Black People Review Girls (2.2): Dear Joe, Nothing Happened

By Kendra James

Lena Dunham (L) and Donald Glover from HBO’s “Girls.” Image via The Hollywood Reporter.

Dear Joe,

I watched the season premiere of Girls last week deciding that–after a good hour or so of snark directed in Dunham’s direction on Twitter– I’d pretend I didn’t know any of the drama swirling around the show. Why? Well, I only made it four episodes into Season One of Girls, less because of my offended sensibilities and more because I was just bored. The show bored me–and before you say anything, my addiction to Showtime and FX hour-longs proves that I’m capable of enjoying TV without vampires, werewolves, and witches, okay?

Anyway, I was bored with last season but I was willing to make a concession: given how I felt about the show’s…well, everything…was I really going to judge it fairly? Probably not. So Season 2 was going to get the benefit of the doubt.

And the first two episodes have!

But, Joe, I’m still bored.

I know Girls is supposed to be some pseudo-realistic version of life in NYC after college, but I find myself wondering if it’s not too realistic. In striving for that authentic friends-in-New-York vibe, it’s like Lena Dunham forgot that things have to happen on a television show–even when you only have 30 minutes. In addition, there has to be at least one character you care enough to keep you watching week after week. They can’t all be horrible and/or boring people with nothing interesting to say.

Let’s run through the episode, shall we? I didn’t shed any tears when Elijah’s boyfriend broke up with him pre-title card, and Hannah’s strange exercise routine reminded me uncomfortably of the odd thumping and jumping around I used to catch my ex-roommate doing. Speaking of uncomfortable reminders, Adam’s further descent into musical foolishness is all too similar to the story of a college ex of my own (yet I still don’t find myself caring). Later, Marnie’s at a job interview where she ends up talking about a farmer’s market in Montclair, NJ, that my mother actually frequents during the summers. Marnie doesn’t get the job, so then we have to watch Hanna and Sandy brush their teeth together while Elijah makes it clear that he doesn’t approve of Sandy’s Republicanness. I’m still not feeling an emotional draw when Shoshanna starts speaking, and I feel even less of one when Hannah goes to visit Jessa and Jessa’s new husband in his loft. The puppies he gifts her are cute, I guess, but absolutely nothing that’s happening right now is advancing what little plot this show has.

It wasn’t until Hannah and Sandy have The Talk of the episode that I found my mind more than distantly engaged. And I know you’re thinking that it was the whole conversation on race we talked about here that finally engaged me, but you’re wrong!

When pestered for critique of Hannah’s essay (after she tells him, “it’s for everyone”) Sandy answers honestly, “”I just didn’t feel like anything was happening in it. Nothing happened.”

Well thank God someone else is as bored as I am.

If that line was an intentional critique of the show’s pace and content, then please save this letter because you have here the first note of praise I’ve yet to bestow on Dunham or her writing. Yet, somehow I doubt it’s so much a critique of the show as it is just a critique of Hannah and her writing. It’s probably wishful thinking to imagine otherwise, but Sandy’s line did hit home. It was really the only thing that stood out in an otherwise tepid conversation on race designed less to educate and more to grab a laugh. When it comes to comedic interracial dating on screen, Something New really said all I needed to hear.

Anyway the episode ends with Hannah accidentally getting Adam arrested after he breaks into her apartment using the key she gave him “for emergencies”, but by this time I’d tuned out again. I was busy wondering if Hannah’s subsequent breakup with Sandy means that his arc on the show is over. If he really was just a two-episode plot device to say something pseudo-insightful about race before leaving, and thus ensuring that neither Hannah, nor the audience, ever has to think about it again.

It’s kind of sad, really. There is a lot of television out there that I find problematic. There are a lot of showrunners out there who I find problematic. Yet, when it comes to shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Big Bang Theory, or Teen Wolf, there’s the redeeming factor of an at least slightly engaging entertainment value.

You read that right: I’m more engaged watching The Big Bang Theory than I am watching Girls.

The point is, while I’ll still critique them, I’m perfectly capable of enjoying things written by people I find distasteful so long as they’re somewhat entertaining. Girls is not that, and that makes Lena Dunham’s various shenanigans even more frustrating. She gets away with a lot for producing some extremely average work.

But, hey. That’s being white in Hollywood, isn’t it?

Cheers,
Kendra

PS. I hope you had a fantastic weekend. I didn’t talk about mine, because the Girls season premiere summed it up pretty accurately. So just watch that, but envision more minorities.

  • justlikeoldtimes

    Let’s not make this an issue of Dunham’s appearance. Lena Dunham would love to be considered the champion of the Average-Looking Woman’s Liberation Movement… as long as the average women we’re talking about are exclusively white.

    • SuperHyugaYoshichan

      True, thank you for checking me on that. Iprolly shoulda said her facial expression….

  • SuperHyugaYoshichan

    Lena Dunham makes me yawn.
    But there is good news that has nothing to do with this: The Unwritten Rules, a YouTube series, is WAY better than this! :)

  • justlikeoldtimes

    The phrase “You can like problematic things” often comes up in every race/gender in pop culture discussion.

    But it’s also okay to dislike them too!

  • http://twitter.com/XXI BCJ.

    You’re right, it was incredibly boring. And all of Lena’s bold ignorance just makes it that much more distasteful.