Tag Archives: Lena Dunham

In defense of change

Change is good.

Or so the old saying goes. I must have heard that one a thousand times, but the instance that sticks out most in my head is when an old colleague used it on me. I had just announced my plans to leave Teen People to take a job at Us Weekly, and I was feeling nervous about my decision. This particular colleague dropped by my office to wish me well, and I ended up unloading my misgivings on him.

He wasn’t a big fan of mine, and I knew he was glad to see me go. For him, any old cliché probably would have done if it ended our conversation as quickly and painlessly as possible. I’m pretty sure he pulled that one out of his ass. He probably had no idea what an impression he made.

He was right…sort of. Change can be good, and in this professional instance it was not only good — it was essential. But change can also be not-so-good. There’s a lot to be said for stability, predictability and the dreaded routine. Change for the sake of change only is often just a waste of time.

When I was younger, one of my relatives came to live with us for a while. One of my most vivid memories about him (among many vivid, unpleasant memories) was that he used to change undershirts several times a day. Every time I think of him, I also think of his white V-neck t-shirts flapping in the wind on the clothesline in the backyard like blank flags at half-mast.

As I can’t recall him ever doing anything more strenuous than thumping his Holy Bible, I had no idea why he needed to change his t-shirts so often. Maybe it was because my mother did all of the laundry, so why not? Change for the sake of change may have been good for him, but it was a burden for my mom. Though I’ve fully embraced change in my recent adulthood, I’ve remained suspicious and maybe even a little afraid of it too.

But now I’m beginning to see change in an entirely different light. Even when it’s not-so-good, or just for its own sake, it can end up having a net positive effect. Hannah Horvath on Girls would probably agree.

The fourth season of Girls won me over after a kind of hum-drum third season, and I think it was all because of change. There was so much of it. The biggest one: Hannah moved to Iowa (albeit briefly) to attend grad school, which set off a chain of unfortunate events for Hannah but fortunate ones for this viewer.

As a result of the stint in Iowa, she lost Adam, and upon her return, even more change was in store. She took a job as a substitute high-school teacher and her friends became a less prominent presence in her life. Hannah spent more time with Adam’s new girlfriend Mimi-Rose in episode 7 than she did with Marnie, Shoshanna and Jessa the entire season! If that wasn’t enough life upheaval, her father also came out as gay. That’s a lot of change for a 10-episode season.

(As an aside, I love the juxtaposition of her dad announcing he’s gay to her mother getting tenure, which, in academia, is the antithesis of change, as Loreen “I never have to move again” Horvath clearly realizes.)

The move to Iowa was one of the best developments that the series writer and star Lena Dunham has come up with yet. It took Hannah out of the orbit of her annoying New York circle, none of whom, with the exception of Adam and Shoshanna, I could possibly care less about. The Iowa episodes were some of my favorite ones of the season, partly because her New York crowd were barely in them. But most of all, I loved them because the change of scenery and Hannah’s ultimate failure in Iowa were the catalysts for the first signs of true emotional growth we’ve seen in her yet.

I don’t think she would have been able to be so supportive of her father and not make his coming out all about her without the Iowa experience. And look at how she remained in the background during the water-childbirth scenes, not grabbing center stage as old Hannah surely would have done. Had she not let go of so many illusions about herself, about her life, about life in general after Iowa, she probably would have taken Adam back in the season finale rather than seeing that they simply didn’t work anymore…if they ever actually did.

I’m thrilled that Hannah is starting to evolve, but I’m glad that she hasn’t completely changed her irritating ways. Her interaction with her student Cleo offered much-needed assurance that old-school Hannah is alive and well. Some might find her insufferable, but I love her despite her flaws…because of her flaws.

I get Hannah. Maybe it’s the writer in us. We’re a strange, complicated, contradictory breed. I hope friends and strangers don’t feel about me the way people do about Hannah, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to find out that some of them do. It’s not like I’ve never picked up and left everyone I cared about behind for far less clear-cut reasons than Hannah’s motivation for moving to Iowa.

I’m sure more big changes (some just for the sake of it) are in store for both Hannah and me. Maybe they’ll bring about continued evolution and make us more palatable to the people around us. Perhaps, as it did with Hannah, change will finally put me in the orbit of a guy who might actually be good for me and not just provide more fodder for my writing.

I like Mr. Parker. He’s cute and he totally nailed Hannah in just a couple of episodes. I’m curious to see where they go in season five. I love that he called her on her thirst for drama, but I hope she doesn’t bend like Carrie Bradshaw did with Aiden when she tried to give up smoking for him on Sex and the City. Hannah’s dramatic tendencies are a large part of what makes her and Girls interesting.

The last thing she (or I, a once-again thoroughly entertained viewer) needs is change in the form of a sexy new guy swooping in and altering Hannah or her maddening ways. I love them just the way they are.

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The End Is the Beginning: Thoughts on the Second Season Finale of “Girls”

Right back to where we started from It’s interesting — or on second thought, maybe the exact opposite — that at the end of season two, all four Girls girls are pretty much where they were at the beginning of the series: Hannah is back with Adam; Marnie is together again with Charlie; Shoshanna is single; and Jessa is God knows where (which is from whence she had just returned when the show began).

But while revisiting the past need not mean complete regression, only two of our girls have moved forward in any significant way since then: Shoshanna, my overall favorite character after Charlie (the one person on the show who reminds me of actual people I’ve known in real life, ones with whom I’d go out of my way to spend quality time, thanks, in part, to the attractive package that is portrayer Christopher Abbott), and Jessa, my least favorite, have both evolved over the course of the first two seasons. They aren’t exactly who they were when we met them.

Shoshanna is no longer a virgin. She’s now had a boyfriend and an ex-boyfriend, and she’s learned how to hook up just for the fun of it. Jessa is a soon-to-be divorcee who had a breakthrough moment with her father (a second season highlight), though she’s still as self-involved as she was when we met her. There’s a lot of that, self-involvement, going on on Girls, but I was recently told — by a 20-year-old guy no less — that it’s just the way of twentysomethings.

Meanwhile, Marnie is safely re-ensconced in romantic convention with Charlie (apparently, with better sex, but why would she think she’d have brown babies with him?), which she will no doubt sabotage next season when she starts to overthink it again, and she decides that she wants more — again. And Hannah? Poor Hannah. She’s having some kind of breakdown which led her back to the arms — literally — of the guy whom she accused of being partly responsible for putting her in this mess she’s in.

Nice torso, Adam, but you’re not so Big! After the debacle of his sex scene with Natalia in the penultimate season-two episode, Adam redeemed himself a little with his loyalty to Hannah and his shirtless mad dash through New York City to get to her. But if writer/star Lena Dunham is trying to position him as Big to her Hannah’s Carrie Bradshaw, she’s way off. Big could be callous and insensitive (he was, after all, a guy), but he was never mean. I suspect he was better in bed, too. Even without the dog shit, in his finale round with Natalia, Adam’s sexual proclivities still troubled me: Why do so many guys think fast and furious is preferable to nice and slow?

I’m not sure why Natalia stuck around for more after the dog shit, but at least she returned to being clear about what she wanted. Adam, though, was obviously bored with her and had already checked out of their short relationship around the time he told her to get on all fours, probably sabotaging it because he doesn’t think he’s good enough for a normal woman (woman, not girl). I felt a little sorry for Natalia when he reunited with Hannah in the end (she deserves to do the dumping), but she’s so much better off without him — cliched consoling words that probably never boosted the spirits of any dumpee.

Am I Jessa? Yesterday, in defense of still-MIA Jessa, my best friend told me that I’m kind of like her — “the way you leave parties, the way you left this country…” — and she has a point. But I would never dream of inviting her on a trip with me to see my father, abandon her there without warning, and then let the radio silence continue for weeks, without even sending a forwarding address. I’d at least update my Facebook status to let her know where I am. But then Jessa is so the type to think Facebook is beneath her. The one upside to her being such a terrible friend? The last few episodes have been so much more enjoyable without her being in them to infuriate me.

I don’t mind Hannah as much as everyone else does. I believe the general consensus is that Hannah, not Jessa, is the most maddening character on Girls, but I don’t find her as unlikable as everyone else seems to. Maybe it’s the writer in me that can relate to some of her dilemma and her tendencies: how difficult it is to be motivated to write sometimes, how one can manipulate life for material, how it’s so easy to get trapped in your own mind, turning other people into mere characters in your latest chapter.

What I don’t understand is where this obsessive-compulsive disorder and mental illness came from. It seems to have arrived completely out of nowhere. My best friend suggested that it’s basically Dunham angling for an Emmy later this year. I think it’s a lot of that, and an easy way to get Adam back into her orbit. Those two probably belong together — sort of like Carrie and Big on Sex and the City — so I’m willing to go along with it. I’m actually more interested in seeing where they end up in season three than I was in seeing how Hannah got home from Coney Island at the end of last season, which was never explained, by the way.

Is that really how e-book publishing works? Is it as easy for an untested — and as far as I know, still unpublished — writer to “ink” a deal to produce an e-book and get a generous advance for agreeing to do it? Hannah made it seem like a cinch. James Cameron Mitchell is playing the hell out of her editor, though. I’ve written for people who act just like that, which makes me glad to not be doing it at the moment.

I’ll take Michael Penn wherever I can get him! I don’t do TV soundtracks — no, not even any of the Glee ones that used to be released on a seemingly weekly basis — but I might actually download the Girls soundtrack, which was released in January and features the new song by Michael Penn that appeared in the finale. The tunes that pop up in each episode are high points of the shows. If the finale felt a little anti-climactic overall, the inclusion of “Elephant” by Tame Impala was the one thing that left me wanting more. Alas, more Tame Impala, not necessarily more Girls.

The suspense isn’t killing me. As much as I appreciate the ability of each Girls episode to evoke a strong reaction and encourage conversation, I just can’t get into the core four the way I did/do the central quartets on Sex and the City, The Golden Girls, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, Girlfriends, Living Single, or in Waiting to Exhale. Maybe it’s because I’m too far removed from my mid-20s to relate to their growing pains (when the Charlotte York/Rose Nylund stand-in is my favorite, we’ve got a problem), or maybe it’s because they now spend so little time together that it’s easy to forget they’re even friends, or maybe it’s because I’ve got too many other TV shows to occupy my time.

Whatever the reason, I’m not exactly dying to find out what happens next, which has been my biggest problem with Girls all along. Lena Dunham can write interesting characters, realistic dialogue and the occasional brilliant scene. I just wish they were wowing me in the context of more compelling stories. Maybe that’s where both she (and Hannah) can really learn something from Carrie Bradshaw (though, preferably, not a penchant for beginning sentences with “I couldn’t help but wonder” and “And just like that…”).

It’s so not a shame about Ray. What am I hoping for next season? More Charlie, Jessa in even smaller doses, and no Ray, who has always been too ill-defined and seems to exist solely to be denigrated, which might be why he’s so annoyingly snarky. (Since when does running a coffee shop indicate that one is devoid of ambition?) But even if Ray were more appealing, I would understand Shoshanna’s wariness of being with someone who is only about her. If ever there was a guy who needs to disappear after the break-up, never to be heard from again, it would be Ray. But exes always come back, don’t they? I just hope an unwanted pregnancy doesn’t leave Shoshanna — and us — stuck with this one.

 

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Sins of the Father: A Moment of Truth on “Girls”

Jessa’s dad (after Jessa has listed the ways in which he’s failed her): “You think I can rely on you?”

Jessa: “You shouldn’t have to. I’m the child. I’m the child.”

Bullseye.

As much as I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the HBO dramedy Girls over the course of 1.7 seasons, we still have our issues. For one, the highly unlikely rampant sexual escapades of a girl like Hannah. While I appreciate her quirky charm and Lena Dunham’s attempt to inject a bit more glamor into her visual presentation this season, I’m not buying that every cute guy who enters her orbit (not just her on-and-off ex Adam, but the drugstore worker last season, the 19-year-old almost-virgin, the hot doctor played by Patrick Wilson, who, despite the flop that was A Gifted Man, ought to be on my TV screen every week) eventually ends up wanting to get inside her panties.

Yes, I get that Dunham is comfortable with onscreen nudity, and she might be doing wonders for the self-esteem of women with “normal” bodies everywhere, but in a TV universe where her decidedly hotter friends Jessa and post-break up Marnie keep attracting average-looking dudes, if Hannah is going to get around as much as she does, she probably should be doing it with a few more guys who look like her coke dealer/neighbor from several episodes ago..

Second, with the exception of her two-episode token black boyfriend at the beginning of the second season (I’m still dying to know how they got together — and while they’re at it, how she got home from Coney Island — since we entered their short-lived story mid-story), Hannah still seems to exist in a world of colorless color.

Third, the last three episodes have felt like tangents veering off from the central story of Hannah and her mid-twentysomething girlfriends in New York City. The Patrick Wilson episode seemed like it belonged to an entirely different series, and in the end, was just an excuse to show Wilson naked (a diversion I’ll take any week of the month) and to get Hannah to admit that she wants to be happy.

The next one, was even more of a curiosity, with Hannah mostly on the sidelines. I should probably relate more than I do to Ray since he’s closer to my age than the rest of the regular cast, but the character hasn’t been given enough redeeming qualities (I’m still shaking my head at his treatment of Dr. Dreamy) or back story for me to care about him. Now is not the time for his tears. I have no interest in them — not with Marnie’s far more interesting and sympathetic ex, who also happens to be Ray’s best friend and bandmate, MIA for episodes at a time (currently three and counting).

Then there was the trip to visit Jessa’s dad in the February 24 episode, the seventh of the second season. My biggest problem with it wasn’t the terrible parenting of Jessa’s dad (played by Ben Mendelsohn, the Aussie actor whom I loved in Animal Kingdom), the skimpy screen time for Rosanna Arquette (who looks fantastic and also should be on my TV screen every week), or even Hannah’s quickie sex with Jessa’s soon-to-be (maybe) stepbrother. My No. 1 gripe with the episode — and all of the recent Jessa-heavy episodes — was Jessa herself. I’m still not sure how we’re supposed to feel about her.

Obviously, she’s masking a lot of personal pain with her blase free-spiritedness, and we finally got a glimpse of that inner turmoil. Now that we know where her terrible attitude comes from, I’m still having a hard time believing that real-life girls, who can be so demanding and critical of their female friends (see The Real Housewives ofanywhere), would ever put up with Jessa.

It would be easier to handle her insouciant bitchiness, and she’d be more sympathetic as the product of bad parenting if she were occasionally being called out for her insensitivity, but the other girls seem almost oblivious to her lapses in courteous behavior. Had Marnie done to Hannah what Jessa did at the end of the last episode, there’d be so much hell to pay. But if Jessa does get scolded for it by Hannah, it will no doubt happen offscreen.

The great beauty of Girls, though, is that despite its flaws, the sharp writing always manages to pull me back in, whether it’s Hannah’s break-up conversation with her token black boyfriend, her moments of naked honesty with Dr. Dreamy, or Jessa’s conversation with her father, the best part of the February 24 episode, during which they started to pick at the scabs of the wounds they’d inflicted on each other. For once, I found myself on Team Jessa, though I would have been more in the other Girls girls’ corners had one of them been the one having the same conversation with her dad.

As someone with a complicated father-son relationship, I found the exchange difficult to sit through but worth the extra effort. It should be required viewing for every parent who sits around passively, harboring great expectations of their children. If only Hannah would be so honest with her own parents (her phone conversation with them was also excellently written and acted), rather than shrugging and playing victim in her own head, maybe she’d be getting somewhere.

She’d probably get even further professionally if she wrote about her loving yet difficult relationship with her parents — so unique yet so universal, making it ripe to plunder for literary purposes — instead of random cocaine binges. But then, we still don’t see Hannah doing much writing — or much of anything, for that matter. It begs the question: How exactly is she making enough money to spring for Jessa’s $11 whiskey craving while paying double rent now that her rent-paying gay ex has moved out and the presumably free-loading Jessa has moved in? From mopping floors at Ray’s coffee shop? From “inking” her e-book deal?

Oh, details. They just get in the way. Which kind of sounds like something Hannah would say.

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Black and White, Republican Vs. Democrat: The Last Episode of “Girls” Really Got Me Thinking….

If I wasn’t completely convinced of Lena Dunham’s prowess as a writer, a scene in the second season-two episode of Girls that premiered on January 20 — an argument between Hannah and her new boyfriend Sandy, a black Republican — sold me on it 100 percent.

I still have no idea if Hannah can even write, though. Unlike Sex and the City, which was grounded by Carrie Bradshaw’s literary musings, Girls has kept its heroine scribe’s written word mostly a mystery. But I’m still marveling at how much ground Dunham the writer covered in the space of about four and a half minutes.

My internal debate continues over Sandy’s comment about white girls who come to New York City and date black guys, treating it as something merely to be crossed off their bucket lists. I’ve met guys like that, and I’ve dated a few of them, too — in and out of New York City. Interestingly enough, just the night before I watched the episode of Girls, I saw a gay Australian stand-up named Nathan doing a routine at the Laird in Melbourne about the Monday night he and his friend wandered into a black club in New York City, and for the first time, he hooked up with a black guy — or rather, as he put it, “a black bear.”

“Oh, I see there’s one out there in the audience right now,” he said, pointing in my direction before beginning his story.

“Who me? I am not a bear.” I was annoyed. I hate stand-up as it is, and now I had to suffer through it while everyone kept glancing over at me to check my reaction. And furthermore, I was no “bear” (gay slang for a hairy guy). Didn’t he see my hairless face? I considered doffing my shirt just to show him and everyone else in the bar that the rest of my body was similarly groomed.

As I listened to Nathan tell his long, pointless story, I wondered how much different it would have been had I not been in the room. It wasn’t a particularly racist tale (though he could have skimped on his overuse of the term “black bear,” which sounded so pejorative the way he kept saying it, possibly because of his strong Aussie accent). It wasn’t particularly funny either — he received only a few polite laughs — but I wondered how many first-timers I’ve hooked up with who were secretly so acutely aware of my skin color and maybe even turned our tryst into a comedy routine. I’ve gotten pretty good at fending off chocolate queens (the ones who only date black men), but those bucket-list queens — far more prevalent in Buenos Aires, Melbourne and Bangkok than they ever seemed to be in New York City — are impossible to avoid.

In Hannah’s defense, she had the perfect comeback to Sandy’s complaint. Since he’s had so many of these experiences with white girls, maybe he should consider the possibility that he fetishizes white women. Score! Thank God nobody has ever presented that argument to me. It would certainly be an appropriate one.

Although I have no ethnic restrictions when it comes to dating and hooking up, my serious and semi-serious boyfriends all have been white and Latino. I can’t say that it’s by accident either. I completely own my double standard, and I have several reasons for it (my own insecurity, childhood issues with black bullies, not wanting to compete with my boyfriends for attention in public) that I may expound upon in a future blog post.

I also thought this part of Hannah vs. Sandy was intriguing because of how it reflected Dunham herself. She fielded a lot of criticism last season for the lack of black characters in the New York City depicted in Girls, and giving Hannah an instant new black boyfriend in this season’s first episode seemed like her way of making amends. Now both she and Hannah could cross it off their lists at the same time.

Some other interesting points were made during the argument regarding gun control, the death penalty, mixed marriages (Republicans vs. Democrats) and Missy Elliott, but it was the one that kicked it off that really struck home with me. “If he’s not reading your essays, he’s not reading you,” Jessa told Hannah (so true — I’ve always judged boyfriends by how interested they are in what I write), leading Hannah to confront Sandy about why he hadn’t read the essay she’d given to him.

Newsflash!: He’d already read it, but he just didn’t know how to break the news to her that he didn’t like it. As I watched the beginning of the fight unfold, I thought of an uncomfortable conversation I once had with my first boyfriend, a German-American artist named Derek, after he slammed a review I had written on Enya’s Shepherd Moons album. (Give me a break: It was 1992, and Enya was huge!) He criticized my overuse of adjectives and my mannered writing. I was trying too hard. He said that in writing about the album, I didn’t come across the way I did when I talked about it. The review wasn’t conversational enough.

Derek’s critique was hard to hear, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t reward him for his honesty at the time. But in hindsight, it might have been more constructive than any criticism any of my editors ever gave me afterwards. It certainly influenced my writing (in a positive way) more than any negative review I’ve gotten since. I gained a lot from my year and a half of dating Derek, but his honesty and bluntness about that Enya review, and my writing in general, might have been the best thing he ever did for me.

Hannah pretended to take Sandy’s critique better than I initially took Derek’s, but she really didn’t. By the end of the scene, they’d broken up. I hope it’s not for good. Their mixed relationship might ultimately be a lost cause, but what dramatic/comedic potential!

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Why I’m Finally Getting Turned On by “Girls” (And Just in Time for Season 2!)

Don’t worry (or rejoice, depending on where you stand on the subject), my sexual preference remains intact. But to everyone who’s ever said I can’t admit when I’m wrong, this one’s for you: I was wrong.

Well, sort of.

Back in August when I watched the HBO series Girls for the first time – using the ninth episode and the first-season finale as my points of entry — I was so underwhelmed that I had to write about it. Encouraged by friends whose opinions I respect, I promised myself to try it again, this time starting from the beginning. Last weekend I finally got around to it, and as expected (by my friends with good taste, not me), after watching all of season one in its entirety — and in order, from the first to the 10th episode — I find myself eagerly awaiting the second season. January 13 (when it premieres) can’t get here fast enough!

Some things haven’t changed. I still think the writing can be too arch, in that self-conscious Williamsburg-hipster way (which might be more a reflection of the Brooklynites that populate Girls than the quality of creator/writer/director/executive producer/star Lena Dunham’s work), and the acting is uneven. But I get that the show isn’t really aiming for Friday Night Lights-style television vérité either.

Also, I stand by my assertion that the Brooklyn it presents could use more color (as in people, not pastels). But now that I understand the specific segment of Brooklyn it represents — those ironic, unapologetic hipsters — the whiteness of the core cast makes more sense. Despite the average hipster’s claim to open-mindedness, free-thinking and great taste in music, it’s a subculture that tends to be incredibly insular and incredibly white.

Girls is a show about the kind of people for whom Wes Anderson films — also exceedingly ironic… and white — are made, girls whose parents probably loved Woody Allen movies in the ’70s and ’80s. Come to think of it, it’s not like the Manhattan of Woody Allen, to whom Dunham has been compared, was brimming with black faces. Next season, though, Girls will add a splash of color when writer/rapper/musician/stand-up/actor Donald Glover joins the cast.

Obvious comparisons also have been made between Girls and another NYC institution, Sex and the City (and can be extended to pretty much any series with four female leads: The Golden Girls, Designing Women, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland and Australia’s Winners & Losers). But although Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda grew into more multi-dimensional women as the show progressed, Carrie’s Bradshaw’s friends were more or less archetypes. Women — and gay men — are always asking each other and themselves which one they are, and the most common answer involves Carrie Bradshaw and a blend of the others.

The girls on Girls — Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna — would probably say the same, though Jessa wouldn’t be caught dead watching SATC, and Hannah would no doubt hate it. If I’d initially watched the show in the order that God — and Dunham — intended, beginning with the pilot, I probably would have immediately assigned a type to each one. But by the second or third episode, they were already challenging first impressions and revealing themselves to be complicated twentysomething women — and pretty likable, too.

I’d much rather hang out with SATC‘s Samantha and Miranda than Charlotte (too boring and traditional) or Carrie (even with gay BFF Stanford in her life, I always got the impression that she thought her heterosexual romances were more significant than his homosexual ones), but I’d totally go to a party, even one in Brooklyn, with Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna, and I’d want to spend equal time with each of them. Like the guy whom Jessa ended up marrying in the finale, I might even want to hook up with Marnie and Jessa!

No, our girls aren’t always nice. They’re more flawed than the SATC ladies, maddeningly so, but I still feel invested in their stories — not so much what happens to them as how they react to it. Sex and the City was about relationships and friendships and the actual events in the characters’ lives, but Girls is more introspective. Hannah and Jessa would probably make fun of four thirty/fortysomething women who got together to discuss nothing but men over lunch. Girls is more focused on the inner lives of the characters than it is on boys, hence all the lengthy monologues about the characters’ favorite subject: themselves.

If there’s a theme running through the first 10 episodes, it’s that people can be unbelievably self-involved (especially writers!) and that, ultimately, we’re not in this together — we’re all on our own. It’s not exactly feel-good stuff, but I’d rather wince at these generally decent people behaving selfishly than at the dumb fat jokes that filled the first season of Mike & Molly. I’m still not sure what to do with the rampant nudity, which has featured mostly Dunham and not the traditionally “hotter” actresses, all daughters of famous people, who play her trio of friends, or that one completely unexpected sex scene in the sixth episode between Peter Scolari and Becky Ann Baker, the fiftysomething actors who play Hannah’s professor parents, in the bathroom, in the buff.

Since my initial entry into the series was from the vantage point of the ninth episode, when Hannah and Marnie have that big fight at the end, I had little context for the blowout and just saw two spoiled brats hurling insults at each other. Viewing it again in the context of the entire first season up to that point, I realized something I hadn’t seen before: They were making some valid points in that normal clunky twentysomething way. They’re good friends to each other, but terrible ones, too. And they both spend way too much time overthinking everything and dwelling on themselves. (So many pots calling kettles that particular shade of black on this show.)

Hannah, though thoroughly appealing, treats people more like characters in the memoir she’s constantly writing in her head than living breathing beings. And insecure Marnie spends all that time on her perch, looking down on the disappointing little people below, so that she can feel better about herself. That the besties only seem to want the guys they’re with when the guys act like they don’t want them is not only a reflection of the tendency of women to go after the unattainable bad boy but evidence of Hannah’s and Marnie’s extreme narcissism, too. Girls, and boys, are so like that.

Also indicative of the self-involvement of these ladies are the scenarios in which both Marnie and Shoshanna meet their first-season love interests. Both are high on drugs, and they bond with the guy after they’re abandoned by their friends/babysitters (in Marnie’s case, Hannah, and in Shoshanna’s case, Jessa) for — what else? — a guy.

The moral of Girls‘ story (so far): At the end of the day — and night — you can only count on you. It’s a depressing thought, but it makes that final finale shot of Hannah sitting alone on Coney Island, eating wedding cake, all the more perfect.

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7 Random Thoughts I Had Last Night While Watching “Enlightened” and “Girls” on HBO

1. I didn’t realize how much I miss watching HBO original series on HBO — or maybe I’m just that desperate for decent TV that isn’t in the form of a bootleg DVD picked up on Silom Road in Bangkok! In Buenos Aires, I think Showtime was part of my Cablevision subscription, but that’s just a poor man’s HBO, isn’t it? It looks like this mini-HBO reunion is going to be the bright side of spending two days in Laos. I can finally catch up on some of the stuff I’ve been reading so much about, like Enlightened and Girls. Is it just me, or do they both have a sort of indie-film aesthetic? Is this the new normal on cable TV by subscription? I can live what that.

2. Laura Dern is so freaking good. Without her, I don’t think Enlightened would really interest me. I can’t take my eyes off her, and I find myself rooting for her character, sympathizing with her, although as a newcomer to this show, I don’t know much about her back story. I can remember when she was on the verge of a brilliant big-screen career in the ’90s. It never really happened for her, though. Now she gets to be fourth billed, after Amy Adams — and below the title, too! — in Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming film The Master. She’s an Oscar nominee dammit. Show some respect!

3. It’s so strange that Diane Ladd, Dern’s off-screen mom, always seems to be getting cast as her onscreen mother, like they’re a packaged deal or something. She’s been Oscar-nominated twice for playing her mom (in Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose), and I think when Dern got her Best Actress mod for Rambling Rose and Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, it was the only time a mother and daughter were nominated for playing mother and daughter (how On Golden Pond of them). One would assume they are close in real life, but they are really selling this Enlightened dynamic of an estranged mother and daughter tentatively coming back together. The scene with the hair, when Ladd seems unsure whether to pull it or stroke it, is pure gold.

4. Ah, an ad for The Newsroom. The concept feels a little ’90s, since news rarely breaks in traditional newsrooms anymore. Wait, is that Jane Fonda? (A quick Wikipedia check reveals that it is.) I wonder why her doing television hasn’t been played up more in the media? Maybe it has, but I just missed it. Too bad her acting comeback hasn’t resulted in anything more memorable than Monster-in-Law, which I didn’t hate, but still, who would want that to be the last noteworthy entry in their filmography? Even Jennifer Lopez escaped that!

5. I’ve been reading a lot of great things about Girls and its multiply Emmy-nominated creator/writer/director/star Lena Dunham, but judging from these two episodes, I think I respectfully dissent. I’m slightly underwhelmed by both the performances and the writing, both of which are maddeningly self-conscious. Maybe I’m just too far removed from twentysomething angst for it to register with me in any meaningful way. I wanted less whining about Hannah’s sluggish writing career and fighting with her roommate and more Adam Driver, the sexy guy whose push-pull relationship with Dunham’s Hannah is something anyone at any age of any gender and sexual persuasion can relate to (minus the part where he tells her he loves her — only in the movies, and on TV!).

The other stuff just feels so foreign and staged, like these are the bricks and mortar from which twentysomething ennui is built. Aren’t we deep? I somehow manage to find more common ground with the ghost, the vampire and the werewolf on Being Human (the UK version, which along with the North American version, airs on the Sony Channel in Bangkok). And the middle-aged woman’s comment to 21-year-old half-dressed Tom (the werewolf) in the episode that aired a couple of weeks ago — “Put on some clothes, young man. This isn’t The Jungle Book — is more clever than anything I’m hearing tonight.

6. Where are all the people of color, you know the ones who make up a significant portion of the NYC population? Why don’t I ever see black people on TV shows set in New York City, where not everyone is white. The only significant black presence I’ve noticed tonight is Beyonce singing “Halo” on the soundtrack — and that’s probably her whitest hit to date!

7. Coming up next: Middle Men. I can always use another Gabriel Macht sighting (Suits begins airing tonight in Bangkok on Universal), but no more Luke Wilson for me. His few scenes in Enlightened were enough for me. Time for bed.

Gabriel’s fire: I love a handsome, sharp-dressed man in “Suits.”

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