Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GOOD ON TV: "GIRLS", THE BEST SHOW ON TV! NO, I'M NOT KIDDING! THE DIVISIVENESS AND BRILLIANCE OF LENA DUNHAM: A MATURE LOOK AT IMMATURITY.



Okay, how do I put this, I'm starting to get the suspicion that, we might not all view pieces of art the same way. Okay, yeah, big fucking shock, I know, people are different and they have different experiences and can relate to things differently than others,... yeah, yeah, I'm not trying to over-simplify something everybody knows; I realize this is not breaking news, but-, there are pieces of art and artists in particular who I suspect get some of the more, um, vehemently divides audiences, fans and critics than others. The thing is, I used to be able to foresee people like that. Like Paul Thomas Anderson's spent his whole career ostracizing some of the audiences while others wholeheartedly embrace his work, and however you feel on any of his films, you can very easily see why. Now, I do spend most of my time analyzing quality of work and disregard completely my own personal aesthetics and tastes, I've brought that up before, but believe it or not, you'd think that would mean that I can see these coming more frequently, but oddly, it usually shocks me more when people come out f the woodwork to go after somebody or some piece of art that-, well, I'll just get to the point, where you're just amazed people actually love/hate them so much and so many people?

It's something that's I've been observing and has been coming up a few times lately. For instance, half the Channel Awesome/Chez Apocalypse contingent seems to have decided to review "The Phantom of the Opera" like, different times recently, which, is a popular phenomenon and fanbase that I've known about since middle school, and,... WHY?! I-eh, okay-, look we'll start with the Broadway show, which sucks, btw, although caveat I have a major aversion to Andrew Lloyd Webber; it's not the worst thing he ever did, (that's "Jesus Christ Superstar" btw. I haven't seen the sequel to "Phantom...", but considering that "JCS" is the last time I ever walked out on a movie and that was like eight years and many many many bad movies ago, I'm gonna stick with that until further notice) but, is there actually a great version of "The Phantom of the Opera"? Anywhere? In any medium? Like, okay, the Lon Chaney one from the silent days, that's actually pretty good, but it really only works once, trying to watch that film twice is painful. More importantly however, I don't understand the appeal of it? Like even things I hate I can usually see the appeal of, but I legitimately have no idea why this story has caught on? Is there a sexual undertone that's appealing about the phantom, is Christine a character that people relate to, is it just the damn chandelier? Is it the music? Is it the idea of a haunted opera house? Is it that they like opera? What? What the-? Look, I'm not saying it's bad, I didn't even-, okay I didn't like the Schumacher movie, but I didn't think it was awful either, but I am trying to figure out how or why people like and keep remembering and retelling and re-imagining "The Phantom of the Opera", but I-eh-, no I don't get the appeal, at all. For the fandom it has, I don't get at all. 

And here's the funny thing, most of those critics and nearly other person I know, hates "Rent", which, I think is one of the best musicals ever made. I can't believe anybody hates it. I can see not caring about it one way or the other, but hating it? Think it's boring, I've heard. I've heard people who hate the characters for being "hipsters", which, A. I don't think was a word back in '94, and B. I don't know what a hipster is but whatever definition I've heard from people, I've yet to be convinced that there's a reason to hate them. No, "Rent" isn't perfect, but it definitely fits the mood and the tone of it's the story it's telling, which btw, is also, based on a lot of Jonathan Larson's friends and experiences living in New York in the late '80s, early '90s, art scene during the AIDS epidemic, so there's something kinda offensive about that already, although yeah, it's that's based on an actual opera, it's a retelling of "La Boheme", and it's a helluva lot better than btw, but it's a good base. The music is awesome and doesn't make me want to get nailed to a cross in order for it to end, (god, "JSC"-ugh!) I- I sense that people might confuse the fact that it's an attempt to portray reality and not a preaching of a lifestyle, or-, whatever it is, the point I'm making I think there is a divide with certain works of art and certain people, who are just seeing something so different and it's so shocking that it's almost like they're watching two completely different pieces of work. 

Those are two examples, I can think of plenty, hell, I got into a long argument earlier this year with some people on Geekcast Radio Network's website over "Scrubs", which basically amounted to the same thing, but yeah, especially since, I do basically try to look at the piece without personal context, it actually makes it weirder to me when people see something so vehemently different than I do, 'cause I'm trying to be unbias at all times, but when what I'm clearly looking at it, doesn't click with what somebody else thinks they're watching, yeah, it's just confusing. And I can't say, "I better take a closer look at the work," 'cause I'm already looking at it closer than most, so something else must be going on. 

Okay I know this was a long intro, but, I'm gonna say something here that's gonna divide everybody, so here we go, let's get to it: 

(Clears throat)
Lena Dunham's-,

(Sound of angry typing)

I'm already hearing the boos, (frustrated sigh) Lena Dunham's "Girls" is the best show on television! At least the best sitcom. Yeah, talk about frickin' dividing everybody, just mentioning Lena Dunham or anything remotely related to her nowadays just completely ostracizes everybody, much less, somebody like me, who's about to de-, I was about to say "defend her", I'm not defending her, I'm applauding her, or I'm trying to. What's there to defend, she's one of the best writers around, has one of the most unique and fascinating visions and perspective in entertainment today, and yes, the best television show, you know short of I guess, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver", but yeah, ignoring the still golden age era of Variety Talk Series, I put "Girls" ahead of everything else right now, especially after seeing this season's finale episodes. How is this show not winning the Emmy every year, much less not getting nominated at all? Well, I actually do know how and why that is, but even if I didn't, the fact that she is so divisive-, (frustrated sigh) and no, I don't get it. At all. 

And yeah, this maybe because, (frustrated sigh) I may believe that her work speaks more towards me than it might others, I'll admit that. I get it, Hanna Horvath is a perpetual woman-child who writes but doesn't make a living at it and basically stumbles from job-to-job and terrible boyfriend-to-terrible boyfriend and is selfish and narcissistic and acts like she's the center of attention at all times even when her friends need her most, in other words, and I say this as a 30-(coughs)-year-old who still lives at home and has never worked a day in his life, (deep breath) she's the person I want to be when I grow up! Okay, I get it. I see that there's a lot of me in her characters, if not her. (And from all accounts I can find, she is very different than her character) So, what pisses people off about her? That she depicts this adolescent behavior in adults and, adults, presumably find her childish, confusing her for her characters? I think that's a great part of it, one of the arguments that came at me when I was debating "Scrubs" was that, a lot of people who don't like the show, really hated the main guy in the show, Zach Braff, which, A. He's an actor, he's playing a somewhat unlikable character at times, did you need to like him, and B. It's not like, he created the show, or the character? I mean, I would get that, if somebody said they didn't like "Louie" 'cause they didn't like Louis C.K., that would be weird but, I'd get it at least. You don't like Woody Allen, then you're probably not gonna like "Annie Hall". And I guess if you don't like Lena Dunham, then you'll probably not like "Girls", but on the same token, I don't quite get why anybody hates her. Likes hates her, not dismissive or uncaring, people vehemently despise her and her show, and that's where those people lose me. I mean, you hate the characters? You know, that might've played back in the olden days of television, when you pretty much did have to have likable protagonists or someone to care about or catch on too, but I'm not buying it here. There's plenty of pretty terrible excuses for people characters that people do like, including in sitcoms, especially in ones that under normal circumstances might appeal to the same audiences that "Girls", let's say is hypothetically aiming at. There isn't really The Lester Guy Rule anymore. ("The Lester Guy Rule", the rule about how a show had to have a likable main character, named after the main character in the short-lived David Lynch series, "On the Air"? No? Okay, I may have just made that up, but I'm sure there's some rule about that, and I just got the character wrong. Maybe I'm thinking of "Buffalo Bill".)  Yeah, we're passed that, or I like to think we are. So, what exactly about Lena Dunham makes people hate her? From what I can tell, at least in terms of her actual content in her series, there is this sense that people just hate how she depicts herself. This mid-20s young adults that's more anti-adulthood that skewers the people, which I don't get at all? First of all, it is a fictional depiction, and yes, as many have pointed out, nobody who's actually like the character she plays would ever get a TV show like "Girls" off the ground, especially as young as she is, but still, they just hate the adolescent characters she writes and portrays. I-, I just don't get this criticism. I would if it was, unrealistic or poorly done, or maybe just, in some way completely disconnected from reality, like say "2 Broke Girl$" is, but, that's not the case at all. If anything her weakness is that she's too painfully aware of the realities of her world and writes these characters too realistically that it makes some uncomfortable. She is a brave creator and actress who doesn't shy away from depicting herself in the worst possible light and in many cases with the least possible clothes. I'm sorry, that's just more of a reason I respect her, not a reason to bash her, and even if I didn't relate to her characters, I think anybody who watches the show can at least believe these characters,somewhere, can exist in the world and this is a realistic portrayal of the world to somebody, which is enough for me. 

I don't know, that reason still feels thin to me. I find that weird too; I don't hate too many people myself and the reasons I give for hating people when I do are usually way more elaborate and thought-out. I'm not expecting that kind of passion from everyone but there's usually more reasons than that. I have very specific reasons for being particularly negative towards Shane Carruth or Joss Whedon or Peter Jackson and few other people who I, in particular cannot stand as artists. I don't hate people arbitrarily, I mean, I don't like too many things Antoine Fuqua has done, but I can't say I hate him or his work, there's usually something much more concrete for me to get upset enough to despise people. Is there anything concrete to hate Lena Dunham or "Girls"? I don't know, I know there's some people who find much of Lena Dunham, just uncomfortable, to say the least. She isn't the most careful human when it comes to her public persona, I don't think that's all her fault, and honestly I've never seen a good argument for why she is a horrible person. Doing a quick Google search, I realize I'm not the only one who's tried to get to the bottom of this fascination with people hating her in particular. Let's go down the reasons I'm seen hypothesized, um, jealous of her success as a writer? Well, as a writer yes, but her talent more than makes up for it from my perspective. At even if I did remain bitter about how successful she is at such a young age, there's other people who draw my ire much more. (If you don't know who Saffron Herndon is, look her up, she's one of the funniest and most talented stand-up comediennes out working today, and I absolutely  hate her. Not joking, there is literally nobody in the entertainment world I hate more viciously for being as talented as they are, than her. It literally pains me, to think about her and her success grrr! (Anger-ridden breath) But seriously, she is fucking hilarious and when you do look you up, you will understand immediately my jealous-ridden hatred of her) I've seen articles about how she's a feminist, a sexist, a racist, none of which I find remotely credible, I find some who can't stand that she came from a rich upper class artistic family and that her fame is due in part to her status, A. No, it's not, she's famous and relevant 'cause she's talented, and B. even if that wasn't the case, I'm not gonna criticize somebody for having a door open to them, she still had to go through it, so that's pretty much B.S. She might've had more doors open to her, but you don't get this kind of fame without having some kind of skill to back it up.

There's the more famous incidents that have been misinterpreted in her autobiography that supposedly she sexually molested her younger sister when she was a child, which is crap, and there's an account of her being raped at Oberlin she gives, that's come under scrutiny for numerous dumb reason. I read "Not That Kind of Girl", and I just laugh at these misrepresentations of her words. In one, she was seven and fascinated with her sister's vagina, in an exploratory way that I think most kids go through about private parts, okay, she's her, so it was a little weirder, but no, it was not sexual molestation. As to the rape allegations, apparently and this is a bit weird, she described the person who raped her and unaware that she was using a pseudonym, somebody who purportedly matched the description in her book threatened to sue her for libel. A lot of people have used this to discredit her, mostly from right-wing media groups, which should really have better things to do even for them, but, yeah, it's clear there's a smear campaign out on her. I don't find it that interesting, or convincing when you look into it to be honest. As far as I'm concerned the only thing she's guilty about in either case is not living up to the standards of simple-minded people who don't like her anyway. 

Honestly, looking this crap up is just annoying as much as it is a waste of time. It's not like only good angelic beings are the only ones that make good art anyway, so even if she hypothetically is a child molesting Feminazi girl that cries rape, that's not a good enough reason to discredit her as an artist. Or as a woman, which let's break this barrier down, is probably as much the real reason people despise her. If a guy had created this kind of show, I'm sure there wouldn't be so much backlash. And she's not alone in this, I've heard the same amount of vile hate for her as I've heard for people like Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman and Abbi Glazer & Ilana Jacobsen among other women who tend to go against the typical comedic norms and present a more adult and controversial perspective into their work. Look, this could be a completely different article if I want to go there, but yeah, the comedy world is pretty sexist, in general and yeah, there's backlash to anybody talented who challenges that male-dominated perspective in any serious way, which is probably why I find these artists and others like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Margaret Cho and Samantha Bee and a few others, (Including Saffron Herndon that little-hmm, god I hate her! GRRRRR!) basically the most important artists in the field right now. One of the reasons that their perspective is new. I mean, comedy is-, look a joke is a joke, setup, then punchline, that's never gonna change, it's how it's told, and who's telling it, and yeah, there are quite a few major female players in the comedy world and it's spanning across all mediums, not only is there a sexist male-dominated perspective in the comedic world, there is also one in the general audience. Hell, I'm reading an article now about the rampant sexism in nerd culture, and I'm sure somebody can point to those stories about how badly female gamers get treated. (That article I'm reading is at the link below btw, if you're interested)

Hell, one of my Facebook friends recently, I won't say who it was, she posted recently for like the fourth or fifth time I've seen her post about this, having to clarify that, and I'm paraphrasing here but basically, she liked something in a film group or back something up, and had to constantly fight off members of the group who were trying to pick her up romantically. She's trying to have a conversation and basically can't do anything in a room full of teenage boys without getting hit on and harassed constantly. I mean, Lena Dunham is being herself, which is clearly somebody different than anybody who's come before, and then she gets criticized for being a woman, who's being herself and no, that's not the first time that's happened to somebody and yes, it is bullshit. 

Alright, so enough defending her, which I shouldn't have had to do or been doing, Why do I praise this show so highly? What is it about "Girls" that's Good on TV? Well, obviously I like her perspective and her humor, which, is distinctly hers. Does that mean this show about screwed-up twenty-five year-olds the best on television alone? Well, that's the thing, how many show are actually like hers? I mean, she's using the "Sex and the City" formula, four girls in a large city, making it, or trying to make it on their own, and going through job and relationship troubles, this isn't terribly new, at the surface, this formula could go back to "The Golden Girls", and there's been numerous other variations, "Desperate Housewives" is probably the other most infamous one. She actually makes fun of it in her show sometimes, but not always. She's actually got Louis C.K.'s amount of freedom and she uses it. There are many episodes that literally only focus on one or two characters on their own separate journeys, sometimes to completely other states and other continents this past year. But the formula is only the familiar backdrop and she knows this. This state of quarterlife confusion she depicts however, that's this seemingly lazy and inept stumblings into adulthood, that's something that's a little new. I can think of a few shows that did this, but most of those shows, like "Friends", "The Big Bang Theory" to some extent recently, or the webseries "Quarterlife" now that I mentioned that term, they were about those character evolving, like most shows are, including "Girls", but they were about evolving into different better people. "Girls", probably what I like most about the show is, how it isn't doing that. I mean it is, but it's much subtler and most of the time, the characters aren't evolving forward they're often devolving or worst, just staying put. The drug addict, she seems okay, but she relapses badly. The one who wants to get married and find loving husband, she's failed at that twice, even with a more freeing career change after life smacked her around, even the one who's think she's smart enough to follow through and get everything together and does everything perfectly, she struggles just to find a job now after freaking out, that god forbid, she had to take a summer school class 'cause she failed a semester at college 'cause after losing her virginity she slept around, a bit. There's normally obstacles we put in front of our characters, but Dunham at her best, is just taking her characters and just when you think, maybe they're on their way to a breakthrough or a change, immediately just takes their hopes and ideals and destroys them; they are there own obstacles most of the time, and they usually lose. Yeah, none of these girls are dumb enough to think they'll be able to just create a cupcake brand and fight their way out of poverty, although granted these characters are mostly too privileged to come up with that idea (And too smart too) but there's impulsiveness and there's the simple fact, that, changing and evolving, is hard. You gotta really be motivated and even then, that motivation is filled with false starts and backslides into their more typical default behaviors. I mean, when you look at other shows, "The L Word" is a nice example of this, the characters definitely evolved and changed on that show, but it was so drastic over the course of the series that, it's sometimes impossible to believe how some of them turned into someone else. "Girls" you don't get that, and yes, that's much more naturalistic and real. At least to me it is. It's going for character growth and change, but it's the bare minimum, and you don't see that enough, and certainly not enough done well. I love "Sex and the City" but the show, was basically about how they evolved through and into relationships and in the end, they all ended up happy in one, at least at the end of series; I'm gonna ignore the movies, like everybody else in the world should, but it was simplistic, and the point of that show was that, that was the only part of their lives that we saw. "Girls" is far too complex for that, and frankly, I'd be shocked at this point if any coupling formed at the end of the series next year would result in a happily ever after. Even Hannah's parents are in a loveless marriage including a gay husband. It's a show about being stagnant, if not literally stagnation, then at least an emotional ones. And it treats it realistically. I mean, I remember one episode of "Roseanne" that had Darlene sitting on the couch for the entire episode, but she was a moody teenager and the end she met David for the first time, who had a different name in that episode. Anyway, some of the moody teenagers don't really get up and that makes it a lot harder for them to eventually get up as adults. This show, depicts that really well and I can't think of too many other shows that do. It's actually difficult to show, essentially forward-moving inaction and make it fascinating and funny and touching and tearful and just flat-out entertaining. 

I have to give credit for this, a lot. It's much more difficult to do that than most realize. That's not to say that everybody can relate to this, but I think it's behaviors we've seen and I just haven't seen them as the center of a show, especially in a medium like television, where it's usually about drastic changes of characters over time, I kinda like that she goes out of her way to make the changes as minimal as possible and she should. Not everybody changes that quickly and even when we think they do, they really don't. You don't just becomes different people because you pay your own taxes or earn your money for rent. Dunham realizes this and more than that, tells this story well. You see, I was being honest when I said Hannah, flawed and fucked up and all, is the one I want to be when I grow up, 'cause the one character from the show that  I actually relate to the most, is Shoshanna. Yeah, Zosia Mamet's character. Now, I don't talk like Six Lemure on cocaine, (I can't be the only guy who will constantly make "Blossom" references, can I?)  but her path is through hard work, and studying to get the jobs she wants and dreams of, and that's still her go-to, that's her stagnant place. It's not, sitting on the couch half-naked eating cake and Haagen-Daas, but it's still stagnant, and I relate to this, that's how I spent most of my youth. I missed out on quite a bit because I was more interested in impressing people by my knowledge and my skillsets, and well, I'm writing this blog, so yeah, it doesn't always work out and there's a lot less fun activities like raves and partying and salad tossing, but it's actually the counterpoint to the rest of them who seem to be, stumbling, matriculating through their twenties that, even the best laid straight-on paths might still mean you have to go the other side of the world and turn that marketing degree in for a job babysitting kittens. I'm actually more dumbfounded by people who hate this character, again, I don't get it, but maybe I do associate with her more. I've heard her called a "Creator's Pet" character, which is a trope I only learned about recently, and don't understand why Wesley Crusher is the archetype, he was the best character on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", well after Data. (No, I'm not joking there.) but no, that's not true at all of Shoshanna . If anything, she's the character who most grounds this show, at least among the girls, Alex Karpovsky's character as well does this, but she's the character that seems the most active and the most practical, even more than Marnie when you think about it, but she probably gets it worst than everybody else and it's purely because of who she is and her own natural stagnation traits. If anything, she's not involved enough in the main plotlines. 

It's a show that struggles with being an adult in a world and with character who, for them, in one childish way or another, that's not their natural inclination and it deals with it. And it does it in a sardonic-laden comedy! And it's from Lena Dunham's most perspective and observant view. Yeah, for unique, for it's difficult subject matter, for creating it's own niche perspective on this subject matter, for creating this new perspective for the television medium, in this manner, for being so groundbreaking in it, and just for being one of the few really great shows out there, I-eh, yeah, when I look at the whole television landscape and there's other great ones, and some that might one day be bigger or better, but right now, yeah, I give it to "Girls", it's the best show on television. I stand by it. Her vision's the most unique, her execution of that vision is the toughest to pull off and the most successfully achieved. This last season was arguably it's best, and the only thing that annoys me is that there's only one season left, and I really hope that these characters still continue to fall headfirst and hard into immaturity as often as possible as they continue to grow into adulthood. It won't be easy, at least as a writing and filmmaking project it won't be, in reality for some, at least for these characters, it's probably more likely than most of us are comfortable admitting. 

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