“Why don’t you place just one crumb of basic human compassion on this fat free muffin of sociopathic detachment, see how it tastes.”
Ever since the auspicious debut of the HBO show “Girls,” I have been trying to figure out why I continue to watch something that actually makes me physically uncomfortable. Is it the awkward nudity, mechanical sex, or the myriad of ways a person can ponder her own naval? Is it the portrayal of the family-friendly Brooklyn as the hipster mecca? Or is it the manner in which Lena Dunham illuminates the biggest affliction to plague friendships between modern females, where a girl can either lower her expectations, or dismiss all her frenemies and potentially forgo the bulk of human contact altogether? It’s like watching a car crash, but in slow motion, and the only person who doesn’t see it coming is the dilettante behind the wheel. Willful negligence doesn’t look good on anyone. For those of you who haven’t seen it, “Girls” follows the missteps of four young women as they navigate work, friendships, sexual liaisons, and fledgling independence in modern day New York City. If you think this description sounds a lot like “Sex and the City,” the similarities end there. Though the show appeals to the real life young women who were weaned on the escapades of Carrie Bradshaw, “Girls” would be the distant cousin with the unfortunate tattoo, who drinks too much and “accidentally” hits on your boyfriend. She might also have an STD from that one time (okay many times) she used the “pull-and-pray” method of birth control. The show is a mash up of loose morals, bad decisions, even worse behavior, and some bitter truths to wash it all down. My mother, who watched only one episode, was horrified. I told her that Dunham, who is the writer, director, and star of the show, was aiming for satire but as a literature professor, she was unconvinced. Disaster and humiliation are standard fare. Dunham has been both praised and scorned for the amount of time she spends in various stages of undress. In her portrayal of Hannah Horvath, Dunham has challenged the viewer’s expectation that only skinny and impossibly beautiful women should be sexual playthings. A svelte and purring seductress, she is not. Hannah and her flippant band of entitled twenty-somethings are all deeply confused, unsure of whether it’s casual sex or meaningful relationships that they want. And Shoshanna, who comes across as very “princess of long island,” was not afraid to call out the other girls for their narcissistic tendencies. With her signature rapid-fire delivery, she blurted out the following monologue…
“You guys never listen to me. You treat me like I’m a f—king cab driver. Seriously you have entire conversations in front of me like I’m invisible. And sometimes I wonder if my social anxiety is holding me back from meeting the people who would be actually right for me instead of a bunch of f—king whiny nothings as friends!”
You can imagine that if Shoshanna is the voice of reason, then Marnie, Jessa, and Hannah are all damaged in some way: Hannah suffers from OCD, Marnie is the control freak on a downward spiral, and Jessa is the token “free spirit” who was kicked out of rehab for terrorizing the other addicts. They have no concept of how their behavior looks from the outside. As a viewer, I can say that the discomfort ranges from moderate to severe, with moments of complete hilarity that only partially eases that dirty feeling inside. In short, it is a spectacular mess.
“American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled Millennials as the boomerang generation or Peter Pan generation, because of the members’ perceived tendency for delaying some rites of passage into adulthood, for longer periods than most generations before them. According to Kimberly Palmer, “High housing prices, the rising cost of higher education, and the relative affluence of the older generation are among the factors driving the trend.” – Wikipedia
SOWING THE SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION IN 7 EASY STEPS
Ego, Narcissism, & Entitlement
“I think that I may be the voice of my generation, or at least a voice, of a generation.” – Hannah Horvath
The feeling that each of us has, of being at the center of our own universe, is not new. The prevailing ideology of our current civilization has always been based upon the idea that competition is of greater value than cooperation. From childhood, it is ingrained in us that some people are better than others and so that we must always strive to outpace the herd. And by being “better,” we are then owed a reward, some real life trophy, whether its fame, money, or some other prize entirely. Andy Warhol once said that “in the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes” and as a result of the recent strides made by technology, that future is now. The result is a system that is in complete contradiction to the laws of nature. The truth is while we are all better at doing certain things, we all have weaknesses in other areas. Take the human body for example. Each organ is of vital importance to the well being of the whole but what if the liver was soaking up all the praise? The heart might develop an inferiority complex and start to think that it would be happier if it too could become a liver, unaware of all the toxic waste that the liver has to sift through. It goes without saying that this scenario would be a complete disaster. The health of all living things depends on the cooperation of each part, from every organ to the white blood cells, fulfilling its own unique function to the best of its ability. When we fulfill our potential, we feel satisfied. But when we sacrifice our most essential selves in service to false ideals, we expect the rewards to fill that void, but the euphoria is fleeting and drives us to consume even more. So while I appreciate the message of books such as “The Secret,” which is about the power we all have to manifest the lives that we want, the truth of the matter is that some desires should remain unfulfilled.
The Popularity Contest
“I thought this would just be a nice opportunity to have fun together and prove to everyone via Instagram that we can still have fun as a group.” – Marnie Michaels
If you don’t know yourself, or what your innate talents are, then there is no shortage of voices that are willing to make that decision for you. You might think that you graduated from High School, but you really didn’t. Social media is great for stalking celebrities or reconnecting with that great friend you made that time you went backpacking through Europe, but it also perpetuates those feelings of anxiety of being liked by one’s peers, literally. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn all have “like” buttons so that your online profile could be used to judge your popularity. And the more time you spend listening to your peers, the less likely you are to develop your own voice. I recently stumbled upon a video of Patti Smith, in which she dispenses some wonderful advice to the up-and-coming generation: “I’ve done records where it seemed like no one listened to them… and you just keep doing your work because you have to, because it’s your calling.”
“It is really amazing that all three of you have accomplished so little in the four years since college.” – Shoshanna Shapiro
There are two types of criticism, the constructive kind that comes from experience and of wanting to genuinely be of service to another person, and the destructive kind that appears to illustrate how superior you are (Inflated Ego) by pointing out the failings in someone else. Unfortunately, this is never black and white, but a sliding scale depending on how inflated the Ego actually is.
“I am old enough to know that all of this bullshit, comes from a very deep, dank, dark toxic well of insecurity, probably created by your absentee father.” – Ray Ploshansky
Insecurity is an insidious emotional state that we have all experienced at some point. It happens when we compare ourselves to others, a behavior which is encouraged by the media and advertising. It happens when a friend or colleague offers criticism, regardless of whether or not the feedback is constructive. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “comparison is the thief of joy,” but insecurity can also arise out of guilt. If you have been given every opportunity and are still not happy, then you might feel empty and inadequate.
Confusion & Anxiety
“I wanted you to tell me what’s wrong with me. It just feels like it’s time for me to take responsibility for what has happened in my life and you are someone who likes to tell people what’s wrong with them anyway, so shoot.” – Marnie Michaels
Thanks to the internet, we are currently living in the “Age of Information,” but there is probably a lot more misinformation currently in circulation. This has resulted in selected hearing where we choose to accept only the information we want, and then discard the rest. Unfortunately, most of the time our filtering process has nothing to do with quality, but rather an acceptance of that which enables us to rationalize our preexisting view of the world. This becomes problematic when we try to see outside this bubble and risk losing the false sense of security we took such great pains to protect.
“Why don’t you place just one crumb of basic human compassion on this fat free muffin of sociopathic detachment, see how it tastes.” – Ray Ploshansky
As a society, we haven’t quite decided what to do with emotions. You’re supposed to develop a thick skin to succeed in business, which is now considered real life. We have this view of any emotional display as being on the same level as a fit of hysteria, but having no emotions is a trademark of the psychopath, so what is the appropriate level of feeling for a fully functioning member of society? When I was 28, a man died at work, down the hall from my office. He had a heart attack while sitting at his desk. I had never talked to him but saw him frequently and the whole event felt completely surreal. I watched as one of my colleagues tried to resuscitate him and I somehow ended up on the phone with the man’s wife. The paramedics were on their way and when she asked if he was dead, I had no idea what to say. He wasn’t moving and all trace of life was gone. I was in the midst of this real life tragedy and yet, there are tv shows that have seemed more real. By living with so much stimuli, I feel as though my innate emotional response has been tampered with. It was more like a persistent state of shock that was only punctuated by brief moments of feeling. And now that so much of our communication is mediated by technology, we are even further removed from each other and our surrounding environment.
“Where did you go and who am I supposed to talk to if you won’t answer your fucking phone! That anorexic Marnie, fucking Shoshanna, or my stalker ex-boyfriend? It’s not like any of them want to talk to me and I don’t blame them because I cut of all of my fucking hair…” – Hannah Horvath to Jessa’s voicemail
This is the penultimate stage when you are at odds with yourself, aka “Rock Bottom.” This is the moment when you realize that you need to make a change, that your methods of achieving your goals have not only failed, but might also be counterproductive. If handled correctly, this can turn into a pivotal moment where people learn from their mistakes and take the necessary steps to avoid repeating them. But if the ego is still the same self cannibalizing beast that is plagued by confusion, insecurity, and anxiety, then it is unlikely that personal growth will occur. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If these young women were just hurting themselves, then that would just be unfortunate, but the real tragedy is that this behavior will only further inflame the already contentious relationship we have to the natural world. Now that the third season of “Girls” has finished, my Sunday night belongs to “Game of Thrones” and the documentary series on Showtime called “The Years of Living Dangerously.” For the latter, the marriage of frightening realism and beautiful imagery is used to tell the multifaceted story of climate change. James Cameron and Jerry Weintraub have successfully demonstrated that for better and worse, we are all connected by the consequences of our actions. We can no longer pretend that we exist in a vacuum. The mantra of “every man for himself” is a prevalent theme of “Game of Thrones,” and it is no coincidence that the show boasts more brutal deaths per capita than any other program on television. “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die” and the body count is still rising (though I am ecstatic by the recent and sudden departure of Joffrey Baratheon, child king and spawn of incest). So while “Girls” may be a welcome source of comic relief by comparison, it is actually more frightening than any fantasy horror show when you realize that this is the first generation to be tasked with the responsibility of fixing a society with deep-rooted and systemic flaws. And while technology has sped up the process, it is just a tool without any innate moral sense. It reflects and amplifies our intentions until they become indisputable facts.
“I am sure that each generation can say that their time was the best and the worst of times but I think right now we are at something different. It is a pioneering time because there is no other time in history like right now… It is unique because technology has democratized self-expression – everyone has access, an access that they’ve never had before … Right now we are going through this painful adolescence – what do we do with this technology – what do we do with our world – who are we – but it also makes it exciting.” – Patti Smith
So yes, we are the architects of our own reality and the crisis we now face is man-made. Ultimately, our problem is one of ideology and as long as we only focus on bandaging symptoms, the root cause will continue to generate problems until they take on a life of their own. Dr. Frankenstein was likewise overwhelmed by the strength of his own creation. That is the “point of no return” and we are approaching it much sooner than anyone would like to admit, Hannah Horvath least of all.
Author : Ashley Rabin