Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Workshopping Girls

Given Lena Dunham's ability to polarize even her most ardent supporters, I'm don't plan on making this a habit, but I do want to comment on Sunday's episode of Girls where we finally get to see Hannah as a grad student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. It was a broadly drawn, almost painful parody of some of the criticisms Dunham has received herself: the difficulty in separating Hannah the character from Dunham the person, her numerous privileges, even an MRA-sympathizer faulting her for ignoring the "male perspective." Girls is, by nature, meta to a fault, but this felt a little too self-indulgent. Maybe had it been a singular occurrence, I could have appreciate the not-so subtle jab at her critics, but it's kind of a meme now. Despite its being unrealistic, I liked the episode. The writing workshops I've taken have been unfailingly polite, even done "blind critique" style, and seeing Hannah in that environment where she wasn't the star, where she was quite literally told to shut up and listen was both gratifying and cringe-worthy.

This recap from the New York times, done round table-style, illustrates better some of what I'm trying to say here. I particularly like this observation from Joe:
It’s through these new classmates that Hannah is reminded to check her privilege, something Ms. Dunham has been told, with varying degrees of grace, since the show started. But the criticisms are played as a gag, with one dope telling her that the story has “a lack of sympathy toward the male perspective.” Another asks, “How are we supposed to critique a work that is very clearly based on the author’s experience?” The latter is valid, the former much less so, but by combining them all in this meta-hodgepodge, the legitimate complaints are conflated with the nonsense.