“Girls” Season 2 Trailer
If the Germans have a word to describe the feeling of watching something so good that it makes you feel bad, that word is what I feel watching this trailer for this show. Can you help me figure out what it is that gives me this feeling? I watched it when I woke up, so maybe it was just off-the-shelf early morning existential dread. But I’m reading more into it.
Why, for instance, do I not feel this way when I watch a promo for “Louie”? Why does this feeling I’m feeling seem to be specific to “Girls”? “Louie” is damn good. Probably the best there is right now. Is the difference that “Louie” comes from a similar generation as me, where humor comes from misery and self-inflicted pain? Could it be that I relate to “Louie” because he’s the same self-effacing schlub that I see in myself? See, I think I’m accustomed to quality programming only coming from people who are not okay with themselves.
But here, “Girls” shows us a real genuine quality program populated with characters who are okay with themselves. They seem to be having a really good time at life, and it’s not at the expense of any depth of character or execution. I’ve just never seen anything like this, and it makes me uncomfortable.
Yet, I know that these characters don’t have it all that great. They’re making mistakes all over the place, they’re in debt and their relationships seem so easily broken and they live their lives in that cloud of irony everyone’s been talking about. But they seem to be pretty accepting of themselves, and that gives me what do you call it cognitive dissonance.
And this is a Judd Apatow production, which confuses me all the more. Judd Apatow is not okay with himself, but here he is, having harnessed these Lena Dunham characters who are basically the mirror opposites of his “Freaks and Geeks” gang.
Do yourself a favor. Go to Netflix, find the third episode of a series called American Primetime, titled “The Misfit”, add it to your queue and watch it tonight. Nearly everyone who’s making important TV right now is on there. (Not Louie or Lena, though.)
Now, here’s the big question: are we on the tail end of the era of Misfit comedy? Do we expect that our favorite things will from here on be made by bright, cute, well-adjusted people? Or are these simply Misfits of a new breed, raised without the affirmation of self-hatred? Are we, as audiences, bored of people who find themselves distasteful or repulsive? So many questions about “Girls”. I can’t wait for it to start.
1. The word you’re looking for is Freudenschulde, which I made up right now (I think), but translates as joy-guilt, the feeling of shame and slight dread you get from feeling joyous about something you believe you shouldn’t. Like eating too much delicious spongecake.
2. I think the cognitive dissonance you’re experiencing is theirs, not yours. Maybe?
Girls is a good show, but the cloud of irony surrounding it (and its characters) doesn’t come from wearing kitschy clothes or trying new things with a so-what-I’m-young-and-I-don’t-really-like-it-like-it attitude. It comes from the series’ dramatic irony. Many of these characters have un-earned confidence. They are living subsidized lives, and all their troubles are the most surface varieties. That’s why, I think, the last season’s final scenes were so wonderful. Eating a cupcake on a beach was an acknowledgement of sorts. Yes, our 26-year-old brains are fraught with emotion. We believe people have wounded us on the deepest levels when really they just don’t like our shoes. But really it’s not all bad, and we get swept up in it all, but we’re ok in the end.
So it becomes a comedy of the classic order. There is little at stake from an abstract point of view. Nearly all the characters could at any time pack up their things, move back in with mom and dad, regroup, and start their lives over again. Who knows? Some of us may have done that at one time or another already. But for them, for the girls in the series it would mean the worst kind of defeat. It would mean the world had won.
3. Louie knows the world has won, but he continues stumbling forward, for what else is there to do? No one dies in Louie, but that’s the only thing, really, that stops it from being a tragedy. I wasn’t able to watch much of this season, but I did watch the episode where Parker Posey tells him her name is Taperecorder. There was real tension there as the evening escalated, and at the end there’s a very real possibility she’ll leap from the building and commit suicide. Louie feels it, we feel it. Should that show have ended with a cupcake, it would have been one of duty, not celebration. For what else can a middle-aged man do when a date has bent so much? Perhaps a cupcake would have been too precious. Coffee and pie would have been expected, but let’s say the diner’s out of pie, so Louie has to settle for a cupcake. But he doesn’t eat it in a removed moment of self-reflection and awareness. He eats it because he must.
4. The most delicious spongecake is still spongecake. Even really high-end, modernist-cooking-type spongecake.
5. We remember what it’s like to be young. I would imagine, Adam, you remember much more than others given your fascination with memory, remembering, nostalgia and etc. I would imagine it’s easy for you to place yourself back and back to 26 (not that far back for you?), but also realize what an amazing thing it would be to be 26 and unfettered today, to be your 26-year-old self now as opposed to then and realize what an amazing opportunity that would be.
And maybe that’s another piece of cognitive dissonance coming through. Here’s this show—or let’s go back to Tiny Furniture, even. Think about how easy it is to make a movie these days, especially if you live in New York and were born to pop-art parents.
This isn’t to say Lena can’t write or can’t edit or anything even close. She’s a good writer, a good director and a good editor. But she’s a filmmaker of the first generation for whom the tools for all this are pretty easily accessible, and accessible really early. Laptops come with cameras attached. Many of us could make movies on our phones, were we so inclined. Writers have outlets for the work. Film-makers can create decent shorts in an afternoon. The Internet is so full of designers’ work it’s really hard to find truly ugly things. The cycles of trial and error are so short now—as someone who once edited a short, post-modernist film for his “Age of the Avant Garde” class in 1992 using a VCR and a video camera rented from Blockbuster, my mind boggles.
Anyway, another piece of cognitive dissonance might be from seeing a good show about 26-year-olds written and directed by a 26-year-old instead of a group of aging white guys punching up a script about what it must be like to be 26 and in New York. Before these tools became accessible, the only real place that happened was in writing, where the tools were really nothing more than a typewriter, paper and envelopes. I remember experiencing a similar kind of cognitive dissonance when I read Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. Here was a young guy who had managed to write something of a cultural phenomenon, and many of my friends and I were stunned we hadn’t been able to do it ourselves. He just made it look so damn easy.
6. There’s no self-hatred because there’s no shame. In a landscape in which everything is shared, there’s no space for shame. In a past landscape where sharing was difficult, shame had plenty of shade and room to grow.
Though I would argue there’s a little self-hatred.
7. I don’t think we’re at an end of any one type of comedy. I think we’re at the beginning of all comedy.
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