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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: Girls, Season One


Girls, Season One - Polarizing

*The following is a wrap-up, of sorts, of Season One of "Girls" as well as an op-ed, or sorts.  Sorry if this offends anyone, but don't take it personal, I'm sure you're all lovely people.  There also might be a few spoilers, so tread carefully*

Hooray!  The Hipsters won!  They finally won!  Oh wait, they really don't care, they were too busy drinking PBR, waiting for their parent's monthly check, and hitting up the vintage clothing store looking for a blazer with padded shoulders.  Yes, I'm talking about "Girls" which I might call the most polarizing show I've ever started watching.

Let me start from the beginning; I ended up watching the premier episode when it first aired on HBO last April.  I figured, give it a chance and see what comes of it.  I knew from what I read about the show it was going to be "Hipsters in the City.....and Sex."  Of course, that was the show in a nutshell.  Did I really want to watch the type of people I normally don't like on TV?  No, that's why I gave up after the one episode.  Turn the clock almost a year and we have "Girls" winning Golden Globe awards, a show that glamorizes being privileged, lazy, submissive, and sad.  Of course I only had one episode to go off of so I decided to take the plunge and really give the "Girls" an opportunity to redeem themselves in my eyes.  Watching the entire first season over the course of a day and a half did prove one thing; I still don't like these characters, any of them, and I blame a growing group of viewers that think this is how you are supposed to act if you are a struggling 20-something living in the big city.  Maybe I sound like a really old f*uck (I'm only 29 by the way) but I feel like I'm a generation removed from Hanna, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshana, all privileged white girls who want to think their life is so bad, but really do nothing to improve it.

Climbing off the soapbox now, and getting into the brass tacks of the first season of "Girls."  Throughout the season we follow our "heroine" Hanna as she navigates Brooklyn after her parents cut her off financially. This is the one idea of the show that I thought was great.  Yes, finally, something that does happen in real life. After a certain point you have to go into the big bad world on your own and the fact that you chose one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, how long do your parents have to support you?  Good start, but then we meet Hanna's friends; Marnie works in an art gallery and acts the part of the prude who knows what she wants, yet doesn't know what she wants.  Jessa is the free spirit and least responsible member of the group.  But I ask, since when did being irresponsible and not caring become so cool?  Oh another thing, and this is a very important lesson for you Hipsters in training out there, everything will be all right in the long run, because as long as you act like an arrogant shit you'll find YOUR "Mr. Big" and you won't have to worry about looking for a menial job while living in your cousin's paid-for apartment, because acting like a shit will get you everything you've ever wanted in life.  This is Jessa's lesson to you.

The Hipster mentality is both a fad and a state of mind.  I know people that fashion themselves as hipsters, or call themselves hipsters (whether that is ironic or not you’ll never know because Hipsterism is founded on irony....ironic, don't you think?)  The conflict in "Girls" is that the girls really aren't Hipsters, sure they dress in vintage clothing and constantly complain about their situation even though they are probably better off than most of us who are really struggling in this world, but it's pretty much a Hipster in Carrie Bradshaw's clothing.  To be fair here is another article that is a little nicer to the Movement.

What's so polarizing about the show is that while you might get a few chuckles here and there because these "real" life experiences by show creator, writer, and star, Lena Dunham, are so out of left field you have to laugh; all the characters are as unlikable as unlikable gets.  I return to the character of Jessa, and I didn't even mention Shoshanna yet, but I'll get to her shortly.  I keep going back to being a responsible adult in the big city.  Yes, for the record, when I was 24 I didn't have an idea what I really wanted in life, but I did have a job that supported me while going to school and actively seeking better employment.  A prime example of what vexes me about Jessa is her high and mighty attitude while remaining willfully irresponsible and blaming her irresponsibility on children, please see Episode Four for an example.  I know this is supposed to be for comic relief, but in reality, is this the type of behavior that people enjoy and tolerate?  I could talk about a character like Adam, Hanna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, but he’s the only reason to watch the show and not want to throw your lace-less Converses at the TV.


Shoshanna is an interesting character because she lives a pretty good life, she's in school, and wants to live the "Sex in the City" lifestyle while still living in Williamsburg.  She is a walking, talking, contradiction.  It's assumed that she is wealthy, doesn't work, and only goes to school, so why does she decide to slum it? Well, because it's cool, and settling is way better than trying hard.  Out of all the female leads Shoshanna seems the happiest with who she is, despite being the only virgin in the group.  Her quirky attitude is welcome respite from Hanna's self-destructive behavior, Marnie's constant indecision, and Jessa, well, being Jessa.  If I was to liken her to another character on TV, I might say Ralph Wiggum from "The Simpsons."

People also have a problem with the nearly-All White Cast.  I personally don't care about this gripe, but the fact that the Brooklyn-area is supposed to be a melting pot, hell, all of New York City for that matter, is a little troubling.  The show becomes an exercise in "White People Problems."  Even though the strife that the cast deals with is pretty much universal (pregnancy, unemployment, rent, relationships) the fact that it's coming from an all white-leading cast neglects the fact other races have the same problem.  Personally, the people that complain about this aspect of the show need to pull their heads out of their asses and realize that just because a white cast is depicting struggle doesn't mean they don't understand that other social and racial groups are experiencing the same thing.  I don't remember a lot of people complaining about "Seinfeld" and their all-white cast, or "Mad About You."  Don't worry though, Donald Glover showed up in Season Two, which started last week.  While I love Glover, it's still a feeble attempt by the show-runners to introduce a black member to the cast.  Glover is about as urban and black as Urkel from "Family Matters."  Sorry Donald, I love you, but it's the truth.

The last person I'll blame for the polarizing affect of "Girls" is Judd Apatow, the Executive Producer.  Once again, I usually love Judd, and he's been a driving force in some of the funniest comedies in the past 10 years.  But the one thing that you'll notice about most of his later work, starting with "Knocked Up" is that he really likes to make women look like bitches.  I never gave credence to what Katherine Heigl said after "Knocked Up" came out, and that it made women look like shrews, but looking at "Girls" now, he likes to do two things now;  make girls look like bitches, and supports the Hipster agenda.  I appreciate the fact that he supports young artists and comedians, but as time has gone on his subject matter has gotten dark and again, bitchier.  Some people might say it's maturation in his art; I call it giving a dog a treat after it poops on the carpet.

So "Girls" are you a fad, or are you the real thing?  I'll tell you one thing, you sure have a lot of people talking, and in recent memory I really can't remember a show that had this many people polarized.  I was reluctant to watch the show after a long hiatus of watching, but I did finish the whole season within two days.  Did it captivate me?  No.  Is it exasperating an already obnoxious and silly subculture?  Yes.  Will I keep watching?  Probably.

Fun Fact:  Fun Fact?  No Fun Fact!  Go get me a PBR and my Member's Only jacket.

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