HBO's Female Regression Analysis

Article excerpt

The HBO comedy Girls has been hailed as the feminist answer to Judd Apatow's Hollywood bromance franchise. And like Apatow's Knocked Up, The 4o-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad, Girls is a labored, extensive study in arrested development, as experienced by characters rendered as fleeting glyphs of self-knowing social privilege. Apatow has executive-produced Girls for HBO, and boy, is it easy to see why.

As in Apatow-land, the characters who undergo the rote plot reversals and drugged-out hijinks in Girls - call it regression lite - either hail from upper-middle-class comfort or mysteriously sustain themselves on some magical combination of pluck and attitude.

The shows creator and writer, Lena Dunham, also plays the lead protagonist, Hannah. After Hannah learns that her two college-prof parents will no longer subsidize her bohemian life and she loses an unpaid internship at a literary magazine, a crisis ensues. So naturally, she adjourns to the apartment of her actor-boyfriend - who fancifully subsists on an $8oo-a-month stipend from his grandmother and the aforementioned pluck - for vaguely self-hating rough sex. When she worries that she possesses none of the talents that one is supposed to tout in one's resume, the indifferent swain announces that its been so long since he's looked for a job that he can't remember what you're supposed to include in a résumé.

As the kids say: Whatever. Through Girls' turgid intrigues, interchangeably wan characters wander from jobs, boyfriends and glamorous travel destinations, marveling at the world's failure to conform to their desires. Not that they have much grasp on what those desires are: Hannah is working, desultorily, on a memoir - with the baroque Dave Eggers-style self-knowing disclaimers that go with such a twentysomething conceit. And in a chemically fueled display of still more pluck, she brandishes the work in progress before her parents and demands a year-long stipend from them to complete the manuscript.

The only thing interesting about Girls is that it clarifies how much of American pop culture teems with similar regression- lite themes. The HBO comedy Veep sets up a phalanx of middle-school style vituperation within the fictional vice presidency of Seiina Meyer (Julia Louis- Dreyfus). …