Girls, Season 2, Episode 5: One Man’s Trash, Review

Apparently, it's all about the shorts . . .

I’m probably kind of a douche for saying this, but it’s sure starting to feel like Lena Dunham uses her role as writer, director and lead to create a lot of situations where she makes out with hunks. So far there’s been Adam, some pharmacist, Donald Glover, Jon Glaser and now Patrick Wilson. Actually… that’s not that many guys, come to think of it. And Jon Glaser isn’t a hunk, he’s a comedian.

Okay, so I’m a douche.

But I think it’s worth investigating why, as soon as I discovered this was going to be an episode largely centered on Lena (pretend) getting it on with Patrick Wilson, that was the first thought to spring to my mind.

One of the reasons I think Girls continues to be such a worthwhile show, as well as one of the reasons I think it inspires such a reactive and volatile antipathy from so many, is that it frequently forces us out of our TV comfort zone by subverting those aspects we rarely question and have come to accept as givens. In other words we, with television’s help, have developed biases about what we should and should not be seeing broadcast. And when you’ve gotten used to having a bias, when you’ve really internalized it, you don’t see it as a bias anymore. You see it as a truth or a right. And when something is presented to you that suggests your bias is bupkus, you don’t want to hear it. You don’t want to question it because it’s something you were set on.

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For example, in the opening shot of this week’s episode, I was immediately aware that Lena’s character, Hannah, was wearing some awfully short shorts. I might’ve noticed them on anyone but, in this case, part of my thought was comprised of me thinking about Lena specifically in those shorts because she’s not exactly svelte and I was kind of thinking maybe she shouldn’t wear those shorts. More than that, I was thinking maybe she shouldn’t be wearing those shorts on TV.

But see, I’m not sure I would’ve thought the same thing if, say, her co-star Allison Williams had worn a similar outfit. Actually, in previous episodes, her character Marnie has, in fact, worn shorts of about equal length in her new job as a hostess. However, I’ve never brought her shorts up as a topic of discussion and sure, I noticed them, but I just accepted her wearing them and, if anything, thought it was kind of awesome. And that implies to me I’m maybe a bit messed up.

So I’ve spent this entire review talking about how Lena Dunham subverts television just by putting her body in front of a camera. And that might say something about me and my awfulness, but I’m inclined to think this is an issue for a lot of us and an issue that television has gradually manufactured. It’s this idea that there’s some standard of how pretty people need to be to be on TV and how only people of a certain prettiness should look a certain way or be shown being romantically linked to other pretty people. And it’s strange this idea exists because it isn’t actually a decent reflection of life.

And the other amazing thing is that, if you allow media like Girls to let you think about your own perceptions in this way, you can spend, as I’ve just done here, a lot of time unpacking your thoughts about ONE SHOT, literally the first shot of this episode. And the rest of the episode is nothing but things like this, challenging bias after bias.

If you’ve already decided you hate Girls, this episode is just going to reaffirm your convictions. In it, Hannah basically has her own Last Tango in Paris (albeit with less disturbing sex scenes and nobody dying), spending a lost weekend with what is effectively a complete stranger, a guy named Joshua (Patrick Wilson). They have two too-perfect-to-last days together, Hannah says some ridiculous stuff, Joshua seems to be a little uncomfortable about it, he goes off to work the next morning and then Hannah takes out his garbage for him (a symbolic gesture that ties into the episode’s title and theme). This is effectively the entire episode and if it sounds like self indulgent crap to you well, I suppose it’s possible to argue that.

At first, I wasn’t behind this episode because the beginning, in which Hannah and Joshua (he doesn’t like to be called Josh) have this sudden, animalistic attraction to each other felt like a hokey cliché I’d seen in a few movies too many. But the episode gradually proved its worth by turning into this strange, meditative (you say “indulgent,” I say “meditative”) short film that almost all took place in Joshua’s house. It was mostly quite somber (especially in comparison to the comedy through conflict theme that characterized the previous episode). Setting and tonewise, it made for a show quite isolated from the rest of the season. It’s an approach I find really interesting, a “short film” smack dab in the middle of a series and I’ve really only seen it done on this show and on Louie.

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So, again, if you hate Girls, “One Man’s Trash” is everything you hate about it as it’s nonconforming to television standards in a number of ways. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but it’s not being very funny. Hannah’s monologue to Joshua near the end where she confesses to seeing herself as some sort of savior actually IS pretty funny, but it’s not obviously presented as such and is challenging you to find humor in it and to be okay with following a protagonist with some delusions of grandeur, not to mention one who might be crazier than the other character in this episode, who we’ve only just met. And you also have to be okay with knowing that this was written and performed by someone reflective and self-critical enough to recognize and portray these things and that this is a big part of why she’s a 26-year old woman who gets to make her own TV show. Lastly, it’s got a chubby young lady making out with a beefcake older guy.

But Lena Dunham can make out with whoever she wants. It’s her show, after all.