Saturday, February 16, 2013

He could have been a cult leader...

I am late to the Girls party. I only watched season one the day before season two started. I figured that I needed to watch it since everyone was talking about it and kept saying things like, "Erin, I'm surprised you don't watch Girls. It's such a you show." Or "You don't watch Girls? Aren't you a feminist? What's wrong with you?"

So I watched all of season one in a single afternoon (thank you HBO On Demand - I'm glad we're friends). Before we get into my reaction to a recent episode and the brouhaha that has ensued, let's clarify a few things:
  1. I like Lena Dunham. I think she's smart, talented, funny, interesting and all manner of other awesome things. Her confidence is overwhelming and epic.
  2. I would not personally want to be naked on tv as much as she is but I will say, you go girl. 
  3. Tattoos are personal so we should all just shut up about them.
  4. Shoshanna is my favorite character on the show.
  5. I think many of the male characters on the show are better written and more clearly defined than the female characters.
  6. Jessa annoys me but she's supposed to. However, I secretly hoped she wouldn't be a big part of season 2.
  7. Michael Penn is in charge of the music so all is well with the world.
  8. I just can't with Marnie. It's hard to explain but something about her makes me want to lash out irrationally.
  9. Ray is my third favorite character.
  10. I think it's funny that Hannah is from Michigan.
  11. It's entirely possible that I missed out on a large portion of the fun of being in my 20s by being the most responsible person in the room.
  12. Adam is my second favorite character.
Now that we have those things out of the way, let's tackle the first comment that people used to throw at me about this show - "it's such a you show". What exactly says "Erin" about this show? I'm not in my 20s (thank whatever deity you believe in) and don't ever want to go back to being in my 20s because being in your 20s is terrible. It can't be the fashion or the music (except for Michael Penn) since I'm not what one would call "trendy". And it certainly isn't any of these girls and their relationships with men. My relationships in my 20s were nothing like this. To my knowledge, none of my exes were gay or came out after we broke up so that can't be it. And honestly, I didn't randomly hook up with guys or even date all that much. So what exactly makes this "such a me show"?

I actually think it's the second question that answers this. I have opinions on things. I say them out loud (oh no) and I don't regularly wear make up. And I can hold my liquor (according to 1949, I'm doing everything wrong). I question women (and men) who aren't interested in the political and social discussions that impact them directly (you should know about legislation that specifically impacts your lady parts - just saying). I have had a conversation with two guy friends about a documentary called Sexy Baby that includes a woman who wants to have labia surgery for cosmetic reasons and thought this was a perfectly normal conversation to have with them. I was impressed that neither were shocked by the topic nor did they have some bizarre reaction to the larger point I was making about young girls, the porn industry and sexuality (or if they did the reaction wasn't to my face which was very gentlemanly of them). I defended Sandra Fluke on this blog. For me, feminism is about equality, respect, and defining femininity and sexuality on my terms not someone else's.

So I think that's why people think I should think of Hannah and her friends like kindred spirits or little sisters in feminism. But I don't. We're not "sisters" and I don't empathize with them (except that being young sucks sometimes). I'm proud of them but I don't want to hang out with them and I have problems supporting a lot of the choices they make. A lot of what happens on the show annoys me and it's supposed to - the show is provocative and infuriating on purpose. I also have a problem with people who harp on the poor behavior of the millenial generation but then give a pass to the girls of Girls for the same behavior. And I love/like a lot about it too (in addition to the above list). Shoshanna and Ray are more like actual couples I know than most others on the show and Marnie's struggle with finding a job is hard to watch but supports my idea that everyone needs to fail. I also can't get over Hannah and Adam's role reversal last season.

Which brings me to the most recent episode, "One Man's Trash". In this episode, Hannah spends two days with a hot, lonely older guy played by Patrick Wilson. There's been a lot of talk about this episode because people are saying it's unrealistic that someone like Patrick Wilson (Joshua, not Josh) would be interested in someone like Hannah (and his real life wife has been brought up in Hannah's defense which is wild to me). A lot the discussion boils down to this: We can all suspend our disbelief when some schlubby dude ends up with a super model but we can't let a normal looking woman have the hot guy. Fantasy only works out for dudes (which is bullshit). I'm actually totally cool with Hannah and Patrick Wilson even if it is just for two days. Or forever if that's what had happened. We need to stop talking about the plausibility of this happening because it did and it does. And we also need to stop thinking about women in only terms related to their appearance but I will say that when you're not considered traditionally pretty or considered "hot", seeing someone like you end up with the hot guy is very satisfying.

However, I will be Hannah's big sister for a minute: why did you go into a strange man's house and then stay? This seems like a really bad life choice (and I know you like to make bad life choices) because he could have been a serial killer. Or maybe the house was a front for a cult and he is the leader. This is usually how really terrible Lifetime movies begin.

But even this is not what I was most troubled by while watching. What infuriated me enough to text my friend Allison to see if she was as incensed as me was the assertion that being normal and wanting normal things in life and relationships is somehow a bad thing. Hannah's monologue about wanting a more traditional version of happiness and love and that this was somehow a bad thing pushed me over the edge. Being happy isn't a bad thing. Nor is wanting normal in your life. Not wanting to date screw-ups and losers does not make you a bad person or a traitor to some ideal of your generation. There is nothing wrong with being happy in a traditional sense (or whatever sense you define) or feeling safe. I don't think those things are at odds with being a feminist or being confident or independent. You can still want those things and be a confident woman with opinions and thoughts and feelings and needs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and taken care of by someone. (Who doesn't want fresh fruit in a bowl?) The trick is to find the balance and not lose yourself.

Hannah wanted to be normal and it freaked her out and that's what bothered me about this episode.

Sometimes being normal is perfectly, 100% fine. What's powerful is when you embrace that as what you want because then you've defined your life and not let someone else set the expectations for you. It's dizzying how much time we all (including fictional characters) spend being things for others and not for ourselves. Just be your version of normal. It'll make you happy.

And don't randomly go into and stay in a stranger's house. Cult deprogramming doesn't always work.


  1. I haven't been watching Girls but I'm so happy you also found that 1940s article!! As long as you can either dance or play bridge well it'll make up for everything else ;)

  2. So I went to see the Oscar nominated short documentaries today and the first one was about a retirement community in Florida. These ladies know the power of dancing and being able to play cards. I'm lacking in both areas but now vow to be better in both.

    Also, I would like to make a documentary about something happy. I cried through all of them today. Maybe we can work on that.