to pop in and say this thread made me buy the first few eps and then I bought the whole season and I fucking love it.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 6:22 AM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's great. Other highlights were the trip back to Michigan. I'm tempted to compare it to Young Adult, announce Lena Durham as the Cody Diablo of her generation and watch the resulting ragesplosion.
posted by Artw at 3:49 PM on July 2, 2012


The trip back to Michigan was fantastic. I can't believe I'm saying it, but we need more of Hannah's parents (these are "girls" after all.)

The season finale ... less so. Adam, as usual, was excellent. He's pretentious, horrible artist with horrible social skills or autism, but he's consistent at least.

So, nobody mentioning Chris O'Dowd?

I didn't know the name, but I knew I recognized that face. I thought his first appearance was a little too caricaturish, but he was actually pretty great in the finale. Definitely casting against type, I would think, though I've only seen him in IT Crowd...
posted by mrgrimm at 5:16 PM on July 2, 2012


He made perfect sense as the next chapter of Dramatic Life of Dramatic Person.

(Dramatic Person, of course, representing the absLute worst kind of worst kind of person, but after the party episode actually managing to pull of making that sympathetic... A little, anyway)
posted by Artw at 5:30 PM on July 2, 2012


I'm wondering if Chris O'Dowd is making some kind of concerted US push post-Bridesmaids. It is kind of weird seeing him out of his normal setting.
posted by Artw at 5:32 PM on July 2, 2012


Wow, Tiny Furniture is totally the prototype for Girls.
posted by Artw at 11:22 PM on July 8, 2012


I just want to say I finally saw Bridesmaids and was pretty disappointed. High expectations, I suppose.

He made perfect sense as the next chapter of Dramatic Life of Dramatic Person.

Yeah, you've pretty much hit on the reason I hate dislike so much. It's the self-centeredness combined with the above-it-allness. And also the lion's share of fan's popularity.

after the party episode actually managing to pull of making that sympathetic... A little, anyway)

Yep, fair point. I felt the same way after the bathroom scene. I still sorta despise here, but I also feel sorry for her. Cuz that marriage will last 6 weeks, right?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2012


I think that's a given.

She's exactly the same character in Tiny Furniture, BTW. Either she's really good at playing that character or that's basically her.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2012


I happened upon Tiny Furniture while channel surfing after I had seen the first couple episodes of Girls, and my brain ended up treating the movie like it was just another episode of the series I think, because I kept confusing them as the weeks went on. Prototype indeed.

Also until you mentioned him and I looked him up, I didn't realize who Chris O'Dowd was (the guy from Bridesmaids in my case). Maybe that means he's a good actor?

You know, I love this thread, or specifically whoever it was way up there that complained about the AV Club guy that wrote the article about Girls and his supposed mantra of "liking things is more interesting than not liking things." Because since I read that disdainful comment I've taken that up as my mantra as well. It's been very nice in the wake of the recent Internet Sorkin Hate Clusterfuck.
posted by palidor at 11:32 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, that was my comment. "Liking things is more interesting than not liking things" isn't VanDerWerff's actual mantra, it's just a thing a lot of people have started to think, and a value I find his writings exemplify. The problem is that neither liking things nor not liking things is actually inherently interesting at all, and so the pressure to always gush over and appreciate things that is increasingly popular is in no way an improvement over the pressure to always be snarky and critical of things that is decreasingly popular. Both attitudes only interfere with having your own genuine response to art, which it is equally natural and normal and interesting for you to like or not like, depending on the nature of it and the nature of you. But worse than that little bit of corruption is the way believers in both philosophies inevitably get pushy. I find the "liking things" sort of pushiness particularly pernicious, because it takes what is really exactly the same bullshit policing of attitudes to whatever the art in question is and wraps it up in a little cloak of sunshine and positivity - so you're not just not liking something anymore, you're also being an asshole for doing so. Yeah, whatever. But (and I really mean this), if it works for you, personally, to approach art that way, good.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:53 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don;t necessarily think that indiscriminate gushing over thinsg is great, but boy is the relentless cynical tearing down of everything that passes for critisism BORING. So "Liking things is more interesting than not liking things" sounds pretty great, really.
posted by Artw at 12:22 AM on July 11, 2012


Well, in my case it's more or less just a reaction to a decade of exposure to relentless Internet negativity. I'd agree that indiscriminate positivity isn't any better than indiscriminate negativity, but I tend to notice the latter a lot more, and I suppose I've developed something of a "if you don't have anything nice to say..." attitude towards comments on the Internet. Of course everyone's allowed to say whatever they want, but I don't see the appeal in spending a sizable amount of time and thought writing an extensive takedown of some piece of media I don't like. If I don't like it I just say "it's not for me" and ignore it.

I mean, personally, I get a lot more out of criticizing things I'm already fond of than bashing something I have no real personal investment in. Which actually has its own issues, like when I tried to argue to a friend of mine that Breaking Bad (a show I love) has gone to the Jesse-acting-irrational-to-advance-the-plot well a few too many times, and repeatedly had to assert that it's a minor criticism, the show is great, blah blah, because some people just don't like hearing something they're a fan of criticized. I guess that'd be the cloak of sunshine and positivity.

But I've seen the phrase "hate-watch" used a lot recently in reference to The Newsroom, and it's a pretty peculiar attitude to me. I can understand it in a way, because I can think of times where a show I had liked took a questionable turn and I kept watching it, only to mock parts of it as I watched it (I did that with BSG's final season, but I also still liked the show, so it wasn't quite "hate-watching"). But I also feel like the Dark Heart of the Internet might be fostering negativity in people when they might be better served by a "it's not for me"-and-move-on reaction. Whether or not that's true, in my case "liking things is more interesting than not liking things" applies pretty well to my attitude.
posted by palidor at 9:12 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I've seen the phrase "hate-watch" used a lot recently in reference to The Newsroom, and it's a pretty peculiar attitude to me. I can understand it in a way, because I can think of times where a show I had liked took a questionable turn and I kept watching it, only to mock parts of it as I watched it (I did that with BSG's final season, but I also still liked the show, so it wasn't quite "hate-watching").

Hate-watch for me generally applies to shows that my partner watches and that I, for some godawful reason, watch along. Like Smash.

Also until you mentioned him and I looked him up, I didn't realize who Chris O'Dowd was (the guy from Bridesmaids in my case). Maybe that means he's a good actor?

Chris O'Dowd is most famous for his role in the British TV comedy show The IT Crowd, which has a pretty big cult following in the states.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:57 AM on July 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'm definitely familiar with hate-watching in that context. When I'm visiting my mom and end up watching Lifetime movies with her, it's an exercise in self-control to not make constant snarky comments. Luckily she got into Game of Thrones so there's at least one thing I can watch with her I genuinely like (and she actually gave me something to think about when, in reference to Robb and Talisa getting it on, she said "that's the first time on this show where a couple seems to be 'making love' and not 'fucking'!")

Though I'm not sure how you'd classify my watching The Newsroom. It's a show I don't really like, except for in this guilty-feeling "this is porn for middle-aged liberals and oh dear I'm kind of getting off" kind of way. It might be that I keep giving it a chance because the Internet hates it so much. Anti-hate-watching? I'm also a pretty unabashed HBO fanboy though.
posted by palidor at 1:32 PM on July 11, 2012


« Older Luis von Ahn has spoken about the idea of Human Co...  |  Horacio Coppola has died aged ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments