Wednesday, February 6, 2013

HBO's "Girls": Where the Men Aren't


You do not want to be a man in Lena Dunham’s world.

As last season ended, Hannah Horvath’s sometime paramour Adam Sackler got hit by a truck. It’s a familiar literary device. In some romance novels the heroine falls in love with a crippled or maimed boyfriend. In “Girls” Hannah makes a half-hearted effort to help Adam out, finds another boyfriend and finally breaks up with him in a scene that sounded like narcissism gone wild. (My post here.)

In the next episode the disconsolate Adam went to Hannah’s and begged to talk it over with her. Hannah called the police and had him arrested. At the end of the second episode Adam was being led off in handcuffs.

That was the last we heard of Adam. He was absent from the next two episodes. Whatever this reveals about the sensibility animating the show, it is shoddy and amateurish storytelling. Methinks the writers need some adult supervision.

As of now, Dunham has transformed everyone’s dreamy lover, Adam, into a dangling participle.

Hannah did take advantage of Adam’s injury. She went out and struck up a relationship with a black Republican named Sandy.

The relationship, if such it was, lasted into the second episode. At that point, Hannah dismissed Sandy, for being a Republican, or was it for being black, or was it for being a black Republican.

Apparently, even Sandy’s blackness could not redeem the fact that he was a Republican.

Last year, the thought police criticized "Girls" because all its characters were white. So Dunham brought on a black character for an episode and a half, and then erased him. Tokenism, anyone?

And now, Jessa’s new husband, Thomas-John has gone the way of most of the show’s leading male characters.

You recall, last season Jessa, in a fit of free-spirited enthusiasm, married a venture capitalist named Thomas-John.

If you are puzzled by the name, recall that in D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Constance Chatterley affectionately dubs her lover’ virile organ: John Thomas. To save you the trouble of looking it up, he returns the favor by naming her genitalia: Lady Jane.

It’s not the only time the show uses a name-reversal: Marnie’s new boyfriend, the one she had a crush on, the one who abusively locked her in a box (or was it a booth) and forced her to watch his art, is named Booth Jonathan.

Be that as it may, Jessa was the first of the “girls” to marry. Having just returned from her honeymoon she was ensconced in a modern Brooklyn loft.

Within the world of “girls,” Jessa’s marriage threatened the quadripod, so it had to go. Boyfriends, yes; marriage, no.

Millennial women seem to believe that it is a crime against the sisterhood if one of their friends marries young. It is even worse if she marries someone who is fiscally solvent. Spurred on by their envy, they are often willing to do everything in their power to return their wayward sister to the fold.

In the most recent episode, that’s exactly what happened.

In the space of three scenes Jessa managed to depart from character and blew up her marriage.

I think it fair to say, and to underscore, that Jemima Kirke is the only one of the four who is married in real life. She is the only one who has children. To add insult to injury, her acting is vastly superior to that of the other girls, though, in all honesty that’s not saying a lot.

Anyway, the scenes of the end of Jessa’s marriage are among the best acted in the series.

Jessa has been married for a mere two months, and she is now looking forward to meeting Thomas-John’s parents. Unfortunately, she does everything wrong, to the point where you find it difficult to believe that this is the Jessa that we have come to know.

First, Jessa makes them both late for dinner by seducing her husband into a last-minute quickie.

His parents have invited them to famed Brooklyn Steakhouse, Peter Lugar’s, but Jessa does not really like to eat meat. Her opening gambit upon meeting his parents is to say that she hates the restaurant. It goes downhill from there.

Jessa insults her hosts. She demeans herself. She reveals startlingly inappropriate information about herself, finally coming off as a recovering drug addict who married their son for his money.

In Thomas-John’s mother she has met her match. The matriarch is anything but charming, so she fights fire with fire by suggesting that Jessa has married her son for the money.

A normal woman in Jessa’s position would have been on best behavior. Jessa was on her worst behavior.

Since Jessa has never shown this level of bad behavior, one has to assume that her character was given an injection of bad character so that she could quickly blow up her marriage and to return to the fold.

Jessa is a free spirit. Being a free spirit does not necessarily entail being an insufferable and vulgar boor.

When Jessa and Thomas-John return to their apartment, the fighting continues. Thomas-John calls Jessa a whore and asks how much he will have to give her to get rid of her. Indignant, she slaps his face,  but then she starts negotiating price.

We do not, as I recall, know anything about Thomas-John’s politics, but clearly he represents Wall Street. Financially secure, successful, but not very creative, he endangers the “Girls” life plan. One assumes that he is there as a warning to young women: don’t fall for a rich Wall Street guy; don’t sell out for financial security and a nice loft.

Now that Thomas-John has been dismissed from the show Jessa can go back to sharing a bath with Hannah. As the show ends, they have regressed to childhood and are bonding over a glob of snot floating in the bathtub.

Now you know why the show is called “Girls,” and not “Women.”

4 comments:

Unknown said...

Thank you for watching so I don't have to.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

It's one of my purposes in life... you're welcome!

DeNihilist said...

Seconded unknown!

Sam L. said...

Disfunction on parade!