Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuberculosis in a garret.

I had a visceral, generally negative reaction to Tiny Furniture when I saw it. I watched it as soon as Lena Dunham announced it was streaming on Netflix, which had to be sometime in the fall. If it was in October it was the epitome of appropriate: I was almost unemployed - since I quit my job for a new one and the new one fell through - and my parents made my loan payment, which was a huge blow to me because my student loans and the responsibility of paying them back is extremely mine and I'm proud of it. I am still working through my feelings about Tiny Furniture. I was really frustrated with the lack of coverage about it. Now, since her show Girls is on, I do not want for Lena Dunham coverage. And as critical as her work inspires me to be, I'm so grateful for that. I like to be provoked. And because I really want to hear as many voices on the subject as possible, I will lead by demonstration and inaugurate my catalog of feelings about her new work.

Girls, Episode One, "Pilot"

There is something so perfect, beyond comic timing, about the way Dunham as Hannah says "two abortions, right in a row." The decision to follow that up with "and no one came with her" I loved - this is a very smart line, that logic, that unmasked Hannah's indictment of her parent's withdrawal of their help as the fear that as she keeps screwing up - and she knows she will! - she will have no one there for her. That's some stunning economy. Almost stunning enough to buffer the reveal: her parents have supported her for two years.

I like Hannah's haplessness. I'm trying to get my mother to watch this show because she's one of the only people I know who isn't a twenty-something female who doesn't have complex and manied feelings about college/jobs or New York, because I feel like some distance from the time depicted would ease the glare of what it means to be supported for two income-less years in New York. My boyfriend was firmly repelled by my mention of watching the show. He was civil about discussing two reviews he read - one rave, one scathing. The scathing one identified the show as focusing on - I paraphrase, but I'm catching the key parts - the world of girls who hang out on the internet and the kind of lives they profess to have but cannot really sustain. The choice of the word sustain is mine. Nobody was doing much to speak of on the internet in the pilot. Those nuances are probably imperceptible to me, the way the internet - apropos of how it can predispose one to oversharing - fosters the filtering of identity-formation. I have no frame of reference for this. When I made the decision to move around the internet publicly I felt empty and embarrassed about my lack of a day job, like any achievement was an attempt to hide that. I felt the same way when I got a job. I've done enough and have such a good job, I feel more secure now. I wouldn't have that without the kind of contextualization I've gotten through - how do I phrase it - activities afforded by the internet (this is so jagged, and for girl-identity as contextualized by the internet, see Serial Experiments Lain, which is a Wikipedia disambiguation of the search term "girls"). In my very rigid review of Tiny Furniture I focus on Dunham's character Aura identifying herself as a video artist, and this is because she posts videos on YouTube. I do love a world where it's easier to say "I'm an artist." Although I wish - ah, that's in the essay.

Sustain: one of my very close friends moved to DC in February. She is one of those gloriously righteous people and was very mad to be moving to a place so clotted and bloated and price-bubbled, full of rabid white kids with sharp skills willing to do nothing harder than she can. She's kind of resigned to it now, which I like, but she tries to talk herself out of it still. She will talk about something else and then go back to it, like when we were talking about France and how concentrated Paris is, like London, versus the rest of the country, and she was hammering on my coffee table going that is unsustainable! I like that tension: how long can you live like this, Hannah?/How long can you live like this, New York? I wish that tension would be addressed.


I would have preferred the scene with Marnie to be all awkward demonstration of dynamics between she, Hannah, and Marnie's boyfriend, Charlie. One big weird leap around the kitchen, cupcakes in mouths, retainers in the air, Marie Tyler Moore audible in the bedroom, kisses blowing up instead of what actually happened. Marnie ineloquently disclosed her revulsion with her boyfriend to Hannah privately. I didn't like the way this played, but it's TV. And, more justifiably, it's what girls do - talk, filter, without skill or a firm grip on what we're attempting to express. I would like to have seen that worked on more, analyzed more, that compulsion, but oh my god this is ten minutes into one episode of a half-hour show.

I sincerely enjoyed Jessa waking up in the cab, on her way from jetsetting to see Marnie and Hannah. I love the tenderness of it, and her exhaustion. I had just taught my boyfriend about Louis Vuitton, why the girls in his office all screamed when somebody brought in a specific purse, and the true face of evil. The appearance of those dreaded initials almost took me out of the whole experience. I had the same problem watching a Dangerous Method the other night. One "that's what she said" and I was no longer anywhere near prewar Zurich.

SHOSHANNA IS SO FUNNY. But I could feel as I watched her, in a very disembodied way, so repelled - I was that vacant once (staunchly a Charlotte with Carrie-esque aspirations), I know girls that vacant now. And even though the way she flagrantly gushed over Jessa's accent, clever hat, and lack of a Facebook/contemporary pop cultural knowledge was hilarious - I love anything that gets all up in the face of pretentiousness, and would have loved to see Jessa come back a little more instead of regarding Shoshanna as an alien - even though this was great, I think, I was so overwhelmingly aware of what kind of hate Shoshanna could inspire in the people I know.

I enjoyed the sly visual disclosure of her internship site, where Hannah goes to try to get paid and winds up being dismissed. The site of Chris Eigeman inspired his immortal line - so apt! - to go booming through my head again: Eight hours ago, I was Max Belmont, English major, college senior. Now I am Max Belmont who does nothing. His dismissal of Hannah was chilling to me. His absence from their exchange was chilling and familiar. Going where it did - when she asks him if he'd still look at her mss. like he said he would, he stated that he wouldn't have her around to read it - I'm disappointed it didn't go down harder, this scene. This scene could have been a humiliation factory. Dunham can come up with these.

Case in point:

I hate the way she writes guys - I am beyond criticizing it. It means she is uncanny at capturing a certain guy. I've known that guy. I have no desire to see that guy. I did, however, enjoy the fact that the sex scene between her and her guy - who cuts her off, invalidates her subtly and pointedly - didn't stop when I assumed it would. That is all.

From what I've gleaned, Dunham's intent with Marnie's revulsion with her boyfriend is a means to explore how important and central friendship is versus a romantic relationship, which is very exciting to me, to see that not be trivialized in the pursuit of sex and weddings.

I was angry when the episode cut back to Hannah and her guy. I grimaced and told the computer "NO." The scene was brief, I was relieved, but the next scene brought with it the nightmare that is the guy from Tiny Furniture - Aura's freeloader - and again, total subjectivity, but I do not like that guy. And his incarnation in this show seems - all ready - designed with my chagrin in mind. The way he took over the room with his McDonald's rant, the invocation of the $50,000 student debt! I wanted to scream! This is a person I hate rendered with such precision! I used to call people - for a very grim living - and "talk" to them about their student debt. My job had the word "counselor" in it. One time I spoke to a mentally ill young man. I spoke to a good amount of mentally ill people, but this guy was a novelty. He was colorfully accusatory and wouldn't let me speak. He kept speculating about the destruction I would deliver upon him/his house/his family. I feel like that's this guy, after a few drinks, and it's funny because it sounds like he's amusing himself but he's actually gravely bipolar. That got dark, and there's no way I can see someone like that and not go there. I am being mostly very sincere when I say hats off to Lena Dunham, I've never developed PTSD from watching TV. I feel I am now probably safely in the majority.

The rest of the party was entertaining. Clueless: the movie or the TV show - clever demarcation of generational divide! Jessa's coke remark made me bust up. Cocaine jokes do make me laugh. I would take devil-Jessa and angel-Marnie's occupation of Hannah's shoulders over any squabble with her parents about money. Which is what happens next. At least it comes with some pro-blog advice ("get a job and start a blog" is so sound it doesn't belong on TV). Hannah swoons when her parents won't help her. Her dad knows she's high and says, "don't be angry, Hannah, I'm just really curious." One time my mom asked me if I'd ever gotten high and she was so angry I hadn't because she wanted to know what it was like. Hannah's mom's rant about wanting a vacation home made my eyes roll even more than Hannah's childishness. I hope this is the last of them and Hannah really is penniless and really has to struggle and pulls herself up with art. I hope.

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