The Horror of HBO's "Girls"
Photo Credit: HBO.com
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The tidal wave of reviewer praise for the foul new HBO show Girls has washed up against a wall of resistance recently. But as far as I can tell, nobody, whether praising or blaming, has actually conveyed what this miserable crap-colored show is like to watch.
First scene: our homely heroine Hannah, played by writer-director-producer-monster Lena Dunham, is trying to persuade her parents to continue supporting her while she lives and perpetually interns in New York City, where everything looks drably brown. These are immediate tip-offs: we’re in mumblecore territory here. Mumblecore’s an indie film genre about contemporary affluent young white people who don’t know what to do with their lives and are generally dreary and despicable. And indeed, Lena Dunham is a mumblecore film director, who did Tiny Furniture in 2010.
So get yourself a bullet to bite, here comes the pain.
Next we have a scene featuring Hannah passively enduring rotten sex with a vile jerk named Adam (Adam Driver). Adam insists that Hannah pretend to be an 11-year-old girl he’s raping after abducting her on her way home from school, and she goes along: fine, whatever. Critic Dave Wiegand, in his rave review of the show, describes this as one of Adam’s “hysterically inappropriate fantasy scenes when he’s having sex.” Yeah, I guess Dave laughed and laughed at those.
Lena Dunham is getting hosannas from critics for exposing her nude doughy depressing body in humiliating ways throughout the show—makes it all so “real,” somehow. They’re all calling Dunham “the voice of her generation,” and maybe she’s the body of her generation too. She must’ve known she could count on critics to dutifully take dictation when she had her character Hannah ironically describe herself as “the voice of my generation…or of a generation.” You can picture them all noting it down carefully, muttering, “’Voice of generation’…oh, yeah, that is GOLD.”
There’s been no irony in the way show-creator Dunham augments her generational-voice status by making the PR rounds, talking about how she was inspired to create Girls because she never saw herself or her friends represented on TV shows. So she set out to remedy this by showcasing her particular demographic, the creepy white female.
The half-hour show drags on as you meet Hannah’s horrible friends, all of whom hold forth with bizarre self-importance on the topics of sex and abortion and AIDS and media and female identity, even the one who’s a cruel caricature of a provincial inexperienced girl (Zosia Mamet). There’s also the mean, square-jawed, gimlet-eyed “best friend” (Allison Williams), and the nasty Brit bitch (Jemima Kirke). All have hard poker faces and flat affectless voices. It’s impossible to imagine them laughing out loud, or relaxing, or having a nice meal or non-grim sex. Maybe they do those things in later episodes, but like I said, it’s tough to imagine.
The backlash against the show has been mainly about the all-whiteness of the cast, the way there are no people in color in Lena Dunham’s NYC except bit-part, background workers here and there. Personally I think people of color have dodged a bullet, and should celebrate their own non-representation in this TV-mumblecore hellscape. While this show slimes along, I like to imagine the whole rest of mixed-race NYC having a terrific time everywhere that Lena Dunham and her friends are not, letting Dunhamites move around in a permanent bubble of privileged-white-girl malevolence, shunned by all decent people.
In response to the criticism about the show’s blinding whiteness, one of the Girls writers, Lesley Arfin, tweeted sarcastically: “What really bothered me most about [the movie] Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”