mad men + racist girls

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John Hamm in Mad Men
Obviously, I’m back on board with Mad Men, though this week’s past episode was smoking crack—or at least was tripping on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Between Peggy giving a HJ to a stranger in a theater, to Roger’s “trip” with Jane, to Don and his dearest’s fight, chase, and crash, I didn’t know where to look. I’m still trying to process it all. And, I miss Betty.

Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture) is the creator of HBO’s Girls, “which is co-produced by Judd Apatow.” I hate that—that every article I’ve seen on the show includes the Apatow footnote way up in the opening paragraph, as if to legitimize the series, like giving accreditation to a three-week summer program. The girl can slouch just fine on her own.

Lena Dunham's character Hannah on HBO's Girls

I was in their Long Island City offices one afternoon while Lena polished the pilot script, and I was cheering (albeit silently) for her, thrilled truly that such a young woman had a tribe of people buzzing around, creating an entire series based on her vision and talent. Good for her. Not just because she’s young (25 yrs. old), not just because she’s a woman, but because even in Hollywood, where everyone wants to stir your pot, she was able to keep the authenticity and quirk of her voice and characters, the ones that sparkled dimly (in that desired understated way) in her independent feature film Tiny Furniture (winner at Austin’s SXSW—TX shout out).

Characters from HBO's Girls

The show purposefully shines an unflattering fluorescent light on Dunham’s generation of privileged twenty-something’s, specifically, a circle jerk of all-white New Yorkers. Write what you know. I don’t believe Dunham is suggesting that the girls in the cast (herself included as the main character, Hannah) are a microcosm of her generation, but rather, she’s writing about the world she knows, just as Neil Simon wrote about his own particular life.There’s been a lot of backlash, particularly criticism on the narrow and spoiled view of it’s characters, but I believe Dunham knows exactly what she’s doing: she’s being self-deprecating.

While I was in their offices, a friend mentioned to me that the lines written to be funny, where Dunham pokes fun at her own character’s weight, weren’t funny because Lena looked too good. She wasn’t fat enough to make fun of her weight. She’s trying though. She’s putting the absurdity of privilege coupled with aimlessness and a sense of entitlement on display.

Cupcake in the Bathtub

The only bit that didn’t “read” true to me was the scene where Hannah is taking a bath with her friend, leaning over the tub, EATING A CUPCAKE. Why, oh why, did she have to go there? Might as well have been a carton of ice cream. It’s cliché, so perhaps that bit was forced upon her in editing to make an executive happy. The bath, I don’t get, but it’s probably something she has experienced, plus it demonstrates that Hannah is at ease with her body, storybook tattoos and all. Overall, I love the unapologetic self-centered view, the frizz and the unflattering. It feels as if you’re looking in the mirror without makeup, “rough” after spending days of unshowered sloth in the same pajamas, eating cereal from a Pyrex measuring cup because it’s the only clean bowl you have left. That’s how Girls feels. And ironically, it’s refreshing.



  1. I liked the pilot of Girls, but wasn’t so much into the second episode. It had its good parts, but something about it bothered me. I’ve been dying to find someone who has seen it and wants to discuss. I am not easily offended by any means and I wasn’t offended per se, but I hated the sex scenes. A decade ago, the women of Sex and the City were having meaningless sex, but it was great sex. Now, the girls of today are still having meaningless sex but it’s really bad? This kind of depresses me and I realize that both portrayals were exaggerated but still.

    1. I think you already figured it out. The “women” of SATC were having great sex; the “girls” of Girls are not. The SATC characters were older, more confident and often in charge. These girls are normal(ish) people. Most young 20-somethings are a wreck when it comes to sex, dating and relationships. And I don’t think that in the case of Hannah and that douche she’s sleeping with it’s meaningless sex because she is kind of into him but he’s a jerk. It’s depressing because it’s so realistic.

  2. Mad Men is the best – I’ve been watching since day one…i actually have a cookie jar that was in a kitchen scene on the show – it was my grandmother’s! I couldnt belive it! and Jon Hamm……….yummy!

  3. Hmm…I’d actually really like to see this show. Even just from your description it feels real. I would never be able to get the fiance on board though!

  4. My husband likes “Girls” more than I do! I think it’s funny, but sometimes I feel like it’s forced. Like “thee-ah-tah” dialogue. But, overall, it’s different. And it seems more real (most of the time) than most shows. But, yes, during the bathtub scene, I actually paused the Tivo and said to the hubs, “No girl. NO GIRL. takes a bath with her friend while eating a cupcake. It doesn’t happen.” :)

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