The first season of Girls.
At a bunch of points over the past few months, I thought Girls was my favorite show on television. Yes, I liked Game of Thrones a lot, but since I’ve already read the books, the element of surprise was lacking; plus, it’s such sheer fantasy that there was still a lot of space left over for a show about contemporary America.
The highpoint of the show was definitely the party episode. The setting was enviable, the characters were all actually in the same place, and the various rooms of the party provided good settings for individual dramas to unfold. From that episode until Sunday’s finale, Girls has been on a slide.
Lena Dunham’s male characters are a joke. They are hugely inconsistent. Her character, Hannah, has a boyfriend who is so completely different by the end of Season 1 that if you started late you’d find the early episodes simply bewildering. He started off as a primal ne’er-do-well topping her, then became a whiny aesthete criticizing her narcissism. Her boss, the bandmate who plays with Marnie’s ex-boyfriend, has evolved from a minor douchebag into some kind of Zen master, capable of rising to any occasion and characterizing every circumstance.
I don’t know what any character besides Hannah wants, and although I really enjoy reading Sloane Crosley’s essays, I have to say that Dunham has succeeded in making Hannah such a superficial, obnoxious brat that I find it difficult to imagine voluntarily buying some collection of Hannah’s — in which she would undoubtedly do nothing but obsessively curate her own life. As for the other three women: who on Earth could possibly care whether they succeed in what they are trying to do? We haven’t seen Marnie at her job in ages, and her personal life is in tatters. The show won’t even let her have a half-decent sex life, despite making her break up with her boyfriend on the grounds that he couldn’t ring her bell. Shoshanna is a sheltered, judgmental virgin priss who apparently can call everyone she knows “dumb whores” a week or so after beating the shit out of a guy she barely knows while high on crack. As for Jessa, well, she’s suddenly married to some vacuous Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps type. So much for European sophistication.
If there’s a point to all of this, I’ve missed it. These characters have everything: money (at least running in the family), looks, youth, friends, and luck. Yet they still manage to screw up their lives in the name of rather paltry ideals: themselves (Hannah), “the little death” (Marnie), respectability (Shoshanna), and stability (Jessa). Lena Dunham is incredibly funny, but — with apologies to Tracy Chapman — I want more from life than she can give.