Based on a true story, the 1991 film Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken tells the story of an orphan girl named Sonora (played by Gabrielle Anwar) whose beloved horse is sold off by her aunt as punishment for Sonora's bad behavior. Sneaking off into the night, Sonora takes to the road in search of a traveling diving horse show. That's right, a TRAVELING DIVING HORSE SHOW!
This idea of cleansing oneself has permeated this season—and the theme continues in this episode. Our characters here aren't particularly good at cleaning up and starting afresh, but what they are good at is self-sabotage. In this episode, "On All Four," several characters successfully take themselves out at the knees.
Last week, a woman at Adam's Alcohollics Anonymous crowd set him up with her daughter, Natalia. Surprise, surprise, the two actually hit it off. Suddenly, they're going to see romantic comedies starring Sandra Bullock, taking lunch breaks together and even attending friend's engagement parties. Natalia seems good for Adam, mostly because she's completely up-front about what she wants. When the two first have sex, it at first seems awkwardly negotiated. But Natalia tells Adam what she won't do, what doesn't work for her, and is clear about her boundaries. Adam isn't really used to. He says, "I like how clear you are with me." To which Natalia responds, "What other way is there?"
The 2006 filmFlicka is one of many interpretations of Mary O'Hara's 1941 novel My Friend Flicka, telling the story of a girl named Katy who finds a wild mustang and trains her in the dark of night against her father's wishes. When her father finds out, he is furious and sells the horse to a local rodeo. The story that follows is one of connectivity and identity; one of power and freedom.
But in the novel and early television and film versions of Flicka, the protagonist was a boy.
How does the message change when we swap the gender of Flicka's protagonist? Does the modern version provide space for a more meaningful narrative?
Classic film National Velvet (1944), tells the story of horse-obsessed Velvet Brown (played by a 12-year old Elizabeth Taylor) winning the Grand National on an "untamable" horse with the help of drifter Mi Taylor (played by Mickey Rooney). Based on a novel by Enid Bagnold, the film received positive reviews and earned actress Anne Revere, who played Velvet's mother, an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. More recently, National Velvet was chosen for preservation by the United States National Film Registry in 2003.
Beyond the accolades and awards for being a well-made film, National Velvet is often cited as a great feminist movie for its depictions of the wise and supportive mother and for young Velvet following her dream to compete in the all-male Grand National.
But is this film about a girl overcoming sexism with the help of her exceptional horse and family still relevant nearly 70 years later? Do its depictions of Velvet Brown have anything to offer today's girls and women?
Girls, I love you. But this week's episode just didn't work.
This could be because it's hard to keep momentum after a string of excellent episodes, but this week's uneven episode "It's Back" was built on out-of-nowhere plot points.
The episode opens with Hannah receiving a phone call from ex-boyfriend Adam which she seems nervous about.After stopping at a store to buy chips to cope with the call, she carefully counts out a specific number of chips before counting the number of times she chews them.
Hannah's parents are visiting—her mother is attending a conference where she's excited to meet so many other women who "feel like I do about Ann Patchett." While waiting on Hannah to meet them at their hotel for a Judy Collins performance, they give her a "Hannah cushion of 15-40 minutes." Hannah shows up but looks pretty disheveled.
Over drinks, Hannah's parents can tell what's going on. Her father asks if her head is filling up with too much and she's getting count-y again. Her mother expresses the worry she felt that Hannah's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) would hinder her from having a real life. This was my "what?" moment. Not that it's unrealistic that Hannah could have OCD, but that in the scope of the show, it's never even come up before at all.
Throughout this season, the characters of Girls have been trying on different lives and personas. They try to be different people and better people, eventually defaulting back to the familiar and the easy.
In night's episode, "Video Games", a minor character says she believes life is one big simulation—a video game. That sounds ridiculous, but it's an apt description for what Jessa experiences in this episode as she tries to reconnect with her absent father and play the role of daughter. lives and personas. They try to be different people and better people, eventually defaulting back to the familiar and the easy.
The episode starts with Jessa and Hannah to go see Jessa's father, who Jessa hasn't seen in years and is living in the country with his girlfriend Petula and her son, Frank. Throughout the whole episode, Hannah is in rough shape: She has a UTI and describes it in the most accurate language. "My urine feels so daggery."
Cowgirl narratives—films, shows, and books featuring women and horses—often show women who are at home in their bodies, connected with nature, and many times, disrupting traditional gender roles. As cowgirls, women are shown in acts of blissful physicality. They follow their dreams. They are independent and strong-willed. But the horse seems to be essential in these experiences, and the contemporary relationship between woman and horse, particularly in our cowgirl narratives, is undeniably gendered. What is it about girls and horses? What do cowgirl narratives tell us about young girls and women?
As both a life-long horse owner and a gender-women's-studies teacher, I think about this a lot. Obsessively, even. I've always personally connected to cowgirl stories, but the tales of daring women and horses have not often been considering within the larger media landscape.
In this two-month long blog series, I'll be examining representations of women and horses in film, TV, and songs. Looking at films like, Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken, Secretariat, National Velvet, and Dreamer(among others), television shows like Heartland, and books like Princess Smartypants (I will argue later why this falls in with our cowgirl narratives) I will be asking the question: What do these representations tell us about our ideas of gender?
Last week's weirdly controversial Girls episode "One Man's Trash", was defined by melancholy. This week's episode, "Boys", articulates that melancholy in a precise way with a metaphor about—what else?—Staten Island. Ray describes Staten Island as a place where people who want to live in Manhattan but can't are relegated to watch the city in a "quiet rage" on its fringes.Ray's not talking about Staten Island—he's talking about himself, Adam, Hannah, Marnie and all the other young characters on the show.
Even with book deals, fancy art parties, a seemingly perfect relationships,Girls' characters want more from their lives. The main characters all present a veneer of being okay with where they are, while actually longing to change their lives.
In this episode, Hannah finally she seems motivated. She's sent out some essays and has met with the editor (played by John Cameron Mitchell fromHedwig and the Angry Inch!) of Pumped magazine. He's read her essays and describes them as "sweet, naïve and infuriating" but asks Hannah to write an e-book for him. The only catch is that he needs it in a month.
On television, there's no shortage of portrayals of young, aspiring writers. From ruthless journalists to confessional novelists to sensationalist writers, current TV shows offer us a wealth of female publishing hopefuls. And while this inspires a new generation of women to make themselves heard in a largely male-dominated landscape, the growing number of TV portrayals of female writers reflects how the world represses young voices in general—and young, female voices in particular.
Love it or hate it, Girls fits into a specific, maligned literary genre, noted television critic Emily Nussbaum in this week's New Yorker. Nussbaum compares Girls to previous works about young women, most notably Mary McCarthy's 1963 novel The Group. Like Lena Dunham's show, critics at the time called The Group drivel about self-important, privileged young women. But that hasn't stopped dozens of women from continuing to publish similar stories. As Nussbaum writers:
These are stories about smart, strange girls diving into experience, often through bad sex with their worst critics. They're almost always set in New York. While other female-centered hits, with more likable heroines, are ignored or patronized, these racy fables agitate audiences, in part because they violate the dictate that women, both fictional and real, not make anyone uncomfortable.
This week's Girls episode, "One Man's Trash," reads like a short story from McCarthy, Sylvia Plath, or, I would even say, from Raymond Carver. It's a story that's based on the uncomfortable nature of two lonely people who just want to experience something else for a brief moment.