A piece written months ago that I'm just now getting around to posting:  
Recently, my imaginary eighteen-year old child, Yardstick, was watching her favorite new television program:  “Girls.”  Being an expert on all things media and a terrific imaginary parent, I decided to take in every episode back to back in order to protect Yardstick from potential bad influences, like the NRA or baldness.  I’d heard through the genius grapevine that “Girls” suffered from all-manner of problems and was much too in love with its own narcissism to entertain the likes of my darling girl, let alone lonely older folks with nothing better to do than make up imaginary children and write about television.  But when I saw the show I discovered something surprising:  it’s good.  And I began to suspect that there must be something else lurking behind the negative-Nancy blogospherists who have been taking pleasure in kicking the show in the ovaries.  Thus, I decided it was my duty to leap to its defense.  Since “Girls” recently won the Golden Globe for best new comedy, it clearly doesn’t need me to defend it, but I’m a man and my Y chromosome insists that things are not properly approved of until I say so.
I began by asking my Grandpa Schlomo what he thought the problem was.  “People are schmucks,” he answered before stapling a “kick me” sign to my back and trampling my asparagus fern to death.  But he had a point.  People are schmucks.  And their critiques of the show smack of envy.  “I’m smart and talented but I don’t have my own show and the world isn’t fair and I hate Lena Dunham!”  This leads me to:
Critique number 1:  the show is written and populated by actors who would be no where without their famous parents.  This notion, however true, is not a critique of the show as far as I can tell.  In fact, if the people who make this complaint bother to pull their heads out of their keyboards, they’ll see that the world works very much this way.  Those waiting for a true meritocracy are much like the characters depicted in Girls:  entitled, narrow-minded and narcissistic.  These people should watch the show, in fact, so they can see their own images reflected back at them.  (There’s a hilarious episode in season 1 when Hannah discovers her hated college rival has written a popular memoir.  She says something like, “she’s got no talent, she’s just lucky her boyfriend died.”)  At least the characters on the show are characters on a show.  And they’re funny.  Hey, guess what, it’s true:  all four women have famous or semi-famous parents, but Hollywood has always been a place that thrives on nepotism.  Ever heard of Michael Douglas?  Melanie Griffith?  No one seems to mind that Scott Caan kicks bad-guy butt every week on the new Hawaii Five-O, so why are bloggers hating on Dunham and the other kiddies?  “Yeah, but it’s not just that.  I watched the show and, like, gross, the characters are all so mean to each other.  Yuck!”
Critique number 2:  the characters on the show are not likeable.  This is a legitimate complaint if you don’t like shows with unlikable characters and if this is the case, you shouldn’t watch “Girls.”  End of story.  Nor should you watch “Seinfeld” or “Arrested Development” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or almost every movie made by Woody Allen.  Full disclosure:  I love Woody and “Arrested Development,” and was raised on milk, cookies and “Seinfeld.”.  These shows/directors/people exaggerate our worst traits to criticize the people who behave this way.  So why are bloggers so angry at Dunham when she is only borrowing from others?  After all, the show does not strike me as advocating the lives of these women, or even critiquing them.  It depicts them, warmly and with humor, and welcomes us to bring our own critical adult eye to the proceedings.  The big difference is that these characters are primarily women, and unlikable ones.  Perhaps that’s the first layer of the onion I’m hoping to peel.
Critique Number 3:  They have too much sex on the show.  And Critique Number 3a:  they’re always naked!  I’m not precisely sure how this is even a critique of something except perhaps “The Jay Leno Show,” but let me at least point out that the sex on “Girls” is only occasionally gratuitous.  Compare it to the sex on a show like, say, “Game of Thrones,” one of my favorites, and it’s downright gritty.  Maybe on occasion the producers take advantage of being on HBO, but they can be forgiven this indulgence, I think, because as Uncle Abe likes to say, “I like sex more than ice hockey!”  And so maybe the show isn’t holding a mirror up to life, but it’s a damned nature documentary compared to, say, the worst thing to happen to television since the invention of the internet.  That’s right, “Sex and The City.”  Now you’re wondering, “sure, but what do you know about lady sex?”  Not much, I’ll admit, although I read a magazine at the dentist’s office once.  But I know this:  “Girls” is a show about sex and relationships.  The operative word there is “show.”  It’s entertainment.
“How many damned layers of the onion are you peeling,” you may be asking yourself by now, in particular if you skipped lunch.  “Get on with it!”  You sound just like Grandpa Schlomo after his morning bran muffin.  But you’re right, this really comes apart very quickly.  It seems to me the main critique of the show is this:  it’s a fairly smart, kinda funny, pretty quirky, sometimes realistic show about WOMEN.  Acted by WOMEN.  Produced by WOMEN.  Written by WOMEN.  And this reality gives a fair number of men and as many women a pain in their vaginas.  (Aside:  is it vaginae?  The plural comes up so infrequently in my life).  Is it the greatest show ever?  No, it’s not “The Wire.”  But neither is “Boardwalk Empire” or “Breaking Bad,” and those terrific shows seem to get on with their business with a lot less internet noise.  Some folks, I surmise, can’t stand to see women succeed.  Or control things.  Or tell stories about sex.  Or relationships.  Or sex.  Or sex.  Those people are wary pedestrians standing on the side of the street as race cars buzz forward into the future.  They should relax, have a little wine before watching television, maybe stop taking “Jeopardy” so seriously. Or they might even turn off the TV and find someone with whom to have sex.  (I always get the good ideas after I’ve wasted an afternoon).  Anyway, I’ll let Yardstick have the last word on this:  “Oh dad, no one cares what bloggers have to say.  And “race cars?!”  You so suck at using metaphors.”

No comments: