Monday, July 9, 2012

Watching Girls at 40

Every time I think the name of this TV show (seen on HBO), I hear the Beastie Boys song of the same name in my head, which tells you something about where I'm from generationally.  I've said aloud while watching it both "I can't watch this" and "I don't know why I watch this," but not because I think it's a bad show. For the first half of the season, my main takeaway was "When I lived this in the '90s it didn't feel as humiliating as it looks now on the small screen."  The second half of the season features some resolution, personal awareness, and a modicum of what passes for redemption these days.

A couple friends I've talked to about the show have said something along the lines of "I lived it and I don't really need to see it again."  I've definitely had the same feeling, but there's something about Lena Dunham that keeps me watching.  The way she uses her body in Girls is really interesting.  Seeing a woman be so deliberately sexually explicit, while also being deliberately un-sensual is something you don't see on television.  It's something I feel like I should have seen in many years of indie film watching, but Dunham isn't making a statement about how "all women's bodies are beautiful."  Instead, she seems to be implicating the viewer in the awkwardness of the show, after all we are the assholes who are watching.  If there's a message in this show, it seems to be something like "being a person is humiliating, being a woman is humiliating, and being a person who wants to lead an interesting life is humiliating, so enjoy it."

I thought that this New Yorker review of Game of Thrones had compared the gratuitous, soft focus nudity of G of T (or as we call it, Crown of Thorns), with the aggressive realism of Girls, but apparently I remembered wrong.  In any case, I think some writer has made that comparison in print.  In Girls, Dunham uses her very ordinary body (not thin, not toned, not perfect) to heighten the awkwardness of the sex scenes and, I think, to provoke viewers to be hyper-aware of their objectification.  It's not fun viewing, but it's fascinating.

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