A Guy on “Girls”: Slapping Your Dog, Scaring Horses, and Spanking the Monkey (S1/E3, “All Adventurous Women Do”)

While show writer Leslie Arfin’s now infamous comment about Precious was ignorant and smugly dismissive, it does seem that Girls is in a unique position of defense that they wouldn’t be put in if their audience weren’t smarter than the average viewership.  The show is in the clinch of appealing to sophisticated, educated urbanites who will (often rightly) tear it a new asshole.

As John Caramanica noted in the Times this week, young bloggers perceive themselves to have more access to Dunham than they do to Tina Fey. She’s our age in the era of “all access”, and a Twitter devotee at that. Sex and the City didn’t take this kind of heat for being the whitest show on television prior to Blair Underwood showing up in season five. I thought of noting that Two and a Half Men is the biggest TV hit of the decade, and that we don’t blog proportional outrage over its recurring cast not having so much as half a person of color, but Caramanica already made that point too.

Other shows being just as egregious or worse doesn’t excuse Girls‘ complexion, or excuse it from these valid criticisms. But three episodes in is early enough that I continue to give the show some benefits of the doubt: namely that the degree to which polycultural NYC will expose the opaque bubble of these ladies to be ignorance, worthy of self-satire and ridicule. I say this despite knowing that an upcoming episode is titled “The Crackcident: Welcome to Bushwick”, and that the oblivious worst may be yet to come.

And indeed, this was the whitest episode yet: half of it takes place in a Chelsea gallery, whatdja expect? But from a story standpoint, it may have also been the strongest of the three to date. And oh boy, that gallery. Marnie (Alison Williams) now seems not only the weak link in the actress’ performance, but in Dunham’s writing of her. She is a character type more than a character: the straight-laced responsible one. A thankless role, but Williams and Dunham could both be having more fun with Marnie’s overserious, sexually repressed power walking. As of now, what is her charm exactly? She keeps less prudent characters afloat, but that’s different from being compelling in her own right. Anyone who walks the streets of New York is confronted daily with people who are gorgeous in the most bland ways possible. They seem to have it all figured out, and thus make no impression at all. That said, I do admire that she’s an informed art lover. It was nice to know she’s a fan of something, even if it’s the work of a guy as gross as Booth Jonathan.

The brutal implication of the Marnie/Charlie relationship is that this has been going on too long, and that she has desires that he can’t fulfill.  Yet it’s odd that Charlie was deemed a “sad sack” by L.V. Anderson in the XX Factor’s excellent group review. A downer he is not. Baffled by Marnie’s rejection of him in brief moments, perhaps, but if anything his problem is that he’s too eager a puppy, all too willing to wag his tail while Marnie continues to slap his snout with a rolled up Artforum.

But wait, you ask, didn’t he say that this might have been the best ep yet? Yes, Internal Voice of the Disenfranchised, it was. The finest moments came in sentence fragments that casually reveal larger, weirder behaviors. Watch Hannah grasp a glass of wine like it’s a fire extinguisher during her meetup with her newly out-of-the-closet ex, a scene that concluded with his succinct kissoff, “It’s great to see you – your dad is gay.” It’s not surprising that Hannah and Dunham are both Tweet-savvy, their voices pitched toward small wonder haikus of shock and awe. Shoshanna confessing to truly not loving her grandmother (Hannah: “Like, you don’t love her at all?”) was casually tossed off, and the better for it.  More than anyone on the show save Dunham, Zosia Mamet has the cadences of Dunham’s writing down to a science. Shoshanna is comic relief you root for, and I look forward to her having some adventures of her own.

I also like the Adam-Hannah relationship more now.  Their relationship remains strange, but it’s the kind of strange that don’t scare the horses.  He’s still brutally dumb and to me pretty one-dimensional (we poor, disenfranchised bros are always finding ourselves stereotyped like this), but idiocy isn’t so difficult to watch when it’s also funny and perplexingly tender, as the lovebirds’ conversation was last night. They are on increasingly even footing, Hannah seems to be enjoying herself at times (skipping merrily to his door after he threatens to tie her to his bed for three weeks), and their scene together was another opportunity for Dunham to play her dynamite comedic specialty of self-confidence in the face of humiliation. And while he’s a hundred thousand miles from ideal, I am increasingly appreciative of what Dana Stevens calls Adam’s “untrammeled relationship to his own desire”. He will not be trammeled! Airport trams will not roll over this dude!  I was even a bit turned on by Hannah’s goth eye shadow for their hookup date.  Far moreso than I was by Marnie’s Emmanuelle in Space approach to masturbation.

We close on Jemma, the wild child who was this week drawn into the string-cheese-and-naps appeal of the Nanny Life. All I can say is that unemployed dad James Le Gros was sporting a goatee that was straight up Le Gross, and would ideally be at least trimmed before their inevitable mashing of bods.

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