Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

She could be running off copies at Kinko's and saying that she has a press.

What my mom asked for for Mother's day was to get Chipotle and watch every episode of Girls with me, so I have some renewed perspective on the show as a unit - this is the halfway mark - to say nothing of the perspective I have gained regarding my mother's viewing habits (currently getting rehabbed after total immersion in my sister's gutter palate of the Real Housewives of Mortville).

Girls Episode Five, "Hard Being Easy"

This episode is initiated by a very ritualistic, very sadomasochistic gesture by Charlie, who forces Hannah to read what she's written in her journal about his and Marnie's relationship. He's all ready read it - aloud, to an audience at the end of the last episode. This is a power play. He and Marnie argue about the veracity of feelings as relayed by a third party, and Hannah talks as if she is alone, musing to herself about what makes a journal a journal as opposed to a notebook (which is what she has, "notes for a book"). Childish as this may come across, I think Hannah's reaction to Charlie and Marnie is pitch perfect. Those two are brilliantly inarticulate - he makes the case that he is "important to the community of the apartment" and Marnie says "I did nothing wrong." They aren't even really saying anything, which is a much more authentic means of arguing than their exposition-ridden fizzles in previous episodes. Hannah asks Marnie if she could divorce herself from the situation and judge the essay as a piece of writing. David Haglund criticized the scene and said it didn't work - I vehemently disagree. Hannah has known Marnie and has metabolized Marnie's psychotic nonsense for unforetold years. Hannah knows Marnie blames her for the demise of her relationship, and Hannah knows that's nonsense. Marnie struts out her enmeshitude full-force in the follow-up conversation where she invalidates Hannah's well-meaning consolation by dismissing it because Hannah has no frame of reference - she has never been loved as much as Charlie loves Marnie. "Except by me," says Marnie, "I love you that much." This from the girl who stated in episode two that she was put on this planet to be a mother. Hannah plays it off with the skill and consideration of a professional best friend. This is really subtle, and if you have never been loved this much by a person as messed up as Marnie, you'll miss it entirely, how deft and small and exact their relationship is.

Hannah's version of she and Adam in the last episode is hilariously sad. She has occasion to gush about how "together" they are after he engaged her in the most feeble way possible so that she might just shush and now she is fully armed, fully justified to do some completely insane things because somebody loves her - somebody who isn't the flavor of crazy Marnie happens to be. I really cannot wait to see the Hannah/Marnie dynamic picked apart more. If not Adam, then some guy -more deserved - could get genuinely close to Hannah, which would make Marnie act like a total fool. I am on board. The only person who is aware of the fact that Marnie is poison, who remains broadly and reductively so, is Jessa, who, as she walks along and listens to Hannah talk about Adam, plants the seed of her escalation of workplace-sex-weirdness. The more Jessa and Hannah hang out, the more I think about Jessa getting angry in episode two, when Hannah reacts in a very self-absorbed way to Jessa's real problems. I think that was, on Hannah's part, a reaction tailored to living with Marnie, not a conscious reaction to Jessa, to whose presence she is still adapting. As much as the audience knows Hannah is idealizing her tryst with Adam, Jessa's idealization of sexual harassment is very much implied, and I look forward to these two dropping the facade and being honest with each other. After a few more talks, they will stop worrying about impressing each other or living in idealized worlds as a result of their interaction and get down to some raw, Tiny Furniture conversation. Every action that exists as an exchange between two people in this episode is so many-layered, it's staggering and very un-television in a way that is really a boon for all television-kind.

Ray works at CAFE GRUMPY! Where he verbally abuses a young female customer and sews more demon-seeds by relaying Charlie's address to Marnie. "I don't even want to hate-fuck you, it's that real," he says to her as she leaves. My only hope for Ray is that he never redeems himself.

When Hannah couldn't break down the box, I surrendered my critical distance.

As Hannah fails at work and Marnie pursues Charlie, Jessa preps for a date at the house of the parents whose children she sits. I do not think that Jessa is very calculating or has any sinister intentions with the kids' dad. She is very open with him, versus the behavior she demonstrates later and the wildly calculated "seduction" of the boss that Hannah executes in language that made me shriek and cover my face. I watched Mad Men right afterwards and did the same thing. It takes a lot. "You should act on this fantasy because I am gross and so are you." "I'm quitting this job for sexual reasons." One time a friend of mine was trying to decide on a monologue to perform for an audition and she went with Patrick Bateman's confessional phone call from American Psycho. I would like to see this bolstered by acting-enthusiasts into the monologue hall of fame, because for content, it's right up there with, "Howard! It's Bateman, Patrick Bateman. You're my lawyer so I think you should know I've killed a lot of people." Hannah's exertion of power is laughed off really beautifully by her boss, who reassures her he isn't mad because he enjoys her and feels she has potential. But she is all ready humiliated - this is a new low, I would think, but I'm hesitant to jump to that conclusion about Hannah. My feeling about Hannah's ritualized humiliations - I don't believe she feels challenged most of the time, and when she is genuinely challenged by things like a Windows computer, she deflects it by creating very mired-in-human-feeling problems. Because she is sensitive, she can navigate these and appreciates these as exercises. And people challenge her and interest her.

Immaculate Marnie attempts to sneak into a skeezy apartment only to find that Charlie has a tricked-out micropad full of self-constructed furniture that she likens ebulliently to a Target ad, repulsing everyone. Their attempt at closure is woven throughout the episode and includes a flashback to the Galactic Safe Sex Ball at Oberlin College, 2007. Jessa is there, and I choose to believe that she's in town for the party. I am sticking fast to the hope that she's the one from New York who knows Hannah somehow and she and her seed-planting ways plant the seed of desire to move there, and that she did not go to college. I can't believe her as a character if she had it together enough to apply in the first place. Charlie and be-banged Marnie met that night, hence the flashback (when Marnie looked uncannily like a girl I knew in college, although she had outgrown the look Marnie exhibits here by the time she got to school and was halfway between that and the totally laquered look they both favor now - whatever, I don't put it beyond Marnie). "I decided on you," Charlie says, presenting a grim and remote vision of relationships and enticing her ever more. Marnie begs him to not break up with her, bargains with him, grovels! When they move in for the makeup bone, she snaps out of her dense thicket of nonsense. Charlie is really assertive and she is no longer begging - she is being commanded, and she can't deal with it. When there isn't anything more to beg for, she breaks up with him.

This and other facets of this episode demonstrate - in a much more realistic range than in, say, a soap opera, where a character might be endowed with a certain bent for dominance of submissive behavior to the point it flattens out the character into a single gesture - tact and power are fluid and external - situational - as much as they are influenced by one's temperament. Marnie thinks she wants a guy to be assertive, but Charlie is assertive and constantly making plain what he wants. She is the one who witholds. Her reactions and feelings exist not in herself but in the space between she and other people - she sees others as her own limbs, and that makes Hannah's "better to cut off the limb and let the stump heal" overwhelmingly apt. If Booth Jonathan, the artist from episode three who she finds so inspirational and aggressive, could tell her that, he would redeem his name and the presence of the art-scene Marnie exists in, if he could just clue her in to the fact that she doesn't treat people, herself among them, like people. Ray's observation in the last episode - when he sees a family photo of Marnie's and says "whenever I see a family like this I wonder if they're all having sex with each other" - also becomes, in light of her behavior, super insightful. Incest or no, enmeshment is a seriously intrusive quality that diminishes boundaries and can cause a lot of confusion, and while enmeshment does not imply incest, incest begets enmeshmed behavior very hard. I wouldn't be surprised if Marnie's Facebook wall is full of her mother intercepting compliments about Marnie's accomplishments in order to take credit for them. What I hope I am communicating effectively here is that while something like that, like abuse, is something I'd love to see the show take on, I don't think anything has been planted to point to the fact that that is what's going on with Marnie, however I think that the kind of boundary-erasing that happens between families and their young girls is genuinely weird and damaging and absolutely rampant and that would be tremendously important to address. And Marnie is a perfect tool for that. You're a shared tool, Marnie.

Jessa hangs out with an ex who is currently dating a woman with a small press, which Jessa quips about gloriously. She is totally calculated here and exacting revenge with every move. She takes him back to the apartment - which is Shoshanna's, where Shoshanna very much is - and enjoys a variety of moves that zap the makeup off her face before rejecting a kiss and dismissing Mr. Circus-stache. Shoshanna watches it all. "You're a batshit little perv!" Jessa declares. I was pretty disappointed to find that Shoshanna didn't do something really perverted. Maybe she will become a serial peeper! I would LOVE to see this show venture into that kind of terrain. But, as I was saying, power: Jessa's decision to ravish Circus-stache was to prove her "unsmotable" quality - he wanted to see her while he was in town, preparing to move in with small press woman. Jessa felt this was dubious and his intentions were, in fact, to give her the opportunity to seduce him. That's why she donned her "sexy geisha" guise - that is exactly what he wanted, and he used it against him. This is the kind of cycle Jessa is in, I would assume, most of the time, and what most of her interactions consist of, and why someone who did not approach her like "here I am - I'm not saying seduce me, I'm just saying, here I am and look at how you're dressed." I don't think babysitting dad is like that. So far their family unit strikes me as cohesive and affectionate with very usual troubles. I have faith in this story line and, again, in Jessa in general. She's very complex, and as much as I'm over it in characters overall, I accept the way she uses sex as it is authentic and look forward to that being explored.

To bring the episode to a neat finish (badumTISH), Adam mirrors Charlie in the opening scene and accomplishes the same thing Hannah did in the last episode, albeit less verbally. He gets himself in a loop attempting to reject Hannah and then presents her with an opportunity to extend to him what he really needs, which is someone who will step up to the challenge that he is. She comes out of the bathroom and he is whacking it. He initiates an exchange, prompting her to call him pathetic and bad and disgusting. She rolls with it. She excels at it. She goes to enjoy it and he tells her no, so she seizes the reigns and extorts him for money. He apologizes himself into a frenzy and then some shit spills out of his mouth that makes her scream at him, and that does it. He finishes and offers her a handshake with the offending extremity. This was read by LV Anderson as a gesture of solidarity. I don't believe that's how Adam meant it, but I do love that after an episode full of pretty morbid, unfriendly little power-plays, Hannah ends on an even playing field with someone. Not with the right person, but with the person she wants to be with. When her boss extended her the metaphorical DNA-covered hand of mutual exposure (she was directly engaging behavior that he inspired with his groping), it had to do with herself as an employee, as an office worker, as something she had no faith in. But Adam engages her on the level of adventure after revealing he's as ambivalent about their relationship as she is, a more sincere gesture that she can do more with than his lame "don't go" look and kiss in the last episode.

In conclusion, for being a piece of criticism I resoundingly agree with and delighted in reading, an absolute, eternal YES.

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