Culture

Nihilism & Feminism for Girls: Has Judd Apatow Let Lena Dunham Self-Destruct Intentionally?

See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “ And Mark Ellis: “The Future of Civilized Society: One World,” And Aaron C. Smith: “Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies.”

Four TV seasons ago, NYC wunderkind Lena Dunham made a pop culture splash with her HBO comedy Girls. Combining offbeat characters, witty scripting, promiscuous sexuality, and typical coming-of-age tropes set in modern hipster Brooklyn, Girls became one of the most talked-about shows on TV and launched Dunham into an odd sort of stardom that positions her as the spokesgirl of her generation. With the collaboration of acclaimed screenwriter/filmmaker Judd Apatow, Girls managed to hit the same sweet spot that Apatow did in his most successful films like Knocked Up – sexually charged slapstick comedy with a heart.

For those of us who left our own coming-of-age stories back in the last century, Girls provided an accessible, if sometimes icky, view into the lives of millennials. But sometime recently, the ick factor has overcome the wittiness. Here’s a bit of dialog from earlier in Season 4, between a 20-something couple who has been dating for about 6 weeks (and have already moved in together):

Mimi-Rose: I can’t go for a run because I had an abortion yesterday. I can’t go for a run, or take a bath or use a tampon or have intercourse for about a week.

Adam: Huh. Are you? What?

Mimi-Rose: Yeah, there’s just a couple things I can’t do because I had an abortion yesterday.

Adam: Uh, was it mine?

Mimi-Rose: Yeah of course it was yours. I didn’t want to talk about it beforehand, I just wanted to do it. But I haven’t shared with boyfriends in the past and I wanted to be more open with you

Adam: You’re…trying to be open with me. How many abortions have you had?

Mimi-Rose: I’m not going to share that with you because that is private. I’m not going to ask you how many girls you’ve gotten pregnant.

Adam: None. It’s not private. I’ve gotten no girls pregnant except for you now. (Smashes dishes)

Now most rational human beings would expect that to be the end of the nascent relationship between our young Mimi-Rose and Adam. But the writers throw in a twist! By the end of the episode they are back together! This could actually have been an interesting development – a commentary on the co-dependence of two narcissistic, immature souls cast adrift by a culture than doesn’t teach the value of life, honesty, or responsibility.

Dunham, in her post-show commentary, makes it clear she intended no such lesson in humanity:

And I was like, Mimi-Rose is so independent, she’s a person who doesn’t need validation or support from any one to make decisions creatively , emotionally, romantically … and I also like the idea of showing someone who is getting an abortion and is not tortured by it.

Well, there you go.

*Strong Language Warning*

Girls has gone from a show in which kids grapple imperfectly with the curveballs of life to a piece of nihilistic agitprop that celebrates the odious as the heroic.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Dunham has jumped the shark from storyteller to propagandist; she’s become increasingly political in her public pronouncements over time, while her recent published memoir had to be “revised” after the original edition included an apparently made-up rape allegation. Until now, we were able to maintain the fiction that she’s a talented, if misguided, young woman who can at least weave together a good story with interesting characters.

Which brings us back to the Apatow connection. In celebrating the odd and offbeat in his films, Apatow never dipped into nihilism. His characters ultimately survive the consequences of their usually absurd actions through love and dedication, not through a triumph of the feminine will. His touch was apparent through the first seasons of the show, and elevated it into something worth talking about. No longer.

Apparently Apatow has left the creative side of the show entirely, abandoning it to become nothing more than a reflection of Dunham’s unpleasant worldview. It’s a shame, but one has to wonder – is this intentional? Is he deliberately giving us an unfiltered peek into the ugly side of millennials?

If so, maybe we should keep watching the show after all as a cautionary tale our future.

******

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the nineteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Jon Bishop on March 8: Why I Am Catholic
  14. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet
  15. Becky Graebner on March 11: 5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner
  16. Frank J. Fleming on March 12: This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?
  17. Mark Ellis on March 12: The Future of Civilized Society: One World
  18. Aaron C. Smith on March 12: Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies

 

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015