When it first started, Girls was automatically compared to Sex and the City, mainly because it was about four female friends in New York. And really that's where the similarities, for the most part, end. All season, our characters have been messy and aimless, desperate for things that they seemingly cannot attain. And that process has been rife with ugly, rotten situations, and depressing, humiliating sex that has no place in the alternate reality of Sarah Jessica Parker's show. But last night's show—the season finale—veered into rom-com territory.
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?
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.
We live in an era where anyone can increasingly curate their own personas, even us "normals" as 30 Rock'sJenna Maroney would say. Any nobody with the internet can create and filter the public perception of their personality, but of course this self-conscious curation is most obvious with pop stars—Lizzy Grant turned into Lana Del Rey, Christian pop singer Katy Perry became whipped-cream-loving pop superstar Katy Perry.
No one is better at this than Beyoncé. With Life Is But a Dream—the documentary directed, written and produced by Beyoncé herself that aired on HBO this weekend—Beyoncé appeared to give fans an intimate peek into her life while actually delivering, of course, a carefully constructed portrait.
The film is a mishmash of home videos, selfie Photobooth confessional videos (always sans makeup and looking flawless) and more typical documentary style video. It's not completely linear—it's more like you are watching a collage, a scrapbook of moments in Beyoncé's life.
We all love Beyoncé. It's practically engrained in our cultural fabric at this point. But what about Beyoncé's incredibly talented, sorely underappreciated younger sister, Solange?
While Beyoncé crafts incredible mainstream pop, Solange has created an EP, True, that draws from the mainstream and places it in the margins. True is a refreshing, stripped-down take on what we've become accustomed to in pop music. And I'm not the only one who thinks so; True ended up on many year-end lists and Solange is currently touring with sold out shows and snagged the cover of the February/March issue of Fader.
I want the Knowles sisters to take over pop culture. Judging from this EP, I don't think that's going to be a problem.
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.