Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unintentional Treatise

All right, so "Girls" on HBO. What do we reckon? I know it's only one episode in, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it in the very uncomfortable way I liked "The Puffy Chair" or "Greenberg" et. al. Sometimes I really value life-verisimilitude in art. It's funny, a bit, but not in a way that makes me laugh out loud. And that's OK, not everything has to be a knee-slapper. It's just important to me that HBO took a chance on a young woman as a writer and star. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. I know Apatow was involved, and maybe that's what got them to buy in, but whatever works to get the ball rolling. Points for him for backing the project. Now for women getting a shot  to be the norm and not so remarkable and, like, everyone will be a feminist. Haha, yes. The tide is turning though, I feel it inching ever closer.

Here is the part where I throw out a personal quandary: I watched "Tiny Furniture," Lena Dunham's critically acclaimed debut film that opened the door for her "Girls" gig, and I didn't love it. And I think I need to watch it again because my judgment of whether or not it was a film I enjoyed was clouded by my reaction to Dunham in a physical sense. I couldn't stop thinking, throughout the movie, things like, "OMG don't wear that it's so unflattering! She'd look so much better if only she'd get a trim!" I mean, really stupid knee-jerk things about her appearance. And it bothered me so much that I was doing this that I couldn't let go and focus on the real issues like "OMG don't have unprotected sex with that creepy moustache guy who we all know will never call you back! And OMG don't let that unfunny dude make you feel bad about yourself! And OMG more Merritt Wever in everything ever please!" It's possible that Dunham has self esteem issues about her body, but it doesn't show. I respect that she puts everything on camera with a big middle finger to anyone who might not like it. I always respect this, and it angered me that I felt powerless against picking her apart.

I knew I was being really unfair, and also being someone I didn't like. And I felt this way even before I read Ashley Judd's brilliant, complex article about our society's dangerous obsession with appearance. Yet I couldn't stop myself, and it made me feel really ashamed. Since I've read that article though, I've made a really concerted effort to stop being so judgy in all aspects of my life. Watching TV, on the T, at the pediatrician's office. I'm really doing my best to look for what's beautiful about people instead of running a constant critique on their choice of hair color, whether they're wearing too much make-up, the idea that they'd be so pretty if the only... Sure it's fun to tear people down sometimes, but I'm doing my best not to engage in it, for men or women. It's not easy, it doesn't come naturally after all this time. I want to make clear that I don't think I'm better than anyone else, either in being above reproach regarding my appearance or on some kind of moral high ground for this experiment. It's not like that, I'm just really interested in changing my way of thinking, for myself, for society, and especially to lead by example for my son.

That said, one of the great triumphs about "Girls" is that it is cast perfectly. Most of the cast is not conventionally attractive and I say this in a very complimentary way. It breaks the mold of what should be considered pretty, who is deserving of love, all that hoo-ha. You know you could be friends in real life with the characters, you probably saw them at the store this morning, you know? Also, the emphasis on friendship is wonderful, the portrayal of female relationships is nuanced, not stereotypical. There are fights, but it's not over men, it's not catty, petty stuff. So far they have gotten it right there. Oh, and Becky Ann Baker playing against type as a tough mom, what a coup. Love her.

Back in the olden tymes when guy love comedies were being released fast and furious, and I loved them all, I lamented the lack of female-friendship-driven comedies, particularly wherein the women have license to be schlubs and make bad decisions and still be loveable and get they guy or girl or whatever. Using the word "schlub" here just means not cookie-cutter, really. Anyway, this feels so close to what I mean. It can be done. And it can be done laugh-out-loud funny, I think it just took society this long to catch on so the wave could start cresting. Whether or not I turn out to like "Girls" beyond episode one, the idea of women getting their turn in the media warms my girl power heart.

This song is also a feminist conflict for me, yet I am unapologetic in my love for it. Truth is, I'm more offended by the inclusion of Rob Thomas than the whole "shut up and kiss me, crazy" theme.

1 comment:

  1. I just watched Tiny Furniture this weekend and liked it, but cringed throughout it for most of the reasons you said. I found myself thinking, okay, I get the post-college ennui and drifting thing, but brush your hair! Why do you like that douchy YouTube dude? Also, the ending was not satisfying. I don't need a happy or tidy ending, but it seemed so random. All that aside, I did like it, and am looking forward to seeing Girls. What you said about it was interesting.