Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

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.

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