Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Friday, April 8, 2016

"Girls," Season 5, Episode 7: "Hello Kitty" - Do you think I deserve all the things that are happening to me?

I haven't abandoned Girls, but the revelation that both Sterling K. Brown and Courtney Vance are on board for another season of American Crime Story addressing Hurricane Katrina was all I had the resources for this week.

Girls, Episode Forty-Nine, "Hello Kitty"

1. Hannah Fatal Attraction-ing her principal:
Last time Hannah worked for an older man (who wasn't Ray), he sexually harassed her, and her impression of the experience was that sexual harassment wasn't black and white. Her coworkers benefited from being able to relax their behavior, since their boss was willing to let things slide in order to avoid confronting his own behavior. Immediately before coming to work at the school, Hannah was at Iowa. To go to Iowa was such an enormous decision and a profound exercise of agency on Hannah's part that when she couldn't handle the effects, she tried to get kicked out. Hannah does not have much confidence in her ability to make decisions. When the principal grapples with how to hold her accountable for her inappropriate behavior — because she is well-liked among students — it seems like Hannah's disowning the situation, leaving it up to the principal to fire her, and/or attempting to rearrange the terms of their working relationship to be more like her first job in the law office.

2. The realist thing Marnie's ever done: Even when Marnie asserts that her marriage to Desi was a mistake and she has come to the conclusion that she needs to be alone — which represents the most significant change in her character in the life of the show — she asks for Ray's feedback. He is right to advise her that she knows what she needs — imagine the Ray of season one saying that to anybody about anything. Even when the titulars make decisions on their own behalf in the service of their goals and desires, they make themselves game for being talked out of those decisions. Marnie passive aggressively forces other people to be accountable for her decisions, especially Ray, who heretofore hasn't been able to help injecting his judgment everywhere. But Ray has learned that does more harm than good and his life has been improved by learning from Shoshanna and Hannah, specifically, just by observing them and empathizing with them. That's why Ray's outburst "Human apathy continues to be one of the grossest threats to mankind" really comes from his heart. He is forcing Marnie to confront her decision and remain confident in it. And a challenge is immediately posed to her resolve: Desi shows up with news that a song of theirs will be on Grey's Anatomy — their career as a band is taking off, so she cannot cut him off completely without also compromising her ambitions as a singer. While Marnie has slowly, incrementally acknowledged that she would rather be a musician than anything else, I wouldn't find Marnie achieving legible-to-the-audience success as a musician as satisfying a place for Marnie to end on (be it this season or next) as her coming to the understanding that she dismissed and hurt Hannah for prioritizing her art instead of her romantic relationships. But I, as a viewer, just want to avoid any more Desi. Marnie has already demonstrated her fidelity to her music career with her season four showcase performance. She doesn't need to be put in a position to choose career-with-Desi or no career. Viewers have seen her do it on her own (whether or not she succeeded, if anything in particular came from that showcase, is yet to be revealed/irrelevant, because Girls isn't about the characters achieving but about them accepting and following their desires).

3. Dill: This is Elijah's first story line so I'm enjoying watching it unfold. In season two, he mentioned that he might enjoy being somebody's Wendi Murdoch. He's shed every ambition he's alluded toward since Girls started in favor of hanging out with Hannah, and when he's vanished, it's been into relationships. With Dill, he could capably and comfortably be kept, with access to a celebrity realm, but he's already rankled about the terms on which that arrangement comes. If Elijah chooses not to be with Dill, he will have to do something. Maybe.

4. Making a scene: Hannah wants to confront Fran about the state of their relationship — he is treating her like Marnie used to treat her when they lived together — but Fran does not want to make a scene at the interactive play they go to see, in which the audience plays bystanders observing the bystanders who have been interpreted as failing to intervene in the murder of Kitty Genovese. The audience moves through the rooms of the apartment building that is supposed to be hers, entering the apartments of her neighbors, unable themselves to intervene in the scenes they witness, including the discovery by some tenants of the murder-in-progress outside, represented by a sculpture lit in red. Hannah is already unhappy when she arrives, resentful that her perspective isn't being acknowledged, but everything spirals wildly when they reach the point in the play where the murder takes place. Hannah enters the room where Adam is performing. She moves into the next room to get a view of the murder. She sees Jessa on a fire escape across the way. She sees Adam's longing look at Jessa from the window next to her. She sees Jessa radiantly receptive of that look. When Marnie receives Desi's news about their career breakthrough, Hannah can barely deal with the fact that Marnie isn't listening to her. I love Hannah's real problem with articulating her feelings. In this episode, she swats at Fran for trying to touch her, echoing how messed up she was in "Sit-In" when Shoshanna tried to comfort her and Hannah kicked Shoshanna in the boob and told her to leave her alone. Her every feeling and perception gets challenged and dismissed, so in situations where she is sure her panic and despair are justified — especially with regards to Adam, over whom she has received so many conflicting judgments in the last several years — she gets pre-verbal. The sadness that consumes Hannah's face is one of my favorite moments in Lena Dunham's performance. It is easier for her to call out to Adam than to Jessa. I am looking forward to finding out the specific gradients of how Hannah feels about the realization having washed over her that Jessa blew up their friendship to be with Adam.

5. "Hello Kitty": Framing this episode's series of confrontations in an interactive performance directly recalls season four's "Ask Me My Name," which was about being seen. 38 Neighbors is about being unseen. The performance Ask Me My Name was not about any single, specific person's experience, but 38 Neighbors is, and it's an experience the complexity of which is frequently glossed over in favor of the assertion that Kitty Genovese's murder proves people would rather not get involved. Regardless of the parallels drawn in this episode, the juxtaposition diminishes the real murder as well as what the characters are going through. I don't feel it served the episode, but I have also barely been able to think about anything other than American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson, and nothing looks so impressive compared to that.

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