Friday, March 7, 2014

Why Has "Girls" Become a Bore?

Remember when Lena Dunham was touted as the next great comic genius, the voice of her generation? Remember when everyone—including your humble blogger—was watching “Girls” and was easily finding something half-interesting to say about it?

Well, that time has come and gone. Apparently, no one is watching “Girls” any more.

Taylor Bigler explains it all in a fine piece of critical analysis:

But now, no one is talking about “Girls” anymore because it’s no longer shocking. It’s boring, and nobody watches it….

A quick review of Slate, Salon, Vulture and Jezebel — sites that have frequently published exhaustive stories about the importance of “Girls” – reveals that the majority of the pieces now written about Dunham focus on her politically-charged celebrity status, not her “art.”…

Since it actually the show actually started up again, no one is talking about it. The TV writers who once wrote rhapsodically about Dunham’s televised humiliations now spend their energy dissecting the latest “True Detective” or “Hannibal.”

What happened to “Girls?” It seems to have gotten done in by talent. Let’s grant that Lena Dunham is enormously talented. But, she is also very young. When you are talented and young, you tend to believe in your inspiration.

When everyone around you is telling you how brilliant you are you are going to start believing that whatever passes through your mind is genius.

You do not reach out to your audience. You do not imagine how your work would look to others. You are not going to put in the time and effort needed to produce a great product.

When everyone gets bored with your self-involved, self-indulgent self-presentation, you will not understand why.

If you want to see a movie about the “Girls” generation, directed by someone who is older, more experienced and a harder worker, check out Frances Ha.

Bigler explains that people used to watch “Girls” because it felt original and new. It was also interesting to watch characters who, to quote Bigler, were “assholes.”

[Apologies for the word, but Bigler is correct to use it. No other word has quite the resonance.]

The problem is: after a time “assholes” are boring.

More than a few characters on major television series are, frankly, “assholes." They are not interesting; they are not compelling. We do not care what happens to them. If you don’t care about what happens to the characters, you stop watching the show.

In Bigler’s words:

But “Girls” also used to be, at times, genuinely shocking. There haven’t been any television shows whose sole purpose is to make you feel uncomfortable by explicitly depicting two average-looking people having sex. The asshole main characters were so horrible that we watched the next episode just to see what horrible things they would do next. And, while we’re at it, can you name another show that once featured Brian Williams’ daughter masturbating in a bathroom?

The truth of the matter is… no one wants to watch two average-looking people having sex. And no one is going to turn on to a show to see Lena Dunham take off her clothes because she feels a need to make a statement about the politics of gender.

Art does not make statements. Nor do good television shows.

Bigler closes with an anecdote:

A side note: Over the weekend, I started chatting with a mom of a 12-year-old girl in a bar. She asked me if I watched “Girls” and I said that I had stopped. She told me that she and her husband used to watch the show to see what twenty-year-olds are like these days, but she stopped because it was unwatchable.

“Is that what it’s really like [in real life]?”, she asked. “Is everyone just f**king each other and acting terrible? Because it scares me for my daughter.”

So thanks, Lena Dunham, for being the “voice of a generation” and giving us all a really, really bad rap.

The moral of the story is clear. You may feel that you are cool; you may feel that you are brilliant; you may believe that you know everything; you may even have the highest of high self-esteem. Worse yet, you may be so filled with self-confidence that you no longer care what other people think about you.

Translated into real-world terms, that is going to make you a crashing bore. In the end if you do not care about your audience, it will stop caring about you. 

Bigler is quite correct to say that nobody cares about “Girls” any more. It happened because someone associated with the show stopped caring about how it all looked to other people. To the audience.

Of course, the fault does not lie with Lena Dunham. It lies with those who are older and wiser and who should have known better.


Anonymous said...

Stuart, couldn't your comments also be applied to our Great Leader? He has been told he is brilliant and wonderful throughout his career. Indeed, he has been called the "Black Jesus", a "Lightworker", and the "Messiah."

As a result of this he has an almost completely impermeable worldview structured around leftist faculty ideology. His arrogance precludes any reconsideration (look at his recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg - he shows virtually no signs of reassessing his naïve policies towards Israel and the Palestinians).

Moreover, he is now a complete bore.

As for Lena Dunham, she strikes me as just another shallow leftist thinker who (as you correctly point out) has been elevated beyond her very modest real talent.

Sam L. said...

Remember? No. Never watched it. I do recall some hoo-haw about it. I think the term "transgressive" was used, which I find to be a very reliable indicator for not-worth-my-time. OH! And boring.

"When everyone around you is telling you how brilliant you are you are going to start believing that whatever passes through your mind is genius." And you don't just phone it in, you txt it n.

"Of course, the fault does not lie with Lena Dunham. It lies with those who are older and wiser and who should have known better." Older, yes; wiser, obviously not.

Also, Anon has nailed another part of it. Self-esteem so quickly becomes narcissism.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comments.

Indeed, what I was saying about Lena Dunham does apply rather well to BHO, even though I was not thinking it while I was writing.

Today's Weekly Standard has an essay explaining why BHO is our first woman president.

Lastango said...

"When everyone around you is telling you how brilliant you are you are going to start believing that whatever passes through your mind is genius."

I completely agree. For talent and inspiration to manifest over the long term, it must be accompanied by skill and professionalism. Amid the accolades thundering inside the media-Leftist axis, somebody forgot to tell that to Lena Dunham.

But I can see why Dunham would be content to muddle along; from the political ranks to the stage, there's such a long history of mundane and substandard people richly rewarded merely for being overtly progressive. Once you're in the club you've got it made. Why should she think she needs to be something more?

Jeff Dorsai said...

who would have thought a show thats only "unique" feature was naked overweight chicks having sex would become unwatchable ...
when Dunham starts giving bj's on every show just to "shock us" maybe then everyone will realize she had no unique talent other than no sense of shame ...