I have a sick fascination with reading bad “Girls” recaps, kinda in the same I like reading mean comments on pieces that I write and weirdly revel in crazy emails crazy people send me. There’s pleasure in that pain.
Conversely, I’ve enjoyed Todd VanDerWerff’s reviews at the AV Club, mainly because he hasn’t yet written some horrendous think piece about it yet, rather judging the show as a show, rather than as a statement or a completed piece (sidebar: this is one of the reasons I think film critics make for terrible TV critics but that’s for another Tumbl). He also understands the potential that I think makes “Girls” interesting (it’s good now, but wait until Lena Dunham gets more than four episodes under her belt).
What struck me about VanDerWerff’s review this week is his distaste for the Jessa subplot in tonight’s episode “Hannah’s Diary.” One sentence in his review summed up what I didn’t like in this episode (watching the Marnie-Charlie relationship unravel is particularly gut-wrenching). VanDerWerff writes:
(What with the earlier and awkward dialogue between the two older guy friends about Jessa, much of the episode sounds like Lena Dunham attempting to explain to Jemima Kirke why she’s so darn pretty.)
(To address the awkward dialogue between the men: As a non-dude, I think a lot of the male perspective is a bit in off, but I’m not a guy so that may just be a personal thing. But I also love how one-note Hannah’s non-boyfriend is. He’s just as much of cypher to as he is to Hannah.)
To the point: Jessa is the unattainable girl in your friend circle who you so desperately want to be, even though you secretly know her life is in shambles. I don’t think this episode was written in a way to tell Jessa-portrayer Jemima Kirke that she was pretty (to be fair, I don’t think VanDerWerff feels that way either, I understand what he means). I agree that referring to Kirke as having the face of Bardot and the ass of Rihanna is a little much. But that’s how you think people talk about the unattainable girl who always looks cute and always seems to be having more fun than you. She’s like a lady’s platonic ideal of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (but is never truly a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I’ve known the girls who so fully believe they are of that ilk that they’re just as hard to stomach as the trope they imitate). You think people talk about her as if she’s a summation of particularly iconic body parts and it’s only until the veil is lifted - unattainable girl flakes on you one too many times or does something irrevocably shitty to you or she simply breaks down and loses it in front of you - that you stop seeing the face of Bardot and the ass of Rihanna and you see the average-looking chick underneath who is never having as much fun as you think she is.
And maybe I should be using the first, rather than the second, person here. Maybe this is just me. Maybe most people don’t know unattainable girls and I’m overstating the mediocre middle of an otherwise good episode. But the way people talked about a viewed Jessa rang this episode rang so untrue because that’s a girl like Hannah would see her, even if she wasn’t like that at all.