Thursday, June 6, 2013

Girls: All Adventurous Women Do (1.3)

Like Seinfeld before it, Girls could also be described as a show about nothing. Nobody actually seems to do anything on Girls. Characters are usually slumped in front of a TV set, or taking personal calls at work, or dissecting their sexual histories instead of getting a damn job, all of which results in the show effectively becoming Procrastination: The Series. Usually when we talk about delaying tactics in regards to TV, it's related to the narrative itself, the writers of the show staggering events to fill time, or fulfill the series order. But here it's the characters themselves in delaying mode, determined to do anything other than the things they ought to do.

After her messy interview last week, it's sort of understandable why Hannah would distance herself from the whole job thing. Obnoxious, but understandable, at least in terms of what we know about her already. Instead she spends the episode overthinking a diagnosis of HPV, trying to figure out its source and eventually deducing it's a by-product of her time with her college boyfriend. The rest of the story indulges in predictable tropes (Elijah, Hannah's ex, is gay; Adam is the guy who gave her HPV), but the show is continuing to successfully mine interesting material out of ideas that aren't wildly innovative. Part of this is down to Lena Dunham's performances. She has this exasperated quality a lot of the time, not exactly a naivety, but a projection of life constantly overwhelming her. "Here's a thing, and another, and it's all just a lot..."

To Hannah, life is a collection of hurdles, ones that are mostly a distraction from her actual problems, but speak to a larger commentary on society in the twenty-first century. Hannah puts a lot of herself out there, both to her closest of friends and her Twitter followers, but most of it involves self-analysis, or trying to figure out how to be, or how to feel. The HPV provokes various different reactions from within her, whether it's something shameful or embarrassing (her "baggage"), or if it should be something she should wear with pride -- an idea that gives the episode its wonderful title. The protagonists of this show aren't great people most of the time. They're lazy and self-absorbed and offer little to the world, but they're also just trying to find their way. That's not deflecting a wider problem, or excusing shitty behavior based on age, but Hannah represents eternal growth, and how hard it is to find your own voice.

Elsewhere, I thought Jessa's story worked well as a kind of follow-through to her miscarriage last episode. Or maybe I'm spectacularly reading into things? It just struck me as a neat resolution to it all that, while the events of last episode aren't explicitly talked about, Jessa spent a day with these kids, and seemed to encounter some kind of closure. She bonded with them, she liked them, but didn't seem to express any guilt or sadness over what had happened, which I liked. Even if the connection was threadbare. Maybe it's because we're so used to abortion or the loss of a child on television arriving hand-in-hand with negative feelings that I almost sought out a connection there when in actual fact there wasn't? I don't know, but it worked. James LeGros and Kathryn Hahn are big names, too, so I'm assuming they'll reappear at some point. And that this could be Jessa's big arc this year?

I still find Marnie the least interesting and likable of the main cast, but we at least saw her angst depicted here differently to what we've seen before. While this episode went to the same places as always, seeing her removed from Charlie opened her up a little. Jorma Taccone's character is sexually aggressive and confident in a way that Charlie isn't, and his arrival made Marnie more sexually excited and fulfilled than she has been lately. And I like that idea, how it seems to be making a kind of statement on how political correctness has almost made men too sweet and compassionate towards the opposite sex, and how some women could be repelled by that. But, at the same time, Marnie needs to cut Charlie loose. I have a greater understanding of her whininess, but it's unfair to the guy she keeps stringing along.

At times it seems that we're collectively compelled to find meaning in this show, as if all the media hype and conversation about Girls means it almost needs to be about 'something'. And I'm sure some of it is, in that it's meant to reflect the times we're in and specific gender ideas, but it's also quickly become incredibly absorbing just as a show about nothing. These are people existing, doing stupid things, being obnoxious, and it takes a lot of talent to make so much nothingness so richly compelling. B+

Lena Dunham Director Lena Dunham

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