A friend suggested I blog about HBO’s Girls. But I can’t watch it. I saw the first couple of minutes of the pilot, and it was painful. I’m tempted to do a Sara Benincasa- style review without having seen it, but I’m no Sara Benincasa, and besides it would take viewing more clips or reading more about it than I can handle.
I have my reasons:
1. Williamsburg – I lived there in the 80’s. When I moved into my floor-through apartment on Bedford between North 11th and North 12th, I think the rent was $250 a month, and the other tenants saw my arrival as a sign of end times. I was the pilot-fish of gentrification. These were days when you might go to a party at a loft and the fire department would show up to shut the whole thing down (true story). When whacky clubs opened for a day or two or neighborhood bars were occasionally taken over by large goth drag queens and various performance artists. Back then the arrival of Kasia’s – a place you could actual get a bite to eat – was a big deal indeed, and I frequently stopped by a tiny bakery between North 7th and North 8th for a danish or bagel in the mornings, and there were always the same old Italian and Polish regulars. There was some weird chemical plant across the street, and if I get cancer someday it will be from that. Greenpoint and Williamsburg had the highest concentration of toxic material storage in the City, plus oil spills. Every once in a while the streets would flood bright yellow and there was a smell that even with the windows closed would seep from your nose onto your taste buds.
Despite its being America’s Bhopul, by 1990, I already felt out of place, supplanted by the younger more beautiful people moving in.
Now, I’m completely intimidated by the place. I feel old, poor and ugly.
I get that the main character lives in Greenpoint, but really, the neighborhood boundaries are amorphous, and Greenpoint is the new Williamsburg, but with a lousier train.
2. Who wants to see other people have bad sex? The first two minutes of the pilot, some girl is doing some boy who wants her to indulge him in a fantasy role-play, in which she is barely feigning interest, and I thought, “Is this entertainment?”
I understand there are a lot of these awkward unpleasant moments. Young women having adventures based on who they fuck, and maybe how. It’s not actually good sex. They aren’t having fun, but it’s a story they can tell later, or something. Is this still the world? Boys have the adventures, play in the bands, make the art, and the women live vicariously by screwing them and putting up with their bullshit? Because I really don’t want to see that.
And girls, if this is your life, you probably won’t look back and think, “That was interesting.” You’ll look back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?”
I’ve worked with bright young people. I have nieces and nephews in their twenties. They all seem to be smarter and more focused than I ever was. I do not want that illusion shattered. I hope if they are watching, they are saying, “What idiots these girls are!” and not, “I am just like them. It’s funny because it’s true.”
3. Sex and the City – I didn’t like that either. I went to a wedding (one of the better-half’s ex’s) where every toast by friends of the bride referenced how their lives were exactly like the show, and who was who. But it was never something I identified with. If you were throwing a dinner party for fictional characters, you wouldn’t want any of them there. They had no interests beyond their own petty little lives. I don’t need to see a younger version.
4. The myth of the “starving” artist: My understanding is that the main character’s parents have cut her off and she is now “struggling.” But here’s the thing – the freight on even a share in Greenpoint is enormous these days. I don’t know how anyone can afford to live anywhere. All Brooklyn hipsterism is supported by older capital, and if some whippersnapper in his or her twenties who already has a “dream” job or a successful business, or her own television series denies it, that’s just bullshit because even if it isn’t the trust fund, it was always the college, the connections, that check covering your first month plus security and fee, the stock from grandma you sold, etc. — that got you there.
Look at the cast, and Dunham herself – these are children of established artists, a famous playwright, and a network anchorman. And that’s a realistic reflection of who lives in the neighborhood.
The show got flack for not having any non-white characters. I have a suggestion for them – Zoe Kravitz. Write a character based on her, and get her to play the character. She could even be called Zoe Kravitz although that gimmick didn’t work out so well for Like You Know or Don’t Trust the B.
Why Zoe? Because she lives in Williamsburg, and is the epitome of whom New Brooklyn was made for – rich, beautiful, young people, with great clothes and pedigrees. The storyline writes itself – Hannah and Zoe meet cute, and keep running into each other. Hannah has a girl-crush on her, not necessarily sexual. She just wants to be near the glamor, and have a black best friend. She loves saying, “Zoe says…” or “Zoe likes…” to the point where her friends tell her the name-dropping thing is most uncool, and her behavior is bordering stalkerish.
You want to know what it was really like to be a starving artist in Brooklyn? Read Just Kids, by Patti Smith (which you can check out on the widget above). Try surviving on a bookstore clerk’s salary and with your boyfriend hustling on the side, in a neighborhood not yet made safe for kids from the suburbs. New Brooklyn, even out in Bushwick or Bedford Stuyvesant, is not the Bohemian section, anymore than Marie Antoinette was a shepherdess.