Show Watched

On binge-watching “Girls”

Binge-watching has always struck me as the more objective way to watch a show. No distractions, no recaps, no waiting a week and hearing people’s stupid theories about which person in Monterey gets murdered and who’s really biting Amabella. No podcasts, no in-depth “after the show” segments. No live-tweeting or spoiler alerts or fan fiction. Just more and more and on and on and on like a good book you can’t put down.

Sometimes I think the biggest problem with Lena Dunham’s HBO series “Girls” was its audience. The “conversation.” Me. You. Everyone Miranda July knows. We were the echo chamber of a generation, and for five years all we’ve been able to talk about is how this show exists. Can you believe it? “Girls” clearly struck a nerve that rattled and buzzed like a funny bone and that resonance has weirdly been its own biggest distraction.

So I’m glad that Awl pal Jia Tolentino has done a very clever thing, which is to consume “Girls” all in one binge, from start to finish in order to give us what reads as a fairer analysis of a television show on its own merits instead of what it actually represents. I only recently got back into watching the show after abandoning it for two and a half or three seasons because I was told Matthew Rhys would disdainfully drawl out the words “The Awl” in that “older-person-negs-a-blog” kind of tone. And you know what, fuck me if it wasn’t a very good piece of television, if an uncomfortable one to watch.

I also don’t think “Girls” demands identification as much as satirizes it. The main characters are never more ridiculous than when they are explaining the way they see themselves — in one of Marnie’s funniest moments, at her infelicitous wedding, she described her aesthetic as “Ralph Lauren meets Joni Mitchell,” with a “nod to my cultural heritage, which is white Christian woman.” The fruitlessness of endlessly fine-tuning your self-image — of frantically trying to echolocate your personhood against someone else’s story, real or fictional — is baked into every episode of the show. This is particularly clear in the scant number of episodes, just a dozen or so over six seasons, in which Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna have appeared as an ensemble. In these episodes, the characters’ interdependent narcissism generally becomes unwieldy: the four of them go to the North Fork with competing ideas of a good weekend, and their trivial preferences become statements of purpose — ammunition for a fight about who they are.

Truth be told, the thing we hated most about “Girls” is how it knew exactly where our buttons are. Read the whole thing here.