Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

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.

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