sophcw at gmail dot com
Scrape your knee, it's only skin.
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A chart I made last night while waiting for the train depicting the relative levels of “togetherness” of Lena Dunham, Lena Dunham’s character on Girls and myself.
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But, also, who cares if this is self-indulgent? Because, honestly, it absolutely is. The whole show is self-indulgence. The very idea that we would find any of this interesting absolutely reeks of self-indulgence, but so does the idea any artist has when they present a story or sonata or sculpture to us. The act of making art is the act of saying, “Hey, I made something, and you should pay attention to it.” That’s enormously self-indulgent. And, yeah, I hear you saying that Dunham doesn’t just write and direct, but also stars, and that’s somehow even worse, but you know what? So does Louis C.K., and so does Larry David.
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It’s like, well, since she did manage to bag a guy like Joshua, then she should be so grateful that she should be simultaneously sucking his dick and stroking his ego just for the opportunity to be with him.
Just finished watching the last episode of Girls. I had lost hope for the season after the cocaine episode but the last two have actually been pretty great. Someone pointed out that this episode was a lot like Louie and I think that’s why I liked it so much. It felt more like a short film than a sitcom (whereas the last few have been full of action and jokes). As blatant as some of it was, and as intolerable a character Hannah is, it was still pretty great seeing her demand of him the things she actually wanted. I haven’t read the pieces that apparently don’t buy this scenario (and I don’t really want to), but I find that completely ridiculous. Joshua’s character, far from being dream-like, was the most real and seemingly normal human we’ve seen so far on the show. His reactions to her were completely rational. This was one of my favorite episodes of the show so far, I’d like to see more like it.
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Often, one of the most fascinating things about reading biographies of artists is wondering when the hell they found time to work, given how much tumultuous living was being done. Of course, this is one of the secrets of art—it’s generally not an isolated activity that comes into being at the desk; rather, it’s a Midas touch that applies to every aspect of life (and often highlights the bitter irony that not everything should be made of gold, so to speak). And it’s that Midas touch that accounts for the rapidity of even the most exacting labor: for all the self-critical revising of the working writer, there is a wonder at each stage. That’s the fascination of notebooks and letters, of early drafts and sketches, discarded shards and deleted scenes—the expression of the spirit is everywhere and mercurially rapid; every stroke of creation is instantaneous (and a definition of criticism is a differential calculus for the instant of creation).
“Real sex was too meaty, too medical, as if sex plunged you into all those pulsing, sweaty systems, the nerves and valves and secretions, whereas imaginary sex remained speculative, spiritual, sepulchral.”
—Edmund White, Jack Holmes & His Friend
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Overall, one of the most fascinating things to me about the response to this show is how much time is dedicated to trying to suss out whether a certain moment is “believable” or not. See the Boys of Slate this week, who don’t “buy” this come-on. To me, the very fact that we’re stuck talking about whether we “buy” a line like Jorma Taccone’s (“I might scare you a little”) speaks to how unrepresented contemporary female sexual experience is. After all, if some people are turned on by having sex as stuffed animals, how hard is it to believe that a type-A character like Marnie would be turned on by a bossy dude—even if half of his bossiness is thin posturing?
Which is to say: It seems to me, from talking to women, that all this stuff happens, all the time, in all sorts of variations, and some women take it “seriously” and are seduced by it, and some aren’t. And it all depends on pheromones and the specific power dynamic and erotic charge and all that. Love and sex make no sense! Also, we have to remember that this is just the first three episodes, and so each scene here is being held up as “representative,” because the show is still so new.
This week’s episode ends with a scene unlike any I’ve seen on television before, or in any form, really. In it, Hannah returns home after a bad day, distraught. She’s been diagnosed with HPV and she’s discovered that her ex-boyfriend is gay. The guy she’s been sleeping with is an idiot and a liar. She’s alone, on her bed. And she does what we all do now: she goes online.
Specifically, she gets on Twitter, where she faces a box designed for a hundred and forty characters. She types: ‘You lose some, you lose some.’ Self-pity. But she doesn’t hit send. She starts over, this time more explicitly: ‘My life has been a lie, my ex-boyfriend dates a guy.’ Again, she deletes; starts over. Finally, she taps out what amounts to a code: ‘All adventurous women do.’
No stranger who reads those words will know quite what they mean. They’re a credo, a pose—it’s a phrase she heard from a friend, who was repeating what another friend said, giving her a sophisticated attitude with which to face HPV. (Even in the offline world, we cut and paste.) And yet that phrase becomes more expansive than any reference to a medical diagnosis, because Hannah’s telling other people—and of course herself—that her worst experiences are not humiliations and stains: they’re adventures. (They’re material.) As she types, the music rises: Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own.’
When her roommate Marnie arrives in the doorway, Hannah tells her about her bad night; the women talk and laugh and dance together. There’s no clear transition in this scene between what’s online and what’s off—Hannah doesn’t have to choose, one leads to the other. She’s upset, and she’s saying so in public, but that online blurt is mediated, and it’s edited: a skill she’s learned through practice, because she’s grown up learning to do that. It’s a way of speaking that lies between writing and conversation, intimacy and theatre.
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I was jealous because my life felt like a series of false starts and this girl had gotten her footing before I had and when you’re a girl that means everything; the first one across the finish line gets to be the ingenue with her portrait in the New Yorker and the one who stands a chance of being listened to or getting that career doing what she loves. “As more women achieve in a given area,” the filmmaker Sally Potter once observed, “They are forced to compete with each other for the same space rather than the space itself expanding.” To the second one across the finish line they’ll say, “We all saw that Lena Dunham movie, why would we want to hear what another 23 year-old girl thinks about the world?”
Now I am older than Keats was when he died and I live in a room whose walls somebody else painted this very soothing shade of taupe and I’m still the same age as Lena Dunham but I’m not jealous of her anymore. I am making a living doing a different thing that I love and I feel as lucky as she has probably at some point felt, and I catch myself whenever I start buying into a worldview that mandates I see anyone a little bit like me as my competition. So good luck to her. May she make the space expand.
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Obviously it’s ~*~opinion time~*~
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