Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This show is too well designed, too well to be held with only me in mind.

In my boundless lack of perspective, I failed to recognize how a clear shot at success as a writer is what Hannah doubts she really wants - at least more than security and love - in episode fifteen and then gets in episode sixteen. I like that, as in life, there are no definitive statements justified by momentous occurrences: Joshua is the most significant thing, the book deal is the most significant thing.

Things turn on a dime here, too.

Girls, Episode Seventeen, "Video Games"

I. Yes, no, I don't know

The first exchange in this episode, as Hannah and Jessa wait at the Manitou train station - a small shed with a map, with a river on one side of them and rural eternity on the other - is about childhood anxiety. While Hannah just suffers from the anxiety, Jessa has experienced the nightmare Hannah evokes, and when Jessa tries to bond, Hannah pounces on her casual "oh, I hate that," with the shock that Jessa's actually endured what Hannah just fears. This evokes so economically what a substantial part of their friendship has been built on: Hannah gives vent to Jessa's disgust with and sorrow for the worst parts of her life, thinking she has found someone who understands, but her reality just occupies Hannah's terrors, which Hannah blames herself for cultivating in spite of a very nice life. It's what's gotten them on this streak of slow-burn disappointment where Jessa, who has the superhuman capacity to put up with things that are less than ideal, has yet to sever ties with Hannah because she holds out hope that even if there isn't total psychic understanding, there's still love. But that is contingent upon Jessa believing she's worthy of it, which is too much.

When Hannah says she hates it when parents are late to social events, exposing even the potential for perceived neglect and dysfunction in her home life, Jessa concurs, but it's only really bad when you're molested. Hannah breaks from her rant to ask Jessa if she really was molested or if she too is just giving vent to fears. Jessa says yes/no/maybe, just like Hannah did in episode fifteen when she told Joshua that she told her mom her babysitter touched her.

I am a tough customer when it comes to the way admissions of trauma are portrayed on screen. It's hard to say something bad happened, and for how very authentic it is to hedge an admission in doubt, life will do that for you, unfortunately. Still, if Hannah or Jessa said outright that they were abused, it would provoke a whole series of consequences with that as the central motivating factor: the abuse they experienced passively, not them as assertive adults. This moment really resonated with me because it is realistically how people get to know each other - Hannah probably would have preferred that Jessa tell her that in tears, in a big speech like the one she gave to Joshua. She's probably never told Jessa about what happened to her because she's never gotten to deliver the news the right way.

I love the unique rhythms with which Jessa presents herself to Hannah and Hannah to Jessa. The plain Jessa lives on - that nothing has meaning or significance unless she forces it - all those blunt, declarative statements. She doesn't trust anything to that extreme - the subtlety with which her character is created is astonishing and so easy to miss underneath the veneer of "traveler," "free-spirit." Jessa is always trapped in the rigor of creating her own reality to compensate for the failure of the real one that would have her dealing with the fact that she was abandoned by her parents, she's still reeling from her abandonment by Hannah in and around her abortion, and more horror that happened/didn't happen/maybe it happened. Petua, Jessa's father's girlfriend, tells Hannah that life is a video game, she's just like Hannah trying to tell Jessa about her social anxieties. She has no room to speak.

II. Let's dead this

Jessa's father reminds me of the father in Melancholia, not just because of the accent - it's the total lack of stability, the absentmindedness. It is very easy to fill in the blank - Jessa's mother - with someone bitterly, excessively cruel. In fact, her parents are probably very much like Thomas-John's, just several shades more horrifying.

It took me a minute to snap out of my disappointment regarding the way the secondary characters were painted in this episode. Even those with the briefest appearances made remarkable, self-contained impacts last season, while Petua and her son, Frank, feel diminished to easy symbols of seminar-going hippie-weird and socially-backwards turtle-neck-wearing-weird. But they are in service to the story. It's a new way for Girls to use characters, and it's a more typical way. They are purely a way to bring out things in and about Jessa and Hannah, which is very television, as opposed to the real-world way the characters interacted with or failed to respond to the real people that populated the last season.

In Petua's initial discussion with Hannah, she declares her "the cushion." Hannah absolutely knows what this role is like - she even yelled at Marnie in episode thirteen about how sick she was of being her cushion, although she didn't use the word - but here she tells Petua this is new for her. I think Hannah's probably divorced what being a friend to Marnie is versus what being a friend to Jessa is, even though the moments where she blurred those lines and just allowed for the level of intimacy that both Jessa and Marnie ONLY enjoy with Hannah, it was for the good of all.

Jessa tells her dad Thomas-John said, "Let's cool this." Then he said, "Let's dead this." She speaks idiosyncratically with her dad. Jessa does not perceive herself as worth love, but she can recognize that she is worth work, and that's what she understands and is comfortable with, and in that, she's a lot like Adam. And Hannah is accepting of her brand of difficult.

Last season, Jessa's most developed relationship was with Jeff, the father of the girls she babysat. He was a flaky, preoccupied dad who, in lieu of getting to know Jessa well, projected onto her, and the extent to which this has widened the hole that caused her marriage to Thomas-John is made clearer by this example of how she and her father interact. On some level, he tells her, you wanted the marriage not to work, just like Catherine tells Jessa that she does what she does on purpose to avoid being who she really is. Both points of view are patronizing mistakes.

III. The most noble thing a woman can do

In their filthy room - the set dressing is mind-blowing to me here, it is exactly the condition of the beach house I grew up visiting; I can feel the moisture in the air - Hannah and Jessa talk about boys. Hannah can't tell if it's appropriate or not to be interested in Frank, and I like that she defers to Jessa on what qualifiers she should use in judging his attractiveness. And I love how she doesn't truly heed what Jessa says.

Jessa finds a Penthouse from '79, very much implied to be Jessa's father's. Her casualness about it suggests that this is by no means the first or even one of a few times Jessa's found her dad's spank bank. A brief aside about emotional incest: what Jessa says here and what she tells her dad later while they're on the swing-set together seem to contradict one another, but all the dots are here to be connected. If Jessa grew up finding these magazines and probably other things to which her dad devoted considerable time, then she would perceive the women who populate them as doing something positive for her dad, and that's why she believes they do a great service - "the most noble thing a woman can do" - and it's something Jessa can't do. She can't be what those women are to her father, but the pressure is there psychically because, A) I'm sure Jessa does not have the perspective (who does? Who should? Nobody should) to recognize this and tell her father this so they can clear the air, so it's all sitting inside her, B) it sounds outright incestuous, but that's because there is no alternative: she doesn't see another way to love and be loved, C) her father has really abandoned her, making those stakes seem even greater: for all we know and for all they've communicated (and, like Jessa said, communication with him is so sparse, she took a garble of numbers and letters to mean "come see me"), him telling her she could be more there for him could have sexual implications. Again, that doesn't mean he's ever abused her, the audience isn't provided that information: the audience is provided with more than enough information to conclude that they certainly don't have even the makings of a healthy relationship. There is real damage here.

The little joke that comes between the end of that scene and the beginning of the next maintains the absurd, anguished theme. I love how the humorous moments correspond with the overall emotion of the episode. Hannah's bladder is on the fritz from a UTI, and the shame of coping with it is analogous to Jessa using dinner conversation to call her dad out on his abusive behavior. "I don't remember everything about the old days, but if you said I did it..." he says. Of course, "I did it and I'm sorry," is desired, and it isn't momentous at all. Petua takes over the conversation a second later, detecting none of the significance in what Jessa's trying to say, making it even less important. And - projection alert - I'm sure Jessa's account of things has been called a lie by everyone close to her, so "if you say so" is even less kind than usual.

IV. Hungry all the time

This is the second time Hannah's been told to grow up over dinner and the second time Jessa's told someone to grow up this season. Both those incidents came from episode fourteen, and in reviewing that, I explored how both grow-ups serve different purposes for the speakers. And I recant what I said in that review, now that clarity of mind is returning to me. Marnie tells Hannah to grow up when she actually states the condition of their relationship: Marnie double-crossed her, and Hannah is mad. That unprecedented "here's what's going on" provokes Marnie into telling Hannah to grow up. Marnie demonstrated in last week's episode that she is so committed to what SHOULD be going on that she cannot face reality at all, and telling Hannah to grow up is just the same as be the way you should be, be someone that doesn't get double-crossed when I do what I want to do. I feel much better - everything is right when I'm disgusted with Marnie. Jessa's "grow up" to Thomas-John also follows a statement of fact, but I do believe Thomas-John was diminishing and misreading Jessa's motivations and her anger was fully justified.

This "grow up" comes when Hannah realizes aloud that the rabbit they're eating is the pet rabbit Petua was cuddling earlier. Hannah can't bring herself to eat it, to play the video game where devouring what you care for means leveling up. It's an empty symbol and the kind of thing I bet Marnie would find profound.

V. Video games

Frank's best friend Tyler, a lacrosse-playing poet, comes to whisk Frank away from this scene. Even though it is noteworthy that, once Hannah and Jessa are invited to hang out with them, Jessa's declining in favor of spending time with her dad is met with the fact that her dad has not cleared his schedule in spite of her visit (an echo of Hannah making plans for herself on her parents' anniversary in which they planned to include her, I like this assertion of boundaries instead of the unrealistic assumption of them), it contributes to the overall picture of their relationship yes, yes, but whatever: whatever to get Hannah and Jessa in a speeding car with two boys, doing whippets!

I LOVE their whole conversation, the sheer glee that erupts in Jessa's recklessly suicidal move. Alongside this escalating joviality is Hannah's reactionary refusal of the whippets and her bolting from the car as soon as it's stopped. Even though Jessa yells after her, Frank pursues her and he informs her that her reaction is the completely "normal human response." Although her rant is peppered with hypochondriacal Hannah-isms and Hocus Pocus references (Thora Birch FTW),  Hannah is sticking up for her refusal to play the video game, to pretend like what's happening isn't what's happening.

What's happening is called into question immediately after she says this. Frank kisses her, and first of all, LET ME TELL YOU: when she asks him, "Are you eighteen?" and he says, "No, I'm nineteen" - I LOST IT. This might be my favorite moment in the show so far. It's so alpha of Hannah, it's so unseen on television, it's such a genuine concern. I haven't had to ask a boy that since I was twenty-one, and Hannah is my age. She makes out hard with Frank while Jessa and Tyler have a searching conversation about depression that ends with her asking him if all the guys on his lacrosse team are intimate with each other. I forget what review I was reading where the reviewer was particular disappointed in the way this little moment ended so abruptly, but it's a high school question and Jessa did allude in the first few minutes of the episode that school might have meant a lot of awful things to her. In her way, and on whippets, I think she was trying to feel out sympathy: wryly.

Hannah's discovery that Jessa and Tyler just talked while she and Frank canoodled provokes some frustration and rage. Jessa chastises her for having sex with a child. Hannah defends herself, saying that was what she thought they were doing. "I wish you would have told me...I thought this was fully a sexcapade." After Jessa's "grow up," Hannah tried to have "continuity" with her, tried to get in the video game, and it was a fail.

In bed together, Jessa admits that she's feeling very badly, and when Hannah does try and comfort her, Jessa says, "Don't talk about our parents like they're the same kind of parents." There's no more forcing and creating empathy where there isn't. Jessa is through. She told Hannah to "grow up" and play along at dinner. But Hannah skipping off in the night to have sex with Frank - just like she skipped off to have sex with Adam instead of helping Jessa through her abortion - drives the nail in. That is something that is very present - the audience isn't reminded of it because, as in life, those reminders don't hang on the walls, but seriously: Jessa traveled from Indonesia, if you recall - "I was in Bali and I was shucking pearls there, and then I met a surfer...he really liked me," she said, not enthusiastically - and she did not go to either parent. She went to her cousin, to whom she is not close, in New York, to see Hannah, to see her friend, who did not know how to have here there any more than her father does here. She told Hannah to "grow up," but Hannah has a full life she's living - unskilled though that living may look, tactless as it often is - but Jessa sees here that she's the child, she needs a lot. She would probably enjoy Hannah authentically growing up to the extent that she can care for her. There is hope for that, at least, because her parents can't. Her dad can't.

Jemima Kirke delivers her lines swinging in the opposite direction of Jessa's dad. I lover her line delivery, I love the blunt force of her personality. I hope I'm not mourning it's loss with this episode. I really hope I'm not.


VI. I'm covered in filth from going through your garbage

Lili Loofbourow pointed out at Dear Television how Frank confronting Hannah with his vigil, drinking lemonade, mirrors her imposition of herself on Joshua two episodes ago. I think Frank's level of weirdness and dysfunction is probably the level on which Hannah perceives herself as functioning and demonstrates how severely she underestimates herself. He tells her she used him and he defends his interpretation of the event has sex when she denies that that's what it was. It's not possible to have the discussion of virginity they have here without the specter of Shoshanna occurring to the viewer, as well as Jessa's claim that helping a boy into sexual maturity is "the most noble thing a woman can do."

I wonder if Hannah saying she wants baby food at the store is an attention-getting move, or if she eats baby food.

When Hannah and Jessa walk home from the grocery store where they are abandoned by Jessa's dad, Aimee Mann's "How am I Different" plays and provides a small, powerful pause for Jessa. Once they're back and packed up, Hannah emerges from the bathroom - her UTI is back - and finds a letter: "See you around, my love."

Hannah winds up back on the platform, alone, not unlike the aftermath of Jessa's wedding, the last time Jessa "left her." Here, she calls her parents, and her dad answers with a warm, "Hannah banana!" Peter Scolari makes me feel as good when he says that as he makes Hannah feel. I love the way they talk to her, they jump on her when she tries to deliver a general thank you for being good parents, and they assume she wants something. I think, and maybe it will be confirmed for me next week, since they're coming to see her, that they've been let in on her job at Cafe Grumpy and current roommatelessness and are helping her out financially again. When she says she feels "there's a hammock under the earth" that protects her, it reminds me of her monologue in the first episode and her story about her friend whose lack of support from her parents resulted in "two abortions, right in a row - and no one came with her!" She is grateful for the ability to mess up, and even the hot-cold tone of her parents' responses to her outpouring of love can't diminish that. Hannah ends the episode with a pre-verbal, very childish, shrill moan of anguish as she tries to relieve her UTI-ridden self. Being the grown up or the child is one thing; knowing what to be to whom is of a greater significance.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Her lost generation.

As much as I enjoy some threads of narrative here, I have my reservations about where the overall story is ultimately going now, which is exciting. I'll expound upon that later since there's time to cleverly utilize some of what's recently arisen that I feel doesn't serve the story, but as distinct from other episodes of Girls (but not all of them), I enjoyed this one for reasons way trashier.

Girls, Episode Sixteen, "Boys"

I'll try not to fan-out too hard about Hedwig's cameo in the opening scene. Hannah's flattery of an editor whose magazine - Punked - she grew up admiring gets the kind of reaction Lena Dunham's means of thanking Tina Fay and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes got her. I love the way Hedwig gestures at her, though, like "please keep talking."

His appraisal of her work is as ambiguous and unflattering as the metaphors he uses to describe the publishing division they are there to speak about. He's read Hannah's essays - presumably on JazzHate.com - and tells her she, with this project, could speak for her "lost generation." Between this and Hedwig's insistence that a suit who comes by to say hello keep Hannah's face in mind - "in a month, she's gonna blow-up" - I really hope, as ever, Hannah is being set up to face the inverse of what happened to Dunham. And Hannah's facing something serious now that she's agreed to write an ebook for Hedwig within the month (just in time for her to blow-up). Hannah is not an easy character, but the most I've ever empathized with a fictional person is when she vomits in front of the restaurant patrons outside after the meeting.

Some credence - some tangible evidence beyond Marnie's statement in episode fourteen - is given to her relationship with Booth Jonathan. I like the decision to have Marnie talk about Hannah while she's in bed with Booth, because if he has anything to respond with, its based on Marnie's testimonials. When he acknowledges what she said, she searches for the extent of her feelings about Hannah, but Booth didn't really care and he says as much, taking away the power Marnie was trying to corral in the first place by talking about Hannah and not the nature of her relationship with him.

Booth's assistant walks in on them blithely, as blithe as Booth receives her. Marnie's propriety keeps her quiet until Booth rallies her opinion on the assistant's violation of his ice cream. Just as she had no problem conducting herself as if Booth wasn't nude, the assistant's dime-turn on Marnie's remark - which she reacts to with strong language - establishes that this environment and the people in it operate by their own barometers. If Marnie was looking for a clear-cut, precise guide for how to spend her days, she isn't going to be served by following the clues these people give. At the scene's end, Booth simultaneously invites Marnie to a party and asks her to help host it, which seems like a straightforward request upsold with a nod to the trustworthy control-freak that stirs so obviously within Marnie, but it veers just as far from what she's thinking as the assistant's walking in on them veered from Marnie's sense of decorum.

Shoshanna sells Ray on a Learning Annex class on entrepreneurship. Her total sincerity, her naivete and willingness to overcome it makes her conversations with Ray so compelling because his well-established hostility looms over Ray's every appearance. When Shoshanna names Donald Trump as a class speaker and selling point, instead of the reference serving to make Shoshanna look silly, it's like a slat coming out of a rickety bridge precariously wobbling over the perilous gorge of Ray, the biggest bitch ever. But he loves her and he lets it play, gently telling her he doesn't want what she thinks he wants. I missed Shoshanna a lot. I would love to receive a compliment from her. I would pay to get on a theme park ride where that's what happens at the end: Shoshanna tells you you make her feel "adult and intriguing."

News of Hannah's book deal has spread. I love the fact that she's writing an ebook. I feel like that's a fully realistic step as well as a significant one, and I love that Hannah takes it with perfect seriousness where its status as not-a-print-book is only challenged by an oafish peripheral someone.

Ray needs a book he's loaned Hannah, and Hannah reveals the book is gone forever since she let Adam borrow it, and just like ten episodes ago, Adam's dead to her. The fact that Ray's godmother writes him detailed notes on how the books she gives him relates to his struggles makes the fact that the book is Little Women better than it being Little Women in the first place, which is still so great. Little Women was my first solo reading project post-board-book. That and then I was really invigorated with the spirit to read great poets. So I read Tennyson and Kipling. Being eight is one thing, being ill-informed is another, and I was put off reading clear until I was a teenager. Meaning Little Women loomed pretty large as a cultural reference for me until less than a decade ago. So the part of me that feels intensely for Ray here is so weird and warped and distant that I can deal with it.

I should probably let go of my Ray-baggage at this point, however, and acknowledge that all the times Ray was completely loathsome set up the development of his character in this season to great success. I should probably.

Because the scene that follows between he and Adam is so much fun. Adam's reappearance after an absence of three episodes reassures the viewer that he is optimally in character. "He'll wear himself out, then I'll go in there and try to harness his energy," he tells Ray of the feral dog standing between them and Ray's copy of Little Women. I love that his godmother gave Ray that book, Ray who dismisses Hannah's subjects. Little Women does relate to his shit. But it's a nice escape to get into Adam's shit. Adam does Adam Masterpiece Theatre so beautifully as he explains that the dog was stolen. Ray imbues Adam's actions with a lot of personal investment to convince Adam to return the dog, and so Adam assumes Ray wants to see the dog returned. Ray will only acquiesce to going along to return the dog if Adam sees him as "back-up, in case shit gets real." I love the less-tactical but completely identical means of negotiating this friend-space as the girls demonstrate.

The first pair is Shoshanna and Marnie. I'd like to see Shoshanna, who has demonstrated some shortness with Marnie before, go completely bananas. Marnie is wrapped up in choosing what outfit to wear to Booth's party, and Shoshanna uses a Twilight reference to segue in a complaint about her relationship with Ray. She was told that where the first date was concerned, there would be mood lighting waiting for her. Marnie wants a guidebook - she is compelled by external cues and reinforcements - but Shoshanna believes there is one - she is compelled by internal cues. The external appears only because it resonates with her very deeply. Marnie does not have a resonant interior like Shoshanna.

Ray Rays-out all the way to Staten Island with Adam and his stolen dog. When he makes a history joke that Adam enjoys, he immediately uses the occasion of Adam's laughter to give vent to the way Shoshanna doesn't appreciate jokes like that. He says, when Adam asks, that things are going well with her, but Ray believes Shoshanna's recommendation of the Learning Annex class is indicative of the fact that she thinks he's a failure. When they discuss the virtues of very young and very old women, Adam says his best relationships were with a seventeen-year-old and a fifty-four-year-old. His reasons for admiring them were primal and sincere, while Ray comes at the topic from the familiar, ugly angle of pretenses and manipulation. I enjoy how much I believe the way Ray is with Shoshanna and how he turns so quickly back into slime. I love that Ray's contrivances don't serve him well, although what Adam says is true. When Ray says the two of them are not so different, he's fooling himself.

Hannah's book so far:

Chapter One:
Room For Cream?

Her name was Murjashihaway.

She is interrupted from this furious torrent of thoughts by deeply depressed Jessa. She informs Hannah that her book doesn't matter, and when Hannah informs her back as to the extent to which depression has embittered her, Jessa says, "You're the depressed person." Jessa's relationship with Hannah is the id of Marnie's relationship with Hannah. There is significantly less tension when Hannah and Jessa speak, which leaves Hannah with nothing to go crazy over but the book. Since this is not an option, she texts, and everybody knows who she texts.

Presumably, Hannah confirms her attendance at Booth Jonathan's soiree. Although Marnie declined Shoshanna's request to come, Marnie invites Hannah - she wants Hannah to see what she has now. And when Hannah comes, she looks extremely sad, wrapped in a raincoat, all in denim versus Marnie's dress "from the far-off future." Booth's Marina Abramovic story made me scream. I love that Marnie offers Hannah a drink, reveling in her being in charge. Her conduct here and the cultural cues Marnie heretofore drops that she's operating off of suggest that to be domestic, to provide support for this man, is another shade of increased intimacy. This is only believable once the audience has experienced Booth's former assistant recount her completed responsibilities to him while he's naked - and get humiliated and fired by him while he's naked. Marnie's will to have her life be the way she wants it so obscures her ability to properly read an event that took place in her presence is so strong that, at this point, it's a tiny bit regressive. But maybe with all the hardship she's suffered lately, her ability to zero-in on Booth in this hyper-idealized way is like treating herself, even more than watching fireflies in the garden.

When Marnie confronts Booth about this - once he offers her money for her services - she shuts him down, affirming that he doesn't have very much to do with her problems. She says she likes spending time with him and she likes him and his house, and while it is perceptive of him to discern that she isn't being sincere, I don't think his overblown reaction is completely sincere, either. If it is, and I am open to the fact that it is, I'm sorry it didn't work out between Marnie and Booth, because they're suited to one another. They could have gone on being two delusional ships in the night, in the starfish position.

This scene finds Marnie in a place parallel to Hannah last week: crying to a well-off man about her envy of his life. The contents of Joshua's apartment definitely had allure for Hannah, but the emotional content of that story came from the fact that that envy was not news: Joshua was, her desire to have a person like him in her life was. The value of other people surprised Hannah. Here, Marnie is only heartbroken that she couldn't will her desire for Booth's life to be hers into reality. The extent to which he is incidental in that is surprising - not fully out of character for Marnie, but surprising - and reminds me of Charlie saying he "decided" on Marnie, that he'd happily settled on being with her and was safe in that even once she became petulant with him.

Hannah makes charming small-talk with a guy in overalls (I don't know about you, but for me, overalls, no matter their context, cannot be liberated from dangerous rednecks, and for this, I don't find Hannah's reaction disproportionate). Of all the subjects, I was anxious about how the show would go about having Hannah write an ebook, nascent medium that it is, instead of a stately book. I like the fact that Hannah doesn't indicate, by referring to it as a book, whether she feels it's a book no matter what or if she's purposefully hiding the fact that it's an ebook. No matter what, she feels shame.

Back at home, unable to write, Hannah calls Marnie on impulse. They both lie about their respective states. Marnie wants urgently to talk to Hannah but not to admit defeat. The way Hannah socks her phone, I really hope it comes to blows between the two of them before the end of the season. I'm disappointed that this season has emphasized their relationship as much as it has, since I don't think it's as rich as what focusing on Hannah and Jessa's relationship could provide the narrative at this point, but that course may change next week. It was last season's last four episodes that really made the story what it is so far, so I'm hoping.

On Long Island, Ray and Adam get on the subject of Hannah, during which Ray admits that, at one month, Shoshanna's the longest relationship he's ever been in. He also considers the fact that he took her virginity to be as significant as Shoshanna does. I like that the audience finds this out because he tells Adam, and I like what one brings out in the other here, which is evidence to their respective characters that would not surface as baldly in dialogue with the titulars. Adam - who likens Hannah to a cumbersome, stuffed Tweety bird one second - defends her when Ray likens her to the maniac dog they've traveled to Long Island to return. There is a classic flash of Adam at his most terrifying when Ray dismisses Hannah in a grossly sexual way. Adam jogs into the distance, leaving Ray with the dog. Ray thought Adam would understand being misogynistic, but Adam is very sincere about sexual feelings - these traits, in contrast to one another, would never have occasion to be demonstrated elsewhere, and I like that it is a small part of the episode and does not hinge on anything. In the larger story of Girls, these two boys and their dysfunction with women are acknowledged but of only minor consequence to Hannah, et al.

Appropriately, the daughter of the dog-owner rips into Ray beautifully, and she is as severe as he is smug. It looked like a meet-cute, but I can't tell whether or not I hope it is or it isn't - I'm really sick. Don't believe anything I say.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Everything that you appear to have.

I had a hard time watching this episode. This episode made me cry. I watch these in a window on my computer, sitting at it in case I want to take notes, if anything occurs to me when I'm first seeing it. This was hard for me to be close to, so I curled up in my bed. The trigger was slight - really anything could set me off for a while - but I do want to say that part of the reason I write about these episodes of Girls is a gesture of gratitude for how involved the show makes me as a viewer and how its first season provided some relief from a thing that happened to me. A really, really bad thing happened to me and I am still extricating myself from thinking I'm the kind of person a thing like that happens to, as opposed to the reality that it could have happened to anybody. And not only did I end it, I alerted the right people, which is why this is so noun-less. I don't like to be vague, but it feels inappropriate to omit, since it has so much to do with why I do this and so, so much to do with my love for this episode.

I also want to remark on this sass-ridden TIME article by That Girl creator Bill Persky. Mr. Persky bids readers recognize the superior virtue of Marlo Thomas, who would never do any of the things that Hannah has even done on the show. His criticisms suggest he has not paid any attention to the show. If he has, he isn't very good at watching television. He despairs of Girls' self-esteem problem when this episode features a moment where Hannah, enjoying a moment with a man to whom she is attracted, who she asserted herself for and who delivers consideration and passion in return, and he asks her if she thinks she's pretty and she says, yes. He thinks so, too, and she acknowledges that she hasn't always surrounded herself by people who feel as much, but the fact that she thinks she is pretty is solid. The fact that she subjects herself to horrifying situations does not mean she thinks poorly of herself - she thinks well of herself, and she doesn't feel she compromises herself by experiencing things. What Hannah is about depends on what Hannah says. But instead of being a person an audience is in the process of discovering, a person rendered with complexity unforeseen in serial comedy, she is a girl who has sex and says things like "nothing bunt trouble" and wants attention, end-stop.

This impulse to say "you're doing it wrong" re: womanhood is pitiful in men and virulent in women. This is not new (quote, Simone de Beauvoir). The extent to which people approach Girls not critically but reparatively - as if regulatory measures are the mission of the critic - is so disappointing. I would rather operate in an art and an industry full of people who dress and conduct themselves for the sake of what feels good and what might happen and what they can feel and know instead of what other people will think. The people who do that are impressing only themselves with everything they've learned, all the knowledge they appear to have, when they've willfully decided to quit learning.

Girls, Episode Fifteen, "One Man's Trash" 

Hannah and Ray compose a genius little blackboard sign outside of Cafe Grumpy. When I was a barista, I was in charge of the blackboard in the cafe, and my opus was a snowman Aladdin Sane. Hannah explains a word she's excited to have made up, thinking it has viral potential, but Ray is happy to alert her she's only arrived independently at a well-trodden word.

Patrick Wilson ends their conversation when he, who lives up the street, comes to alert Ray that he does not appreciate Grumpy trash appearing in his garbage cans. The editing alerts the audience blatantly that Hannah, who barely intervenes as Ray escalates the problem by being Ray. "Corporeal percussion," he screams, beating his chest. This scene is so necessary not only in the way it will be obvious later - this is Hannah's world, one of the worst parts of it, and in a minute, she and the audience will leave it. Not completely, though.

Hannah quits, calling Grumpy's a toxic work environment, and I would believe she really has quit as much as I believe she does that kind of thing every day.

She goes to Patrick Wilson's house. They bond briefly over their mutual desire to hurt Ray, and Wilson invites her inside. She weighs the options, but her primary motivation for not accepting is that he may be a serial killer. Serial killers don't have brownstones, ergo, the decision is made for her. She powers through and the music immediately changes.

Parallels have been drawn up a storm between this episode and Louie. Specifically, this episode made me think of "Moving," where Louie pursues Lenny Bruce's old house - how it plays out with he and his daughters at the end, with them sprucing up the living room even though it isn't possible, they can't afford it, and they're not there next time.

Wilson's house is exquisite and he has such lemonade that Hannah is extra inarticulate about revealing why she's there: she was putting the trash in his cans. "You did it?" Wilson asks. Hannah clarifies, "I do it - put trash places it shouldn't legally go. It's kind of like my vice." An instant later, this statement is as absurd as it sounds. Hannah explains very ably that she lost her dumpster key - she doesn't have to paint Wilson a picture of why she is reluctant to say anything to Ray. He saw Ray be a chaos Muppet just a minute ago. Then she says, "That's how it started." She explains - because he asks her to explain - what she means. She says she likes the way it feels when you drop the garbage in and run away. He listens, and she marvels at everything he has. She gives him his glass of lemonade back and kisses him. She asks him his age. He asks her her name. He tells her his age, but she asks him to guess her name. He guesses it's Daisy. She lets it ride.

After they have sex, he - Joshua, who Hannah accidentally calls Josh, which is not his name - reveals he's separated, but all the same was planning for steak. He has a grill outside. Hannah drinks wine and the things he reveals about himself continue to fail to get all the way to Hannah. When he tells her he's a doctor, she is overwhelmed to be in the thrall of a married doctor, but he isn't married and he said as much. His explanation is railroaded by the sinister machinations of the hipster-caricature sideshow next door. Joshua refers to them as a frat house. Hannah astutely corrects him - he is more classic frat material than them. "How dare you reduce us to a subculture," you can hear the party yell, "and then fail to accurately name the subculture!"

Joshua's age makes him feel like a ghost. When he takes Hannah to see the bedroom - with its fireplace - she says it's time to go. She says so when she sees the bed. There's a black and white photographic portrait of an unknown woman hanging over it. I don't believe that's the absent wife. I couldn't lay under a photo of myself - that seems very Joan Callamezzo. Joshua says he doesn't mind having her here, but Hannah doesn't go for that. He asks her to stay. She asks him to beg her. He puts on the Ritz and begs her, and she's enraptured until it's too much. It's too much when he threatens to kill himself, something that Adam has threatened. They get intimate nevertheless. He says she's pretty and asks if she thinks that. He tells her what to do, but she tells him she has her own ideas. It is completely straightforward and unlike any of the sex Hannah's had on the show yet.

Also, an aside: the debate over the likelihood that someone who looks like Patrick Wilson would fall in spontaneous lust with someone who looks like Lena Dunham presupposes a lot that isn't true pervasively about the attractiveness of both parties. Attractiveness, to wit, is not nearly the factor that availability is. Both characters, as of their first encounter, are - emotionally, and in other ways - gaping holes.

In the morning, she wakes up alone and, in his sweater, finds him with a French press in the living room. She alludes to the price of the sweater she swiped to proportion to her rent. He reveals he's called off word but she says she can't, even though she quit. He convinces her to stay and enjoy some topless ping-pong. They eat outside on a wooden table and he asks her to look at the moon with him. Melancholia is rarely far from my mind, but the mood here is very overtly similar.

Hannah gets into the shower, and Joshua finds it engulfed in fog. I love what a fraught place the bathtub/shower is for Hannah - last episode's scene with Jessa, the horror movie moment in the first season with Adam. He gets her together after she wakes up from her fainting spell. She cries in his bed when I started to cry. Joshua has done nothing to her but made her feel good. "Please don't tell anyone this," she says when she says she wants to be happy. She recognizes that she lets anyone say anything to her, even when she doesn't want it, for the sake of experience. She has confused her desire for experience with identifying and discriminating wants versus times like when "someone" (Adam - I know it's been a while since Hannah said she only had sex with "two and a half men," but this doesn't sound like Sandy) punched her in the chest and came on that spot. She asked him to do that, but struggled with what about her made her feel she deserved that, why she did not reject it in favor of what she really wanted, which was intimacy.

Hannah remembers that when she was three, she told her mother that her babysitter touched her inappropriately. Her mother accused her of lying. Whether or not she was, Hannah decides, something is wrong with her. I love that these admissions - by Hannah here and by Jessa in episode fourteen, talking to Thomas-John's parents about her heroin habit - Joshua responds by saying when he was very young, he let another boy do something to him. Hannah shoots him down, citing how his story involves consent. The tone of Joshua's delivery is a departure from the warmth seen so far. He sounds here just like Marnie in season one when she does not know how to respond to Shoshanna's soul-shattering confession of her virginity.

Hannah, very vulnerable and not very pleased at all with his less-than-ideal reception to her revelation, asks Josh for his baggage. Although she doesn't specify small, medium and large, indeed, for his epic blandness, his whole problem might come down to the fact that his biggest and only problem is how it is Joshua, not Josh. It is apt that that seems all that's really up in Josh's life, impending divorce notwithstanding, since that so explicitly indicates what a void he probably is.

My favorite moment in the episode, which typifies this reversal of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl vision that this episode is, comes when Hannah asks, post torrential sob, if Joshua thinks she's a crazy girl. Before Joshua can answer thoroughly, Hannah says she's too not crazy. She's too smart and too sensitive. Dear Television called this episode Salingerian, and this is the best example of what a perfect description that is. Salinger's characters' central collective problem was how brilliant and breakable they were. Hannah perceives that in herself. She also doesn't wait for Joshua - or anyone else - to describe her like that.

The focus throughout is on her enjoyment of and interest in what a life in Joshua's world is like. When she observes that his clothes probably cost, individually, more than her rent, it is not some quip - the weight of her financial concerns is well-established. Hannah's life is by no means absent from this episode, bottled though it is, and the moment Joshua Marnies-up to her soul-bearing, she decides the situation is over. This is a significant demarcation of growth for Hannah as a character, because the instant she realizes it, she knows but is not purely reactionary. She states that he is not happy she said anything about how she really feels. This straightforwardness would never have happened between Hannah and Marnie, and I think her ability to be straightforward here enables the closure that comes when she wakes up. After spending the night, Hannah wakes up alone after Joshua's gone back to being a doctor. She gets the paper and reads it outside with some toast, then she makes the bed and, lastly, takes his garbage out before she goes home.

I don't believe this episode was purely indicative of a "secretly conservative" agenda. Hannah is in the thrall of Joshua's lavish place, but the revelation she has about her desires are associated with the people in her life, specifically the desire to have a person who wants to be there "after [she's] dead." That's what shatters Hannah's earth - and it's not a great thing that she's realized this, she feels. Because she's lonely, she has to deal with that. If she wasn't, she could just go on trying to be a writer, which is easier than wanting that and wanting to not be lonely. Although she states in her sadness that she didn't think she could want anything as much as she wants to be a writer - implying that she wants to be with someone more - Adam's cavalier approach to her aspirations was what permanently cooled her toward him. So, based on the story so far, whether or not the events of this episode really occurred or whether they were the stuff of Hannah's unseen essays, Hannah's character grew here.

I love when Hannah alone, and I was excited to see her living by herself, although I do believe Jessa's with her now. I'm excited to see, per my last season finale prediction and last episode's tub scene, if their relationship becomes as sharply rendered as Hannah and Marnie's.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I think I just feel how everyone feels: like I have three or four really great folk albums in me.

In anticipation of the death and resurrection of our lord, Sports, HBO chose to make Girls episode fourteen available onDemand and via HBOGO early. First, a belated observation regarding last week's episode:

Laird is introduced watching TV and having a conversation with Hannah that reveals how very aware of her life he is, as demonstrated by his inquiring after the Marnie-move-out. Laird is a viewer of Girls, an audience member, and Hannah's interaction with him recalls, to me, Sandy's presence in episode twelve. Hannah winds up interacting with Laird because, given the opportunity to freelance for JazzHate.com, she has no ideas of her own to pitch - she asks the editor for suggestions. In order to obtain material worth covering, Hannah seeks to cultivate an experience of note by involving her world-weary spectator. This is just as meta as Sandy's cameo appearance and informed by it: the inclusion of a factor recommended by irate viewers came off as organic as "do[ing] a bunch of coke and just writ[ing] about it."

Now,

Girls, Episode Fourteen, "It's a Shame About Ray"

This first scene - with Hannah in a nightie, with her hair up, and Elijah collared and dapper - reinforces the skewered domestic act that those two have had going on all season. It even sorts through Hannah, sorting through their mail, exhaling "Honestly!" The fantasy disintegrates as Hannah, sans underwear, sits up a storm on what was once Elijah's chair. When she said "back and forth forever," referring to her crotch on his chair, that struck me as vile - not what she was doing, but her choice of words. I thought about it and remembered the "back and forth forever" move from You and Me and Everyone We Know. Hannah's totally seen that movie. Maybe she and Elijah even watched it together.

They have a swift custody battle over their affects - even those gone forever, like burritos purchased in college - which comes down to who rightfully owns their butt-plug. A fitting segue to the "actually" married Thomas-John and Jessa who are preparing for a visit from the latter's parents. Jessa tries to seduce Thomas-John away from getting ready, and the content of their seduction is hysterical. This is an unusual mode for Jessa. She proved herself unsmoteable last season, but the endgame here is murkier. She might really want to keep them from the restaurant and might really want to prolong their time alone which is, her production of marital bliss in episode twelve aside, very new and an abrupt twist from episodes ten and eleven. If it's not a con, it's even worse. It's not so bad if it's just a con. A con can't hurt. The tension is simmering.

Hannah's JazzHate.com piece was purchased! As in life, last episode's journey is more purely fun than this episode's destination. What Hannah really celebrates is making real money, and with that money she makes her friends a sit-down, adult dinner. The money might have come from partying with her gay ex on coke and canoodling with a man who looks like he has leprosy, but now that it has been earned, it will transform into that legitimizing thing that makes one a grown-up. Never mind that Hannah shamed Marnie a minute ago about cashing in on her sexuality for money. Where those two were on completely different pages, now they are united by their unwillingness to see each other's situations as similar and learn from that.

Marnie's appearance at the party, where Charlie and Audrey are alarmed to see her, prompts Hannah to wave a knife around and declare her psychotic. At work throughout this episode is, character by character, navigating civility versus hurt. First, Hannah invited Marnie only as a polite gesture, but Marnie's actual acceptance of the invitation is "psychotic." This does play on what the audience knows about Marnie, in how, even at a loft party, the presence of her ex warranted a warm hello, even if they were likely never to bump into each other there. Hannah was relying on Marnie being Marnie and understanding that the invitation wasn't made to be taken, but Marnie is trying to be a little less Marnie these days (Hannah, meanwhile, in explaining why she can't divulge her issues with Marnie to Charlie, plays her "I'm a nice girl" card). This, as previously noted, is not what Hannah wants: Hannah is wont for a Marnie, and now she is out her temporary replacement - Elijah. I believe Hannah's word "repurpose" applies to not only making Elijah into a new friend as opposed to an old ex, but also to making him a new Marnie. She is the wound.

The initiation of this civility versus woundedness is offset by Shoshanna's rambling monologue about why she and Ray are late, which almost rambles its way into "shush" territory. Shosh redeems herself by ending it with "I'm so sorry I just lied to you all." She also appraises Hannah's apartment exactly the way she did in episode eleven. Although I found it obnoxious that it was the exact same appraisal, Shoshanna does elaborate: Hannah's apartment looks better and better. I endow Shoshanna with mystical properties, and I do believe she understands that Hannah is stronger the more alone she is.

Shoshanna's unabashed sincerity opens up a wonderful moment where the butt-plug is explored in-depth and launches the party on a studied Marnie-attack. Audrey gives vent to her feelings about Marnie's lingering attachment to Charlie which Hannah runs with. She makes a serious dig about Marnie's double-cross re: the Elijah tryst. When Hannah is unable to ask Marnie to go, she instead shrugs and goes, "Charlie can pick who leaves." Marnie tells her to grow up and goes of her own accord. She does not get points for being miss manners, just like Hannah is not well served by being a "nice girl."

Quickly: part of Hannah's parting words with Elijah concerned unspoken social rules, too, specifically how a boyfriend should pay for his girlfriend's burritos. Is this sweeping concern for social rules a response to Adam's absence (where they never applied - sometimes to her delight)?

Shoshanna's unabashed sincerity also opens her up to the reality that Ray - who reveals over small talk that he no longer has his apartment - now lives with her. Because this did not happen with them deciding on it together, without ceremony, without him advancing her from her current situation, Shoshanna is aghast. This is one of those revelations that is so slight and contingent upon the audience understanding what is important to Shoshanna, but it is so beautiful because Ray knows he isn't giving Shoshanna what she wants, and he is disappointed in himself. That is substantial growth for his character.

I couldn't quite make it out, but I have the sinking suspicion that Thomas-John's parents were mumbling something racist at the top of this scene. Jessa bangs out the gate with her best coarseness and lays on the ambiguity about her background. She went to college for seven months and pronounces "Oberlin College" like she's made it up. I can live with the seven month figure (if you recall, you who has certainly read all of these reviews, I wasn't very happy that Jessa appeared in a college flashback since her character didn't seem believably capable not of attending but just applying and getting into college) but she says she had to go to rehab for heroin. In the last episode, a bag of heroin disappeared with Elijah, who has now disappeared from the show. A few things: I believe this because it seems like something that would happen to Jessa, but I would also believe if Hannah told her about what happened with Elijah and Jessa produced this fiction for Thomas-John's parents. Her management of the dinner calls back tonally to Marnie's visit to Booth Jonathan's house in the last episode: she's embracing a willingness to judge the event on its own terms, although Jessa's mode of saying "yes" is to tailor her coarseness to the occasion.

Thomas-John's father is so into Jessa and I love how he gets himself into a wonderful conspiracy to weird out the table with her. Thomas-John's mom is clearly the premier shame-machine. She insults their marriage and calls out the convenience of artist Jessa being with her financier son. His father, meanwhile, says things like, "I want to thank the lord that you weren't hurt - especially in the face and especially on your body." The dinner party at Hannah's, although it fulfilled its mission, was not as comically balanced as this scene. I would have been up for it going on longer.

Marnie unpacks her Marnie neurosis about her desire for her path to be dictated to her so she can follow it. Charlie reveals that he and Jessa have admiration for Marnie's commitment to hygiene in common. Marnie stops Charlie from kissing her by saying that she's seeing Booth Jonathan - I wonder if - like with Jessa's provocations - that's true or if she knows it will make Charlie livid.

When Charlie gives vent to his feelings about Marnie, Hannah corrects him, citing the nuclear disaster that was Marnie's year, including the fact of her father's unemployment (which audiences didn't know) and the heretofore obscured-from-Charlie fact of her tryst with Elijah. Even though they both have very heady feelings about Marnie, Hannah critiques his management of his feelings, eating her bunt cake and delineating how it is and is not appropriate to be angry with someone.

The scene with Thomas-John and Jessa after they get back from dinner is my favorite moment in the show so far. It is a vile and creepy spectacle of horror and it doesn't have the milk or the potential for other liquids in Adam-Hannah scenes. This is arid and scary. "I am going to look 50 when I'm 30. I'm going to be so fucking fat like Nico and you know why it's because I'm going to be full of experiences!" but all Thomas-John has is his two months with her to qualify him as one with a zany streak.

She can't come back to his assertion about money, but I wonder about this. Jessa hasn't really been seen taking advantage of Thomas-John financially. In fact, in the last episode - unless she was lying about the compliment she received on her sleeves - she seemed to be selling her clothes along with Marnie and Shoshanna. There is a good chance Thomas-John wants to see money as an explanation for Jessa's interest in him because it's easy and obvious, and it is beyond likely that it IS a factor, but I don't think, based on what's been shown, that that is why Jessa is with him, period. Why she is with him is made more obvious than anything by the way they talk to each other here.

I have not seen nearly as much TV as others, but throughout my TV viewing life, as many characters I've seen that resemble each other, I've never seen someone like Jessa. Meanwhile, in my real life, I've known and been close mostly to people who have a problem that Jessa very subtly demonstrates that she has about which I have spoken before: whatever seriously bad thing befell her earlier in life, Jessa lives in anticipation of ruin with two options - she can bring it on herself, or she can let herself be the victim of it. Bringing it on herself is easier - easier to manage and easier on her dignity. When she tells Thomas-John how she knows who he is, I wager she's been mostly with guys like him. He does not have the capacity to look inward enough to ask, if this person does not respect me, why am I with her? He's still able to justify how he's with her because of the same superficial reasons that intrigued him in the first place. When they said their vows, Jessa said she loved everything he doesn't know about. I think she was referring less to the facts of her life and more to his own inner machinations. A person who doesn't quite get why he does things can't confront her with why she does things.

When he asks her if she knows why he loves hookers, he barely leads that statement away from murder-territory with a quip about all her Buddhas watching their lovemaking like a bunch of fat babies. Jessa socks him in the face for a horrible comment and says "grow up," just like Marnie told Hannah. However, when Marnie says that, Marnie is demonstrating how she has grown up, whereas Jessa needs to take her own "grow up" very urgently.

Thomas-John says their marriage is a great one for Jessa's collection of outlandish stories. Jessa and Hannah have this experience-amassing behavior in common to very different ends and it reflects very differently on their self-esteem. To Hannah, everything is work, an assignment, an experience that Hannah Horvath is having to go make art with, and with Jessa, it is what she deserves.

Shoshanna hinted in the last episode that she, unlike Ray, has somewhere to be everyday. It was distressing to see her get grumbly then, but extra refreshing to see her face head-on an issue that is tough to face in the throes of romance: you're a deadbeat, Ray. I think - I mean, I hope ardently that Shoshanna gets success. I think she's got the kind of weird equipment to get to a point fast that the other characters can't reach. I'm happy to see she isn't cool immediately with Ray not wearing the same kind of jet pack. He does love Andy Kaufman, though. Their relationship is so beautifully painted that when she says she's falling in love with him, that is what I want for her, and I've all but forgotten that the person she's in love with is Ray. I think Ray's forgotten it, too, and now he'll have to figure out what that means, not just to love Shoshanna but be loved by her.

Hannah jams out to her own rendition of "Wonderwall" and Jessa gives her the occasion for a scream that rivals her peed-on scream in season one, which is my favorite scream ever. Jessa joins her in the bath and falls apart - I wonder if this is the first time Hannah's seen Jessa cry? When Jessa shut Jeff down last season, she said the very hackneyed, "I can't do this kind of thing anymore," and wanted to run to Hannah. She didn't get to and that's what started her on the way to Thomas-John, but here she gets to quietly disintegrate with Hannah, hold hands, and make me cry torrentially. I'm so happy Hannah kept up with Jessa after she was at Oberlin for seven months. I miss my friends.