Day #183: The Pattern – “Fragile Awareness”
Emmy nominations were announced today. Previously unknown Lena Dunham, creator and star of the HBO series, Girls, got triple whammy nods for best acting, directing, and writing. I had hoped that as soon as she heard the news, Lena ran to the window of her New York apartment (or somewhere several floors up in New York) and yelled out a hearty Booya! Reports say that instead, she celebrated her arrival to the big time with burritos. To each his own.
We don’t have cable, so I hadn’t seen Girls. Only, I kind of did see Girls, but I just didn’t know it. Because a few days before I found out who Lena Dunham was (thanks to the Emmy buzz), I watched a low budget movie on Netflix called Tiny Furniture, that Dunham also wrote, directed, and starred in. It’s the common indie dramedy about white people problems. A frumpy 20-something has little clue about what she wants to do with herself after college (or little clue about what she’s qualified to do, not that these characters have any ambition for anything beyond pursuing a half-assed career as some kind of “artist”) and moves back in with her photographer mother and teenage sister, surrounds herself with other driftless people her age, wonders why life is such a struggle, and then has pointless sex with some douchebag. If any of that sounds familiar, it should. That’s Girls. They even share cast members in somewhat similar roles. Although, Girls is far less depressing and more refined.
I have only watched the first two episodes of Girls now, since hearing of Dunham’s nominations, and I kind of love it. But, I also kind of hate it. Initially backed by Judd Aptaow as executive producer, Dunham sought to make a real show for girls that age (early- to mid-20s). And it probably does resonate with a lot in that crowd. Or, at least it probably resonates with white girls who aren’t shallow A-listers. There’s a common thread. The shitty jobs. The loser boys. The financial dependence on parents. The gracious girlfriends who help make some (even if not much) sense of our prolonged adolescence. In fact, the best moments of Girls is when it is just the girls. But then again, shows with strong(er) female characters were always offset by boring and useless male counterparts. Here, most of the guys are loathsome. The same was the case in Tiny Furniture.
It took me a while to notice Dunham’s strength as the wry commentator. Sort of like a Woody Allen, but outfitted with her own generational softness. None of that spunk or vigor of the women who preceded her that created similar characters – the single New York woman trying to make sense of life. I’m willing to bet that this – what you see in Girls, the misery and confusion and awkwardness of being a post-college 20-something (or more specifically, pretentious post-college 20-somethings… because what other kind of asshole brings opium to a dinner party?) – is going to be Dunham’s thing, and may even continue to be her thing even when she’s vacated her 20s (she’s 26). It’s the stuff that made the story until you stopped having the experiences that made the story.
But I kind of hate Girls, too. And for the same reason I really, really hated Tiny Furniture. Because this theme of the travesty of youth is getting incredibly boring. (Naturally, the crowd at SXSW, where it debuted, ate it up). It may be because I’m getting older and am no longer in my 20s (I recently turned 30) that I am siding with those who bemoan the youth for having taken themselves too seriously and project this obnoxious sense of entitlement. You know, like what we don’t need is another existentialist who dabbles in bad photography so shut up and go try living in the real world. The young characters of Tiny Furniture and Girls are terribly Brooklyn, and terribly boring.
Plus, it’s an old story that has been told for years. Way before I was even born. Personally, it was more fun when it came from the taco slackers of the 90s. At least they had a sense of humor. Most of them.