Mon. March 4
Pretentious, Psychotic, Pathetic or Puerile: The Boys of Girls
It finally had to be done. I had to catch up with the rest of the world and watch Lena Dunham’s Girls. After fortifying myself with three days or prayer and fasting, I dove in. I purchased season one, and watched the season two marathon on HBO.
Girls has been overanalyzed, so I won’t offer a broad interpretation. I can only point out what I think is Girls most glaring flaw: Lena Dunham did not include any control.
As in a control in a scientific experiment that serves as a “normal” component that you are not conducting the experiment on. Girls is the story of four twenty-something women in Brooklyn and the pathetic “men” that they date. There is Adam, the attention-deficit artist who always seems to be banging on something and has degrading sexual fantasies. There’s Ray, the schlub who manages a coffee shop and is almost too insecure to function. There’s Charlie, the soft-spoken musician who is so passive he can barely open doors. There’s Thomas-John, who has a job making real money but is written so one-dimensionally we really don’t know that much about him. And then there’s Booth Jonathan (seriously?), an artist who locks one of the girls inside one of his works of art. He’s short and vulgar. (Doesn’t a single one of these guys–New Yorkers!–like or play sports?)
Girls creator Lena Dunham is very talented, and she’s only twenty-six, but it has to be said: like so many liberal Hollywood and New York artists, she has a powerful streak of cowardice. Girls would have been a much more compelling and less narcissistic show if Dunham had the guts to introduce a control into her Brooklyn petri dish. The girls in Girls are frustrated because the guys they date are either passive, psychotic, pretentious, degrading, or plain old losers. But what if Dunham had written in a male character who is strong, caring, attractive, highly intelligent, sexually unambiguous, great in bed, and a conservative? Girls made an overture to this when a Republican character was introduced, but Dunham’s liberal intolerance could only tolerate him for about half a show. She concluded she couldn’t be with someone who “wasn’t on the side of women and gays.” Well, there you go. Over and out.
Hopefully Dunham will eventually have the courage to write a fully fleshed out character who can challenge the hipster complacency of her show. In The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin brought in an attractive conservative character, Ainsley Hayes, to fence with the liberal Bartlett White House. Sorkin, a liberal, had the guts to let Hayes win a few arguments. In an earlier era, Woody Allen–whom Lena Dunham has been compared to–wrote a female character in the film Manhattan who was conservative. Played by Diane Keaton, she drove Woody Allen’s character crazy, which made for both good comedy and drama.
Dunham’s talent is undeniable, but I fear the hipster universe of Girls will collapse in on itself unless a new stabilizing element is introduced. How about this: a handsome grad student from Fordham who is Catholic, articulate, a college football star, compassionate, manly, and can debate any liberal to a standstill. Maybe his flaw is that he drinks too much, or that he once bullied a gay kid. Introduce this guy to Girls, and a third season may be worth watching.