Girls 1.02: "Vagina Panic"A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee, Nick Hanover
Hannah's sexual escapades get creepier as Marnie's get more boring. Meanwhile, Jessa is late to her own abortion appointment and Hannah totally bombs a job interview despite a strong start.
Girls Episode 1.02- "Vagina Panic"
Nick Hanover: I think I have reached an epiphany about you and Girls.
I think you like Girls because you think this is what straight life is like.
Dylan Garsee: My roommate's girlfriend thinks it's because she thinks I think I'm the guy equivalent of Hannah.
Also, Girls is the gayest show since RuPaul's Drag Race.
Seriously, replace every character in girls with a bunch of mos and it would be the exact same show.
Nick: I think I would like that show more, because then at least the characters would be slightly different from the Gawker commenters.
But let's talk about sex, Dylan.
Dylan: Let me prepare my doodly-hole.
Nick: I'm going to concede that you were in fact correct that the opening of this episode is better than the entire first episode. I'm also going to pretend I didn't just hear you use the phrase "doodly-hole," because I prefer to not view you as a character from Happiness.
Dylan: I need to see that movie.
The opening of the episode made me laugh harder than anything I've seen on TV in a while, because of how both brutally awkward and realistic it was.
I saw an interview with Lena Dunham on the Early Show (probably because I lost my remote) and she said one of the goals she had with making Girls was to show how awkward and ugly sex is, that it's not all glamorized like television makes it out to be.
Nick: The opening may as well have come from Happiness, actually. Or, perhaps more accurately, Storytelling, a movie in which a black professor demands that the white student he's having an affair with call him "nigger" during sex. Todd Solondz is a necessary reference to make here because when it comes to awkward, ugly sex he may as well be the master.
And while I found the opening of this episode to be one of the series' better moments, as the episode progressed, I felt that I, as a viewer, was forced to fill in a lot of the gaps on my own. Part of that is intent on Dunham's end, I'm sure; she clearly wants us to make parallels between the sex Adam and Hannah are having and the sex Marnie and Charlie are having. Adam and Hannah are separated by a vast gulf of experience, where Hannah is using Adam as potential memoir material and has no real interest in the act of sex itself, no matter how outwardly exciting it appears to be. Marnie is bored with Charlie because he won't take charge or behave in a more aggressive manner, yet that too is because of a gulf of experience, though in this case it's the lack of it they both have, what with being together since their teenage years and all.
Nick: But where someone like Solondz can take a seemingly ugly, awkward sex act and comment on how we often seek out new and different experiences because of the thrill they present only to find that they can make the vanilla experiences suddenly seem more palatable-- or, more complexly, how our sexuality can be a dangerous, consuming thing when held in check for too long-- Dunham is all too content to excise the content in favor of the shock. Here we're supposed to be shocked not by the depraved sexual acts taking place but by the fact that this generation is frankly just bored with sex, no matter how dangerous it is or isn't. From there, you can read it as Hannah's naivete turning into some new kind of danger, where having the wealth of information that is the internet has turned us into a whole generation incapable of experiencing things in any real way, favoring ignorance and detachment. And I love that idea...except I'm not convinced it's a statement Dunham is purposefully making.
Dylan: I don't think Dunham is trying to make a statement about sex. Honestly, I don't even think this episode tried to say anything about the act of sex, it was more about how each character uses sex to get what they want. Hannah is having what she thinks is wild sex to fulfill a lifelong masochistic view she has about sex ruining her life. Marnie wants there to be more excitement in the bedroom, but at the same time wants the wedge to be drawn between Charlie and herself. Jessa uses sex and its consequences as a check off of her bucket list. Shoshana is using her lack of experience to grow closer with the rest of the girls. She's obviously out of their cultural circle, so she's trying to let them in by letting them know more about her.
The statement isn't about sex, it's about how these girls are using their life experiences to help them grow. It doesn't mean they're good people or are trying to say anything. They're just evolving.
Nick: I think we're arriving at basically the same conclusion here, with the difference being that the show's blankness connects more with you. I'm not saying that's positive or negative, but this is a show where there is no middle ground. When I'm talking about its perspective on sex, I don't mean that in a reductive way, or as though sex is the be all end all of that particular equation. What this show does particularly well is craft characters that function as canvases, where you can fill in the blanks of your own specific experiences and beliefs. To me, that idea of sex being something that adds to these girls' life experiences is absolutely true, but I don't think you can ignore the detached, cynical aspect of that, where no one is having a fulfilling sexual experience no matter how you look at it.
Granted, as someone who is especially interested in the increasing complexity of sexuality in our generation, I'm making that palette choice with these canvases. I am painting in those blanks and I am fully aware that I am utilizing them as fascinating subjects for my own personal theories. I know people who have experienced sex in the same way these characters do, and I've long believed that the way we process information in this day and age has tremendously impacted their enjoyment of sex. But I also can't ignore that there are a ton of people out there who utilize that same information and those same resources and get more enjoyment out of sex as a result. Dunham skirting the line with her personal beliefs on this matter stands out to me as somewhat cowardly and ineffectual; if she's going to be this cynical, I wish she'd come out and be clearer on that, rather than restraining herself so much.
Dylan: And that's what I feel makes Girls such a great show. It's seems like such a limited show: white, 20-something, educated girls living in New York City. Yet, the characters are so personal and detailed they become relatable. It's like looking at your eye in a mirror so close that you can see the reflection within it.
As a gay guy living in Austin, TX, I am still able to relate to all of these characters and all of their situations so intimately, and this is only the second episode. That's the sign of a great TV show, when it can create something so personal yet widespread.
Nick: I'm not willing to call it a great show. But I am willing to say it attracts a great audience. Again, this show has a lot of potential but at the moment, I'd argue that the projecting that's going on-- like we're both doing here-- is playing a much larger factor in its critical reception. I'm fully willing to admit that my expectations are ridiculously high, but that's because a show this smart, with this many talented people, should have more to say. It's good that it has a degree of universality and all, but I'm still bothered by its lack of a direct voice.
Take a look at how much it reiterates jokes and premises, like the "up the sides of the condom" line that appeared in every other scene of the show. Or the forced motherhood dilemmas every single character had.
Dylan: That's what this show is trying to say, that we aren't all original little snowflakes. We repeat the same phrases, we have the same issues, and we'll be bitter and sardonic until we realize that. Like the gynecologist said, "you couldn't pay me enough to be 24 again" with that sense of remorse and regret, yet excitement and longing.
Dylan: Hannah thinks she's the voice of a generation, yet she iss realizing that she may be a voice of a generation
Nick: I thought we agreed the show isn't actually saying anything?
Dylan: I thought it wasn't saying anything from the pilot, but I just don't think it had finished talking.
Nick: But no, I get your point, I really do. In a way, regardless of my opinion on this show-- or anyone's, for that matter-- the very notion that this show is both saying something and not saying anything makes it perfectly fitting for our generation. We have too much to say, but we aren't saying anything. We have too many outlets, but we can't actually connect. And as with the scene you brought up with the gynecologist, that's also what makes us so baffling and irritating to the generations before us, who raised us to be ambitious and to not settle and gave us so many incredible methods of communication but have also left us with so many overwhelming problems and disasters and such a dire lack of hope or direction. We have more intelligence and information at our disposal than ever before, but we're so pathetically naive and confused about the world around us that we can't cope with even the most minor of issues. And it's perhaps because of that that I'm left cold, wishing that this show would be something more and have something better to say rather than reflecting the anxiety and ennui I'm stuck trying to escape from with everyone else my age.
Nick: Sidenote: how weird is it that perhaps the best, bleakest, most complex review we've worked on is about a hipster comedy? :-|
Dylan: How bad is it that our Game of Thrones reviews are mostly HOW DOEZ BABBY FORMED jokes, yet Girls is mostly us arguing our modern culture and the almost meta realizations that this show brings us to.
This episode not only brought up a lot of questions about our modern culture, it also did something that most comedies seem to fail to do: be really fucking funny.
Hannah's interview was one of the single best pieces of pure comedy I've seen in a while, and it was the closest to a traditional sitcom I've seen on HBO since Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Nick: The interview segment was undeniably excellent, and that was due in no small part to how well it captured the awkwardness of that situation, where you think you've got a handle on where the comfort level lies and then you completely fuck it up by going just a bit too far. It was elevated by the slight divide in age between Hannah and the interviewer, as well as the attraction that seemed to exist at first (and probably did until Hannah ruined everything).
Dylan: It was just a perfect scene that fit perfectly on the show, yet it would also fit perfectly as a YouTube short.
Strangely universal, just like the whole show.
Nick: Strangely universal, just like shadow babby.
Speaking of shadow babby, was it just me or was most of Hannah's sex questions in this episode lifted directly from good ol' Yahoo Answers?
Dylan: Everything should be lifted from Yahoo! Answers.
HOW DOES AIDDS FORM ON CONDOM.
Nick: That goes into the naivete, too. Hannah knows just enough about sex to be overly concerned about it, but not enough to not sound like a middle schooler after sex ed.
Dylan: Which is hilarious and touching and totally fitting for the show. Children doing adult things but acting like children.
Nick: What did you think of the last minute development about Jessa's pregnancy?
Dylan: Slightly gross, but totally fitting with her character. Two hours late to her abortion, and she instead gets drunk and has a random guy finger the baby out of her.
Nick: I took it to mean her period was late, but fingering the baby out of her is the kind of nightmare statement you excel at so, sure, let's go with that.
"How is babby unformed?"
Dylan: I believe this girl has the answers.
Nick: ...im scared...
Nick: Wow. That managed to be even more terrifying than I could possibly have imagined.
So, to recap...
We began this review with some light humor about the sex crimes on display at the beginning of the episode. We then moved onto a deep, thought provoking conversation about our generation and its failures as presented through the lens of Girls. And now we are making miscarriage jokes and rolling out babby and some kind of image that I'm pretty sure moves me past the regular hell I was condemned to and places me straight in some special kind of place.
Dylan: It's a vicious cycle that will probably also be our tomb.
Nick: Before Satan himself just comes up and high fives us, let's rate this damn thing.
Dylan: I'm going to stick with my that I gave it last week, mostly because our rating doesn't go up that much higher.
Nick: You're turning into the Ray Tate of television reviews, Dylan.
I'm going to say , because this was an improvement over last week, but I'm not as wowed as you are, though I will begrudgingly admit there is still a lot of potential in this show.
Dylan: One day, you will come over to the dark side with the rest of the TV reviewers that love this show.
Nick: And that will be the same day you become a Big Bang Theory fanatic.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.
When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon and you can follow him on twitter @Nick_Hanover