Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Official, 'Girls' Sucks

I have watched the HBO series Girls since its start last year. I heard a lot about it in advance, both positive and negative, and thought it might be up my alley. I watched last season with consternation. I liked some aspects of it and completely disliked others. But I kept watching because I felt like there was maybe something there that just hadn't fully formed yet. I liked that most of the sex seemed to be more honest than what you normally see on TV - it's awkward and people are often confused or less than satisfied. I like that Hannah is not stereotypically beautiful. I wouldn't say the character is confident about her body but she isn't particularly shameful about it either. I like that we see her naked often even though she's not thin and she doesn't have perfect boobs. I also like that the characters are deeply flawed. I think it's fun to have a main character that's not all that likeable.

HOWEVER. None of that was enough to keep me liking it after last night's episode. In fact, when it was over, I flew into an irrational rage that I'm sure my partner thought was hilarious.

Here's what pisses me off the most about this show. It's about 20 something women living in Manhattan figuring out who they are. But they never really seem to figure anything out or even be trying to. They don't even seem to care. The show focuses on their boyfriends and their sexual adventures. This is what really boils my potatoes about TV shows about women. Sure, we have lots of them now, but we cannot seem to ever have a show about women that doesn't focus on their pursuit of men. On this episode Hannah, who lives in what appears to be a pretty expensive apartment in Manhattan and works part time at a coffee shop, tries cocaine for the first time because an on-line magazine editor suggested she write about it. Her decision to do this is quite inexplicable, her willingness to do it doubly so, and how she goes about procuring the cocaine even more so. No mention is made of how she pays for this. She works part-time at a coffee shop and is doing this in order to make $200 by selling an article. She really can't afford cocaine? But she does it anyway and the 'hilarious' series of events that follows finally leads to her declaring that she hates her roommate and that he must move out because he had sex with her friend. Yes, I can understand why her feelings would be hurt but Hannah HAS NO MONEY! She can't really afford to throw her roommate out on the street because she got her feelings hurt. Why this means so very much to her is unclear to me anyway. Her roommate is gay - yes they used to date but it was eons ago - she has some silly fantasy that she was his last heterosexual sexual experience and that this is somehow the only reason they can be friends. In the last season, she pissed off her previous roommate (the friend that Elijah fucked) so she moved out, she alienated a guy who seemed to love her so her didn't move in even though he wanted to. And now she has kicked out this roommate. She never thinks about the consequences of her actions and there never seem to be any.

Similarly her friend Marnie has lost her art gallery job and has taken a job as a hostess at a lounge - just to pay her bills. In the previous episode, she takes a strip out of Hannah for criticizing her choice to take this job,saying how much money she will make and that she needs the money. But in this episode, she just walks out of her job because a hot guy from the gallery she used to work at invites her to his place. She just walks away from her job - doesn't even tell anyone that she's leaving. Again - consequences be damned.

So what bugs me about this is that it makes these women look like idiots. They are overly emotional, impulsive and immature. What guys think of them is of the utmost importance to them - so much so that they will do things that put them in financial peril just to save face with a guy or to get a chance to be with a hot guy. That makes me nuts.

What also bothers me about it is that it seems like the producers of girls think that the only interesting thing about women is their sex lives. Their jobs, their friendships, how they make their decisions, their families - all of that is not the least bit interesting, viewers only want to know about their boyfriends and their sex lives. In the very first episode of girls, Hannah's parents take her out to dinner and tell her that they are not going to give her any more money. From this point on, she will have to take care of herself. I loved that scene and the premise. I thought it was going to be a great show about what happens when your privileged suburban girl life comes crashing down around you and you have to face reality, find a job, pay your bills and make your own way. That's a show I'm interested in. But it wasn't about that. Hannah lost her source of income didn't matter at all. She doesn't seem all that concerned about it and is somehow managing to survive with temporary and part-time jobs. By herself in a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan.

Maybe it's because I'm so much older than these characters that I can't relate to them. Maybe its a 20-something thing to not really know or care how you're going to support yourself, to not really be trying that hard to build a career for yourself. But I know when I was 20 I was not like that. Even though I love my parents and they would give me anything I needed, I would have rather stuck a hot poker in my eye than had them pay my rent. And I would not have spent all my time gazing at my navel wondering whether a guy likes me or whether I like him and I would not have walked out of a job I needed just to fuck a hot guy (I would have made arrangements to fuck him later).

So Girls, I'm done. If you start portraying your characters like intelligent women, I may come back, but until then, so long, farewell, auf wiederzehn, goodbye.

Monday, January 7, 2013

After Porn Ends

Over the holidays, I watched a documentary called 'After Porn Ends'. It's the stories of a number of people who were in the porn industry (mostly actors). Some of them are still in the industry in one way or another but most of them no longer do it for a living.

All of the various arguments I've heard and have had about porn, seem to come back to the question of whether the industry is inherently exploitative and abusive - ie. will doing porn mess you up for life?

This documentary made something quite clear to me that Nina Hartley - former porn actress and current porn producer and director articulates in the film. If you are someone who is lonely, craving attention, prone to addictions, vulnerable to abusive relationships, and/or confused about how you feel about your body and the value of sex, you will probably find and be attracted to in porn exactly what you don't need. You will find people who will prey on your insecurities and who will take advantage of your vulnerabilities. You will likely be confused about how you feel about it and ultimately end up feeling shameful and regretful. You will likely have an extremely negative experience. If you are someone who is confident about your body and who understands how you feel about and value sex, if you are someone who is confident about yourself in general and is able to handle yourself and set good boundaries that makes sense for your life, you will likely find in porn exactly what you need. You will find opportunities to make money and build a career whether in the porn industry or outside of it. You will feel good about what you're doing because you will understand the things that make you feel bad and will avoid them. You will stay in the industry as long as it works for you and when you feel that it is hurting you or is no longer beneficial, you will get out.

So are there a lot of victims of abuse in the porn industry? Are there a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts? Are there a lot of people who regret what they've done? Yes, yes and yes. But look at it from another angle and you can see that this is the case with any type of entertainment genre. You could say exactly the same thing about movies, television, music, and modelling. In fact, there are a lot of industries about which you could say the same thing. Is it necessarily the sex aspect that causes the problem? I think that's only a small part of it.

The documentary shows both scenarios pretty clearly. There are several people featured who were abused and/or feel that what they did was abuse. They regret their involvement in it and some have even dedicated a good part of their life to trying to keep others from doing it. There are others who feel that it was very beneficial for them. Some of them built big names and big careers for themselves. Some of them just enjoyed having sex on camera for a living.

I think the experience will depend mostly on the individual and then mainly on the people they meet and work with in the industry. There is good and there is bad.

'After Porn Ends' is not an exhaustive look at all of the aspects of the porn industry but it offers very interesting perspectives from the people that know it best - the people who have done it.