Monday, May 14, 2012

Lena Dunham is The Shit: Girls

I am gobsmacked in love with Lena Dunham. Not even 30 years old, she has created a series, Girls, that has, only three shows in, already emblazoned itself into our pop culture and announced not only the arrival of a brilliant new show, but the arrival of a brilliant new mind. Lena is the shit. She created Girls, wrote the entire first season alone and plays the central character, Hannah, with a unique possession that I can't take my eyes of off. I love to watch her; her face is fascinating, the curve of her mouth and expressive eyes, the way she gives a tiny shake of her head when something isn't sitting right, the completely believable emotional stupidity and staggering self absorbency that a woman in her early twenties can enter into when nothing has claimed her heart- no unplanned baby, heart wrenching love affair, serious disease or death, passionate absorption in some intellectual pursuit- the only stake in Hannah's life is her friends, the three of which the show revolves around.  She wants to be a writer and it will be interesting to see where the show goes with that- how much of a writer Hannah turns out to be. Already, an episode centered around a brutal, public revelation from Hannah's diary, and the 100% realistic internship that Hannah was let go from after asking for a salary.  When she inquired if she could still send her manuscript for the editor's looksee, he turned her down without missing a beat. Hannah's shocked hurt resonates beyond that one scene and is in fact, part of the template for her character.

Lena, on the other hand, is passionately absorbed in writing and truth telling, and her genius is absolutely undeniable, ballsy and welcomed by me with open arms. After too long without, Girls has come along and announced itself as an entity with that 'it' factor that a television show must have to be great- when intelligence, writing, plot, acting, soundtrack and every detail all come together to create a piece of artwork that one can be immersed in, without a misstep. Girls is that. When the episode ended with Hannah and her best friend dancing in their room after a shitty, confusing day, and the music was perfect, and the credits rolled, I sat in the dark cave of my room, tangled up in my sheets with my toddler sleeping next to me and luxuriated in the feeling of finding something in this world that made me feel less alone. And in case you missed that, I'm not in my twenties- I'm 37- and I'm not a single girl in the big city. There is a commonality for women in this show that resonates like the best of eighties movies- an emotional chord being struck with the careful moments of music and honesty that open the door inside the witty banter and brilliant observations.

Critics are already at the door, baying about lack of cultural diversity, the disgusting and depressing sex, self absorption of the characters. All of which is true, and none of which has anything to do with how great the show is or how much viewers will love it. This kind of art is about accessing common humanity in the form of seriously great writing and a unique, strong voice. It's not about right or wrong but authentic or not. In my twenties I spent some time feeling like I was missing out on the life of the young and sexy, because I couldn't stomach random hook ups or sex with someone I didn't know intimately outside of the sheets. It took me a long time to realize that my friends who were fucking around were mostly having horrible sex with people they didn't really like that much. The mystical 'great night of amazing sex' with a casual boyfriend was like an urban myth. It happened...somewhere, to someone. Just not anyone I knew. The girls I knew in my twenties often had never had an orgasm and spent their time during sex completely focused on turning on the guy involved. An opening sex scene in Girls where Hannah is flopped unceremoniously onto her stomach while her 'boyfriend' grabs a condom and then pops into her during casual conversation is about as sexy as paint drying, and reflects not only the insecurity of a young woman but the clinical online porn nature that modern sex has been tinged with. It is depressing, but it's real, and it's good for us to see it and better for us to talk about it.

The critics who are decrying the lack of cultural diversity have a point, AND they are completely overlooking the diversity that IS present in this show. Hannah's body is not the culturally approved gym/yoga/juicing body of a girl in her twenties, but instead is pasty, un spray tanned, doughy, with diminutive unplastic breasts and a juicy belly and thighs. Her face is not a symmetrical stamp on a magazine but an entreaguing shifting assortment of characteristics: adorable, puzzled, deeply hurt and insecure, defensive, confused, intelligent, observant, loving... a wonderful and charming face that while is capable of being pretty, is so much more. When Hannah's 'boyfriend' pulls at the fat on her stomach and asks if she'd ever been on a diet, you look at that charming face of Hannah's and think of all that women feel and think about themselves and want to die. That's great T.V.

Lena Dunham is a gift to American pop culture and Girls is a home run, if it lasts one or five seasons. Lena you are the shit.

It’s an interesting thing in this culture what we choose to keep secret.- Lena Dunham

Heather said...

She is the next Woody Allen, and I love it, and Tiny Furniture was great as well. I adore how she shows the real woman's body too, full of our flaws and rolls, no models here, just us girls.

Elizabeth said...

I haven't seen the show, yet, because I cancelled HBO recently -- figured I'd save the money until it's all downloadable! Your review, though, is great and makes me hope it comes out on download sooner!

K Soucy said...

omg, just watched the first episode. loved it. hard to believe lena is the age she is, to be that self aware. an old soul, i'm sure.
thanks for the recommendation maggie.

Delania said...

love this show! I've been yelling at all the women I know to watch it. My life is nothing like the lives of the characters on the show but I feel a kinship, it's like someone finally just said this is what it's like sometimes, many times to be a girl.

Amanda said...

I cannot go on enough about how much I LOVE this show. I've never found one so realistic as to how women in their 20's think/act. I need a marathon of it ASAP.

Petit fleur said...

I like her a lot too. She's really brave in her expression.

I have not seen this yet because we don't have cable, but have been hearing about it.

Have you seen Tiny Furniture yet? You will love it.

Alicia D said...

ive heard so much about this show... i'll have to watch it now and break my "non-tv-watching"rule! :)

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