Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Did It My Way: A PSA on "Girls"


Everyone is obsessed with HBO's new show "Girls" and that includes Matt Domino.



Like everyone else, I was obsessed with the pre-pilot hype and press for the new HBO comedy Girls. Naturally, my curiosity was first raised due to the fact that the show and its creator, Lena Dunham, were receiving fairly widespread praise. I wanted to know what was going on and why someone my own age was receiving so much attention for their creative endeavors. I did not see Tiny Furniture when it came out, so I had no idea who Lena Dunham was nor any clue as to whether or not she was even talented. As I read more about the nature of the show, as well as Dunham herself, I became quite pleased with myself. I became pleased with myself because I did not have my usual, immediate reaction of jealousy at seeing someone my age whose art was actually being seen and appreciated by popular culture. And for me that was a huge moral victory of some kind.

After that initial feeling passed, I proceeded to keep reading every piece of press that came out about the show: the feature in New York Magazine, Andy Greenwald’s review on Grantland, Alan Sepinwall’s take at Hitfix.com, The New Republic review, one of the many takes by The New Yorker. I wanted to know more and more about Lena Dunham and this show Girls. It wasn’t just because of some ill-conceived competitive grudge; surprisingly, I had been able to move past that. No, it was because of something else, something more impalpable than my own ego.

After much deliberation, I decided that there were two main reasons why I was so obsessed with the press about the show. The first reason had to do with the fact that each reviewer seemed focus a little too much on a sex scene that appears in the pilot episode. The main character, Hannah, played by Lena Dunham in a move that has caused too many people to draw Louis CK and Woody Allen comparisons, has sex with a guy named Adam who we can only assume is her “fuck buddy.” Adam is a sleazy dude, but he and Hannah share some semblance of intimate conversation and he does show a twitch of nervousness around her on his couch right before he proceeds to debase her during their brand of sex. The scene is most definitely “cringe worthy” because it does seem so real, and I imagine for viewers or critics who are removed from this stage of their lives it is especially jarring, which is why they spent so much time analyzing and dissecting that moment.

The second reason my fascination with Girls was so deep was because of the widespread commodifying, or perhaps romanticizing, of the twenty-something as “lost.” I will not disagree with the fact that people in their twenties don’t have any idea what they are doing—for nearly all of us it’s true. However, the fact that this theme appeared as the touchstone in so many reviews as a mark of praise rang hollow to me. I understand the merits of a show that depicts the meandering and mistakes of over-educated twenty year olds in New York City: it is a common tale that has not been told in a definitive or truly great way. However, what these multitudes of reviews seemed to be saying or selling was the product of the “lost twenty-four or twenty-five year old with no money.” These reviews were using the show as was a way to turn my life, what I am currently experiencing, into something reviewable. What I mean to say is that, I had not seen an episode of the show, had not even heard Lena Dunham speak, but already a print medium was telling me that what was expected of me was the show Girls. And I never want anything expected of me. I only want what I want.

To bring it back to the sex, why that scene, and the attention paid to that scene, rang so hollow is that I can’t relate to that kind of sex in the slightest. It’s not that I make love like a movie star (well…), it’s that I have chosen not to find myself in those situations. Have I gotten too drunk, gotten in fights, taken speed and other drugs and stayed out too late? Sure, I’ve done all that. But I have always decided that it would be better to wake up alone than to wake up next to or have to sit next to someone I didn’t really care too much about. My mind is easily swayed: I can be attracted a pretty girl in one moment and then just be as infatuated with the smell of oncoming rain the next. I’ve only truly even loved or come close to loving maybe three girls in my life. And I’ve only actually liked a half dozen or so more to sleep with or hook up with. And that has kept me separate from a lot of people in my generation for sure. I’ve been lost like the girls from Girls. I live in New York City and it can suck the life out of you on any given morning, so much that you say, “Hell, man, this place really isn’t that great. And it damn sure isn’t right for me.” Instead of getting horny and finding company, I get drunk (while still being horny), I turn inward and I try to find what makes me happy, alone. And that’s what I prefer.

And what Lena Dunham and the other characters on Girls and the other people of my generation and of the rest of the world prefer is fine too. I don’t have any answers and I’m not better or worse than anyone else. I’ve had no trouble finding decent paying jobs in New York. Have any of them made me happy? No. So I write on this blog and try to be funny and express the things I care about in some way that is relatable. So I retreat to coffee shops or the solitude of my apartment and try my best to write fiction that will render the world in the way I see it, which is basically what Lena Dunham has done with Girls. I don’t really know any girls like the characters on this show. Or maybe I’m just too ignorant to know that the girls I know are the girls on this show. But this is the world that Lena Dunham knows and is trying to make sense of and I laughed out loud more than a few times while watching the pilot and I’m sure I’ll laugh a lot more as I watch the rest of the season and try to decide if I truly like the show or not.

Before I finish this little “Op-Ed” piece, I want to share a something I recently read:

Do you think it's important to show that struggle to young women -- that they don't have to be these perfect TV or movie girlfriend-types?

Yeah, because everyone is struggling to figure it all out. When you see a TV show or movie that you relate to, it just lets you know that everyone is having a similar struggle. We're not glorifying bad behavior. We're saying, "Look at what people do when they don't know who they are yet." When you're in your 20s, you want to experiment. You feel like now's the time for me to do everything and try everything and figure everything out, because when you hit your 30s, you have to be a little bit more responsible. When I was in my 20s, I always felt like, "I've got these 10 years to go a little nuts." To this day, I think, "I didn't go nuts."

Isn't that disappointing?

I didn't have that much interest in it! I thought I was supposed to, but I just didn't do it. When you're not with the right person, the sex usually is bad and awkward and hilarious. That's a lot of what the show is: Here's what it's like sleeping with the wrong guy. When I was young. I washed dishes and I was a bus boy at El Torito. That's what you do when you haven't figured out how to get accepted in the job you think you deserve to have. That's part of the fun of the show.

That was an excerpt from an interview Judd Apatow (the Executive Producer of Girls) did with The Huffington Post in the lead up to the series premiere. Like Judd Apatow, I constantly wonder if I have done enough or gone crazy enough in my 20’s, but at the end of the day, when I go down the list of all the things that keep me happy and sane in a place like New York, I try to stick to what I truly enjoy and what I really want to do. Whether it’s with friends, by myself or with a girl.

The reason why Girls is so great as a cultural phenomenon is because it opens up all these questions and conversations: What role does sex have in modern society? How is sex is used between the sexes? What is appropriate for woman now? What are our 20’s supposed to be about? Should parents support their kids in a tough economy? These are all things we should be discussing without looking for answers; we should just be discussing them to hear what others have to say. Hell, one of the other reasons the show excites me is because I just want to see how each girl I know reacts to it. And that means something to me.

I have a feeling the show is going to be good. It isn’t my life and it isn’t what I want out of my life. I’ve always wanted more than what society or the world has told me my mid-20’s were supposed to be—I want nothing sold to me. Maybe I’m stuck-up or have high standards. Maybe I’ve just been ignorant and am throwing my youth away. But then, if that turns out to be true, that will be my mistake. Because my life isn’t Lena Dunham’s. She has a show called Girls and a movie called Tiny Furniture; and hopefully one day I’ll have my books. (And this blog as a multimedia conglomerate that brainwashes the world to think like me and like everything I do.)

I don’t have any answers and neither does she.




3 comments:

  1. Matt, post some of your new fiction. It is, in a way, how this blog started and frankly, I would rather read it than most other things.

    Love,

    Anon

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous! You never disappoint. You and I are on the same wavelength, because that is in the works.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really like Veep. Any takers?

    ReplyDelete