BIG THOUGHTS HERE
Let those with ears to hear, hear. But isn’t the question, how many have ears to hear? Don’t you think it’s more likely that the viewer will be charmed by the “authenticity” of the show? It may not be Sex and the City, since it includes the ugliness; but might not that actually make the characters that much more attractive, because more relatable? Doesn’t seem like Dunham is exactly drawing large, startling figures, here.
Your take is basically the way I read the show (having only seen a few episodes but read much about it.
The problem here is the way an author’s intent can be misconstrued to do harm. E.g., Oliver Stone considered Gekko to be pure evil (at least in the first movie), but to a generation of younger viewers, Gekko is the hero to emulate.
That’s leaving aside the question of what Dunham actually intends. I find the show incomprehensible as anything but parody of the vapidity of her generation/class (unaccomplished and therefore unjustifiably entitled blue city/state Millennials). However, in interviews, Dunham sounds a lot like Hannah, not like an author who is wiser than Hannah and whose intent is to point out Hannah’s flaws. So, in all likelihood, Girls’ parody is unintentional.
My fear is that too many young people watch and think “This is cool” and/or “Wow, that’s just like my life!!” while only we (postmodern) conservatives watch and recognize the characters’ lives for the fiascos they really are.
Two good comments on the issue of “authorial intent” and audience gullibility.
Interesting comments. I used to have a phrase for this: “Breakfast Club Syndrome”. Back in the day, the great John Hughes made the low budget film Breakfast Club attempting to expose how highschool stereotypes such as jocks, nerds, prom-queens, etc, were ultimately phony and simplistic. Ironically, when my fellow teens at the time watched the film they loved it, then proceeded to categorize everyone they knew along the archetypes of each of the main characters corresponding stereotype.
What we have here is a revelation about popular consumers of art and cinema that many wish not to acknowledge: that the desire to identify with the characters often overwhelmes whatever deeper insight the art or form of popular culture was intended for. A similar thing seemed to have happened with fans of Breaking Bad, fascinatingly many of the shows fans apparently saw Walter White as heroic.
Peter’s reaction to Girls reminds me of my reaction to the 2012 Democratic National convention. They spent four days discussing abortion, and I thought “who in the world do they think will respond well to this? Lena Dunham look-alike Sandra Fluke is delivering a keynote?! She’s a 30-something elitist at one of the country’s most expensive law schools demanding that everyone pay for the fulfillment of her sexual desires.”
And then it got worse. A room full of Democratic delegates booed down a vote to mention God and recognize Israel in the Democratic platform.
Turned out I misread the political left and more than half of all voters (substantially more than half).
Each of the characters on the BREAKFAST CLUB was given stereotypically positive qualities and had a kind of integrity that shone through at the end. It stunk as a movie in so many ways, but…
I repeat: Who would identify with Hannah, who has no obvious positive qualities? Shoshanna maybe, given that she’s stronger than she looks and all that.
Clearly Blerta has it all over the rest …
Escoffier and Pseudoplotinus, I thought that some of the reaction to Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood was a similar example of identification trumping artistic intent.
My take on Breakfast Club is slightly different. Hughes is not quite saying the stereotypes are phony. He’s saying that underneath all those layers (Rousseau’s barnacles?) all these kids have similar souls, with the same fears, desires, insecurities, etc.
To some extent that is surely correct, but to the extent that it is correct, it is a truism and therefore not that insightful. The reason the movie works as well as it does is the setting. They’re all “in trouble” and they’re stuck together with no options. People from radically different cliques or what have you can find common ground out of necessity. And the movie ends before trying to show in a forced way how they now all hang out together at lunch, which would be BS. Also, it’s quite honest about Claire’s motivation for dating Bender—to piss off her parents.
For a truly awful example of the theme, see Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s a clever premise but the ending is awful. Basically, a geek buys his way into popularity, then loses favor, then regains at the end simply by giving a speech in response to which the entire school applauds. Preposterous.
Escoffier, You are surely correct. That’s the point of all the Hughes teeny movies. But the point is made in a funny way in SIXTEEN CANDLES. I would say more, but I draw the line at either BREAKFAST CLUB or HUGHES STUDIES
Hughes is like Steinbeck. His comedies are generally great. When he tries to be profound, he fails.
Escoffier, agreed with everything you say except for the reason you give for its success. It succeeded at the box office because teenagers are a modern contruct of person without identity and lacking a society that offers substantive notions of social roles or moraes. Hughes unintentionally gave a teen audience definitions of identity and community that were “compelling” at least through the eyes of a teenager.
In effect Breakfast club was for a previous generation of teens what Girls seems to be becoming for this generation of young adults.
I just meant that, if you show a bunch of kids from different cliques coming together at a party or in the cafeteria or something, it immediately registers as phony. No one believes it for a second and the whole plot fails instantly.
But basically I think you are right. It’s kind of like Rebel Without a Cause with a happy ending. Same basic premise.
So what a number of comments are indicating is that Dunham is up against what I once labelled (in the Songbook) as the PWP, the Poetic Wisdom Paradox:
“the ironical stance toward market popularity that many rock artists adopted, the Pop Art stance, turns classic exotericism on its head: instead of providing something salutary for the masses that conceals within it the philosophy, Pop Art provides them with low pleasures the artists themselves despise or are ambivalent about. These are often made lower and cruder yet through the contempt involved, with disastrous cultural results given the majority of fans who do not get the irony.”
Well, to her credit Dunham is not trying to be that sophisticated, as sophisticated as a David Bowie, for example. Rather, it’s pretty darn OBVIOUS she’s critiquing her Girls.
But it’s still a fundamental problem.
Well, that’s a good quote. On BT and elsewhere, you see young women saying that the real meaning of GIRLS is that it’s society’s fault they’re screwed up. That, of course, is not completely untrue.
Peter, that’s sort of like Walter White saying he did it all for the sake if his family. Incidentally true, but fundamentally evasive.
“it’s pretty darn OBVIOUS she’s critiquing her Girls.”
I don’t know, Carl. I became mildly obsessed with this show when it first appeared. I read much of the pre-launch commentary and thought, “Oh lord save, us pop culture has found a new trough.” Then I happened to be on a plane that showed several episodes in sequence and I thought, “Very crass, but this does effectively show the bankruptcy of ‘hook-up’ and Millennial entitlement!” Then I read several interviews with Dunham and it became clear to me that she is dead serious.
The show is not, in her mind, a satire, parody or critique—except, as Peter notes, a critique of the failure of parents and society to provide these people with dynamite dream lives that they are certain they deserve. Dunham is, to be blunt, a blithering idiot.
The best insights of the show are cribbed from various “game” blogs, all written by men, that explain the low side of female nature and how to … exploit it or get around it or manipulate it to (male) advantage. Dunham deserves credit, I supposed, for having seen the value in stealing from anti-feminist sources that the MSM would otherwise never touch. But I don’t give her credit for much else.
There are too many parts of the show that are just too clever for her to be an idiot. I agree with the stealing from anti-femnists sources, though.
Well (this is not an insight new to me), one of the reasons TV has been better than movies for the last 10 years or so is that all the best shows are written by committees of 10-20 very smart people who work in total collaboration. Girls is like this too. From what I have read, when HBO realized they had a hit, they brought in some extra talent to keep the ball rolling.
In any case, if Dunham is not an idiot, she very effectively plays one in interviews.
“My objection to this bit of criticism is the lives of the “girls” on Girls are so obviously not desirable. The show displays promiscuity, self-indulgence, and self-medication as the foundations of really pathetic lives lacking in any insight into the key personal questions about “who I am” and “what I’m supposed to do.”
So I would like to pose an answer to Peter’s question “who would wan’t to be Hannah?”, by suggesting the question misunderstands the point of Girls’ appeal.
In a phrase, AUTHENTICITY is the last standing virtue in a society that resides at the end of history. Manhattan, particularly Dunham’s Manhattan (where apparently she grew up with parents in hyper elite artistic circles), is populated with elites who see themselves as humanity’s first colonialists of history’s end. In this context, Dunham’s creations in Girls are poster children of this last virtue. What Peter sees as a conservative critique of contemporary amoralism, is really a post-moral embrace of the inherent absurdity of existence from a Post-Virtue perspective.
But SNL’s skit offers us another insight however in the person of Tina Fey who, unlike Ms. Dunham, grew up in a middle-middle class family who, according to her book Bossy Pants, she characterizes as instinctively conservative. To a large extent Fey’s humor seems to derive from a more grounded awareness which I suspect Dunham lacks. Her skewering of Girls, to my mind was an exercise of Aristophanic Parody of Elite pretenses of the highest order. In my opinion, Tina Fey reveals herself in this broadside as by far the superior wit who deserves a lot more admiration than Ms. Dunham.
Dunham is not an idiot because you watch her shows, Escoffier.
A basic understanding of how Progressivism(copyright/Capitalism) works would show you that when you sit down to watch a show you bless it with your limited resources (at the very least time, but also money).
Duh winning Dunham! Idiocy trickles down…
Carl Scott has his PWP or Poetic Wisdom Paradox, but I prefer the CWC the Copyright Wisdom Conundrum.
So you always see sentences like this: “But I don’t give her credit for much else.” You idiot, credit is from the latin for “trust/belief” is the trust which allows one party to provide resources to another party where that second party does not reimburse the first party immediately. You already gave her (or the supply chain logistics) debit, credit is not necessary.
Dunham doesn’t need your “credit”, because the terms of the financial transaction are likely not structured in this fashion. (where I am from you can’t buy DVD’s and watch them and then return them…) But in addition previous to watching you credited Dunham via Lawler, or (buzz on the internet) with being good enough for the time+money commitment. The “credit” or “trademark/reputation” buzz comes prior to the “debit” for the consumption of the “copyright”.
So what you should say is I falsely credited Dunham previous to watching her, which led to a debit of $19.99 and 8 hours of my life. Now I want to “credit” her “authentically” for “stealing”
from anti-feminist sources that the MSM would otherwise never touch.
But why should the MSM touch anti-feminist sources? If it does touch them is it likewise making fair use subject to 17 USC § 107, or is it “stealing”?
Is the lack of anti-feminist sources a pressing question of public policy? Does this justify the progressivism of the founders(Article I section 8, clause 8), and the faith that certain authors should be granted for “Limited” times an exclusive right to alienate particular forms of “hatred” fixed in a tangible medium of expression?
So I don’t watch girls, but I think Escoffier is right. Dunham is an idiot who has embraced and monetized herself.
But what folks like Lawler and Escoffier do is essentially give false hope to idiots that they will be able to monetize(find suckers who will give them debit in exchange for the possibility of deconstructing their lack of credit). What we should note instead is that Dunham is king of the fools, and she largely makes $ so that folks can have something to criticize culturally.
Good for the faculty lounge!
@PP, Walter White is heroic, he rejects the Dunhamness of Jesse and the so called Millennial entitlement, by holding chemistry out as sacred(the entire truth about what human beings are made from.) For Walter White is there such a thing as really grasping chemistry when one gets a 60%? NO! Is he willing to dilute his grades or his crystal meth? NO! Is there objective truth, is there a right and a wrong answer(Yes) Walter White really Hates Breakfast Club…
Should Walter White have to live in a world in which Dunham exists as a monetized/actualized penumbra of the science and the useful arts, and an ever present beacon of fluffy humanities-ness? Or should you start cooking Crystal Meth so that these can choke on their own vomit? .
okay, okay…so maybe there is quite a bit of room for moderation in between… and maybe just maybe, it is all Copyright.
I think the above comment by Pseudoplotinus gets to something important. It also ties into what we’ve been talking about in the Cowen thread.
The increasingly “winner take all” mindset in our society is really corrupting the youth. To oversimplify for effect, “winners” leave dreary small towns, burbs and boring mid-size cities in flyover country and move to the Big Blue cities on the coast. Losers stay home or end up in Cincinnati.
Winners end up making huge money in finance or consulting or some top prestige industry, or else do something “meaningful,” preferably in the arts. Losers at best become management trainees at P&G. At worst they end up at WalMart.
Now, Dunham is obviously a big winner. She’s famous at 24 or whatever. She’s in media, and creative not boring news or producing. She’s a WRITER!! She has her own show on HBO, which is absolutely the most prestigious story telling venue in the world right now. She’s rich as a consequence, of course, which means she can afford to live in style in NYC, which is not easy to do. She goes to all the very coolest parties and is lauded by all the very coolest people. By what the top of society values in 2013—money, status, creativity, prestige—she wins big.
Ironically, or maybe it’s not so ironic, she has done so by writing about the losers among the winners. That is, all the kids who do the only thing, that which must be done, and move to NYC and then don’t make it. They get stupid degrees from silly schools which teach them nothing, all the while inflating their egos and expectations, and then either move to NY and take silly jobs in PR or various forms of paper pushing, which turn out to be every bit as pointless and un-remunerative as they look, or else they try their hand in “creative”—writing, film, TV, music, the arts—and fail.
Then what? Well, at least I am in New York, unlike Susie the loser who is still in Des Moines. Granted, she has a husband, a house and two kids but that is, like, so soul-killing … sharing a crappy $5k/month loft in Williamsburg (Bushwick if we’re to be honest) with four other girls as I fritter away my 20s accomplishing nothing, building no assets, hopping from one random hook-up to another … at least it’s New York and I’m TRYING!! To become myself, to say what I have to say (to a world that doesn’t care, because what I have to say is vapid, but whatever …)
Girls is about the losers among the winners. All the kids that NY drags down into its pipes like the great national drain that it is and who get clogged in the trap and never come out. The angst they feel is real. But the solution—the genuine solution—is one they can’t countenance. And it is this.
Most of you can’t make it here. You will not get a show on HBO. Your band will die after six months of no bookings at the worst Alphabet City dives. Your book (assuming you finish it) will not be published. And if it is, it will be by a boutique press with no resources. Your advance will total less than one day’s wages as a barista.
You would have been much happier staying home and pursuing a conventional life. Get married. Have babies. Be with your extended families. Stay close to your old friends who pursue the same path.
But that is a solution that Dunham literally can’t conceive. Because it all worked out for her. She knows the angst of the failures because she felt it before she hit big. She can write about that believably. But the alternative has simply never occurred to her. In her world view, it’s better to vapid-failure Hannah in New York than happy, busy, beloved Susie in Des Moines.
Lewis, you other idiot, I watched three episodes, for free, on a plane, once. I read the NY Mag cover piece, something in Vanity Fair, and one or two other articles.
I do not concede that it was all waste of time because I think there is value in achieving at least a limited familiarity with the zeitgeist. Further investment in Dunham herself would be pointless. Talking about What It All Means with Lawler and Scott, however, is profitable.
Escoffier, never mind Lewis. He’s still resentful because I embarassed him in a previous thread when he claimed humans were born tabula rasa.
Lewis if you’re out there. I’m still enjoying that one. Luv ya too.
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