I may not be Millennial, but I sure watch TV like one. Streaming on a hand-me-down computer while texting/tweeting/surfing on my smartypantsphone. Beer in one hand, cookie in the other. Crumpled check from my parents in my pocket. Identity crisis in my head.
In this techno-delirious mode, I binged on season one of Girls.
And I mean binged. Ten episodes in three nights (I wanted to knock it out in two, but my companion called for decorum), all the DVD extras, as many online reviews as I could find, and gabbing to my hairstylist (hi Andee!) about it within about five seconds of sitting down.
So I guess I liked it.
But not unreservedly. Like I said, I may enjoy some M.I.A., but I’m not actually a Millennial. While I recognized my life in many of the scenarios (Crackcident!!!!!!) I did not find it as emotionally astute as I expected, given generally rapturous reviews.
In the DVD extras, Dunham veers between articulate and, well, creative writing class. I’d have never put it so bluntly while grading an essay, but her approach to character seems mechanical and gimmicky.
For example, she says a few times in interviews that her protagonist, Hannah, will unfailingly choose the wrong of two available choices. She also will unfailingly follow all advice given to her. And thus, she fails.
Sure, sounds fine as a general principle to describe a sensitive, brainy 24 year old still finding her selfness. But in Girls, these two modes of characterization literally drive the plots of many episodes. See Hannah take this horrid advice and fail. See Hannah make that terrible choice, when the right choices hammers her forehead, and fail.
A more experienced filmmaker, perhaps, would approach plot without this algorithmic sensibility. While the shows hits all the marks of that messy age, I did not find as much depth behind it as I was hoping.
My favorite and least favorite arc of the season is the Hannah/Adam mishugas.
I love it for capturing the emotional disaster of dating when one is young, smart, self-aware, and uncommitted.
I dis-love it for blowing the opportunity for real characterization of Adam, the most compelling character on the show. (Shoshannah and Ray are, obvie, the best and most fun to watch.)
I relate to Hannah’s attraction to this intelligent, confusing and FOXXXY dude. I relate to her confusion about just what the cluck he thinks of her. And I even relate to his frustration with her self-absorption.
But my sympathy ends with his rageoholism. He’s a bomb, ready to go off at any time. He don’t make no sense. So when Dunham, in interviews, describes their final breakup as Hannah’s fault, I’m thinking that Dunham and team didn’t quite figure out how to convey their evident sympathy for Adam.
He shouts at her, self-righteously, “I’m a beautiful mystery to you!” as if she’s the deluded one.
But he’s a beautiful mystery to the audience, too, because there’s no depth to his emotional volatility. Is a loose cannon because he’s in AA? Because he’s a self-sufficient artist? Because he’s sensitive? Because he’s mentally ill? I have no idea.
So he dumps her in a ridiculous escalation of a totally understandable discussion about moving in together. A discussion in which Hannah was sensitive, gentle, and honest. And to which he responded by calling her a crazy bitch and a monster. So he gets walloped by a car and she wanders barefoot on the beach at sunrise, with cake. Seems about right to me.
So is Adam a realistically inconsistent and complex human, as many online critics seem to believe? Or just a bad character?
I hope that in season two, Dunham likes her characters a little more. Make them a little more like regular people and less like writing class exercises.
But, you guys, even if she didn’t, I would love that show anyway. Obvie.