Tag Archives: Girls

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.

And it’s chill to hear them talk*

girls

I can’t find a credit for this photo. Presumably:HBO.

So Girls. It’s back as of Sunday. I watched the first season intermittently, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I was doing other non-television-type things (aka writing, she said pretentiously). And so now I’m making a concerted effort to catch up, a side effect of which is having to bear witness to a high concentration of excruciating and awkward sex. Girls carries on the fine tradition of the British Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and (further back) The Garry Shandling Show in its power to induce the cringe.

But worse than the bad sex for me was the visceral horror I felt when Hannah screwed herself by reading something she’d written on the subway ride over to her former prof’s reading series, instead of reading a personal essay about dating a hoarder. I found this so distressing that I actually covered my eyes, something I don’t even do watching the horror flicks Seth can talk me into.

Obviously, this was supposed to be funny, but underpinning it was Hannah’s very real anxiety about her writing being trivial. (I wish clips were available – there’s this hilarious scene with her roommate’s ex-boyfriend’s friend rattling off a long, long list of non-trivial things she could be writing about—the soul-crushing blow that led her to screw herself at the reading).

I don’t want to extrapolate too much, but it’s very probable that Lena Dunham writes from experience about that concern. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have the very same concern about my own work. The box of “women’s fiction,” how when women write about family, it’s a “domestic story” whereas a male author’s exploration of the same topic is more likely to be lauded for its art (see: Franzen). But better to carry on with the work than lose oneself in the injustice of an imperfect society.

*I’m kind of ashamed of quoting this song, and yet I did it anyway. Perhaps I’m still sad about Adam Yauch.