Friday, February 20, 2015

Boys and Girls and Girls

This week it is announced that The Replacements are playing at the Hollywood Palladium on April 15. It is also announced that Joe College will receive his baccalaureate degree in a ceremony on April 9. I am grateful that these dates do not conflict. It would have been a tough call. I am still chewing around that the boy is on the verge of completing college. These four years I'm sure have been among the most formative of his life but as I look back, not that much has happened to radically impact my own. At age 22, four years of college represent about 20% of the boy's life so far. Four years represent less than 3% of my own. During the time Joe College has transitioned from a nervous 18 year old freshman to a poised 22 year old big man on campus I've mostly done a lot of walking and TV watching.

I read this week that writer/neurologist Oliver Sacks suffers from terminal cancer. In his disclosure of this, Sacks expresses gratitude for having had a life well lived. He also, for the days he has left, has absolved himself from watching the news or fretting about the fate of the planet. He says that there's nothing that he can do now but that he is optimistic about the citizens of the future. I still watch the news and worry but accept, given my dotage, that what ails the world is pretty much beyond my realm of possibility.

I don't know the date or even proximity of my own death sentence, just that I wake up every morning one day closer. Therefore, I particularly resent the (fortunately rare) week-long cold that renders me even more indolent than usual. I failed to write here last week not because I was too ill with a mere cold but after a week of Kleenex and chicken soup on the couch I had nothing I deemed worth saying.While one week for me, particularly compared to the sprats, ages 19 and 22, is just a blip I am still bitter at having lost it.

My sick leave is consumed by three very different TV shows with the commonality of being created by and starring young Jewish women. I've been resentfully watching Girls since it previewed on HBO. I actually liked Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture and with Judd Apatow at the helm, Girls has a great pedigree. I've seen every episode and it will likely remain a top priority for the DVR but while I think the intentionality of the show is that you root for the “girls” to grow up and get it together. I find their obstacles underwhelming and with the exception of the ambition-less Jessa, I am most gratified by the girls' failure. I even resent the casting. All of Dunham's supporting actors have insider connections. Jemima Kirk's dad Simon writes music for films, Allison Williams is the daughter of the truth-challenged Brian Williams and Zoisa Mamet's dad is playwright David Mamet and mom is actress Lindsey Crouse. Zoisa's character Shoshana is the Jap-iest, whiniest of the girls. She has that strident, entitled thing down so well that it suggests type casting. I realize however that Zoisa also played self confident and decidedly un-whiney lesbian Joyce Ramsey very convincingly on Madmen. So, despite probable nepotism, Zoisa, I have to admit, is a more than formidable talent.

Blonde, patrilineally Jewish Amy Schumer, with her Kewpie face and pursed mouth is first and foremost a stand-up comedienne. Her show, “Inside Amy Schumer” is uneven but in a forgivable anarchic kind of way. The show's a pastiche of Schumer doing stand up, conducting interviews and performing in skits. Schumer's a Jewish girl in a strapping Wasp body. Because most of her humor is rooted in self-effacement, Amy, with her goyishe punim can get away with being jaw-droppingly politically incorrect and dirty. She's indebted to Sarah Silverman and Margaret Cho who share that earnest guilelessness that lets them get away with being blunt and filthy, but in a woman-ish way. These women aren't trying to out “blue” the boys. Their humor is filtered through feminine eyes. The greatest tribute I can pay to Schumer I guess is that Himself, who leaves the room like a bullet when “Girls” comes on, actually laughs audibly at the Schumer show.

If you want to hate Broad City, watch it with your sons. A friend from college is home with them when they watch an episode. I ask him, “Would you watch this with YOUR mom?” and the answer is “No Way.” Still, I find the co-stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer buoyant and engaging so I go through both seasons of the show during my stint on the couch. Taken individually, the episodes are truly funny. The girls smoke a lot of pot, have dead end jobs, engage in a lot of casual sex but the show's more than a riff on male slackers. Whereas the girls in “Girls” frequently end up sleeping with each others' boyfriends, Abbi and Ilana are true to each other. Just seeing the two together on camera is delicious. In their indolence and haplessness Abbi and Ilana are more self aware and actualized than the girls in “Girls.” While some of the situations in this situation comedy hark back to I Love Lucy, the arc of the episodes combined seems sort of a blueprint for what girls in their twenties can be. Both girls suffer disappointments but neither become fraught or angst-y. Broke and rudderless Abbi and Ilana's friendship feels more real and satisfying than anything the Girls girls have accomplished in five seasons.

Abbi and Ilana are free of the self hatred that dogged me while I was in my twenties and that continues to plague Lena Denham's quartet. Like Oliver Sacks, I know it's time to start turning things over to Joe College and his contemporaries. For all the very bad news they'll inherit it seems that we're at least approaching a time where girls don't hate themselves or each other.

1 comment:

John L. Murphy / "FionnchĂș" said...

At least it's not "Laverne + Shirley" or "Mary Tyler Moore" or those tiresomely moral Norman Lear me