by Alex Juhasz — Pitzer College
April 20, 2012 – 13:59
That’s grrr, like annoying, not Riot. Cuz there’s none of that in Girls (not to mention women of color).
In the early 1990s, I was around 25 and I already thought of myself as a woman when the grrrls played New York (I remember seeing them at ABC No Rio when my friend Alex Sichel was planning to make a movie about the scene [All Over Me, Sichel, 1997]).
But those nineties girls—a little younger, perhaps somewhat all-around less privileged, and still pretty white—fell back upon their generation’s love of Grunge, connected to a previous generation’s feminist rage, and espoused their own avowedly political commitment to the politics of expression. Meanwhile, Dunham’s new girls—yes, just one visualization of “her generation”—are separated, sequestered, cocooned off from the any sense of history, community, or body of (feminist) work or (political) thinking or (artistic) practice beyond their narcissistic dreams of socially-mediated “artistic” cross-over (or selling-out as we called it) and passing sexual pleasures (perhaps one of them will be lucky enough to become someone like Lena Dunham, although cuter). I do like some of it to be sure: their world-of-women and -self sometimes separated from men or hetero-coupledom; the unromantic depiction of young-hetero-sex and girls’ desire; Dunham’s funny, quick patter. However, I mourn the loss of Tiny Furniture’s uniquely 2000′s DIY sensibility (not so much grunge as google), where a YouTube-inflected sensibility, even if a tad studied, prevailed: “bad” camera-work and acting, no make-up, and a plot-line about Lena’s own YouTube celebrity. The HBO girls have been prettied up, as has Dunham’s craft, thanks to the goodies of her rise out of social media.
But it’s Dunham’s inability to connect (and not in that Facebook makes us lonely way) that leaves me the most enervated. I spoke about this generational phenomenon (my qualms about the return to the personal in works by the “younger generation”) in my responses to Pariah which I think allows us to re-think the real race-problem in Dunham’s work as also a generational-political one.