Delayed thinking on “Girls”

hbo-girls-lena-dunhamMonths ago, the third season of Girls ended. I don’t think ANYONE is talking about it right now, because no one talks about anything that is months old anymore. We only talk about new/newsy things, such as the Norwegian guy’s struggle and the passing of Nadine Gordimer.

It’s not as if those newer items aren’t worthy/worthier topics of discussion, but wtf. I never got around to talking about Girls here.

This season was a return to form over last year, but most compelling for me was Hannah’s foray into the working world as an advertorial copywriter for GQ, in which position she not only encountered the moonlighting Jenna Lyon, but a set of colleagues who were Writers turned writers.

As someone who works full-time in a creative field, I am basically one of her colleagues. Hannah views them as having given up and deferred their dreams: that to be real artists, they need to cast off their corporate shackles and pursue their real work with single-minded dedication. Which is of course what she ends up doing.

I both admire that and think that it speaks to the character’s youth. She can’t see room for the possibility that a creative life might also involve some kind of non-creative, or quasi-creative work. Or that non-creative or quasi-creative work could be meaningful (if it was, for example, virtually anything other than writing GQ advertorial). I think this worldview is tied to weird financial hang-ups people have about art and success, like living paycheck to paycheck grants one the moral high ground of, say, not working for The Man. I also think this fails to account for the possibility that inspiration might peter out in the life of a creative dilettante (though maybe not…Montaigne didn’t have a dearth of things to say).

Clearly I’m extrapolating quite a bit here, but cut me some slack. I’ve had MONTHS to ponder this shit.

But most compellingly for me, Hannah’s viewpoint fails to account for the self-awareness needed to project one’s possible place in the scope of the culture and be OK with off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway, regional theatre, or community theatre, for that matter; in other words, the belief that the art is enough of a north star that the person can sustain it in a vacuum. That not everyone needs to be “a voice of their generation.” That this particular (read: American) breed of exceptionalism can be kind of damaging and fucked up.

I’m not saying that one should strive for something less than one’s best. Just that one’s very best might not be the world’s idea of the very best. And that’s OK.


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