April 19, 2017

"But 'Girls' was a show in which any kind of confident male authority or presence was simply gone, among most of the older characters as well as among the millennial protagonists."

"The show’s four girls had mostly absent fathers (the only involved and caring one came out as gay midway through the show) and few Don Draper-esque bosses to contend with. The toxic bachelors they dated were more pathetic than threatening, and the 'sensitive' guys still more so; even the most intense relationships they formed were semi-pathological. A few men on the show (the oldest of the younger characters, most notably) exhibited moral decency and some sort of idealism, a few were genuinely sinister — but mostly the male sex seemed adrift, permanently boyish, a bundle of hormonal impulses leagues away from any kind of serious and potent manhood.... [T]he male absence felt more like a signifier of masculine failure than feminine empowerment...."

That's Ross Douthat, in his column at the NYT, grinding "Girls" through his NYT-friendly traditionalist conservatism. He even drags in Donald Trump for Times-readers' delectation.
Of course the real-life civilization [the girls] are part of just elected Donald Trump as president, making all those prestige-drama portraits of toxic patriarchy seem quite relevant to our circumstances again, and the travails of life under social liberalism a little less immediately pressing.

25 comments:

YoungHegelian said...

...but mostly the male sex seemed adrift, permanently boyish, a bundle of hormonal impulses leagues away from any kind of serious and potent manhood..

Ya don't gotta think this through too hard, Douthat. Having multi-dimensional straight male characters in a drama would mean that some one would actually have to create & write those roles. And that would mean the writers & directors would actually have to understand & have sympathy with cis-gendered, het, males. In which case, it would be a Howard Hawks movie & not a series called "Girls" created by one Lena Dunham.

Left Bank of the Charles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Left Bank of the Charles said...

Also no confident female authority or presence on the show.

Angel-Dyne said...

"Of course the real-life civilization [the girls] are part of just elected Donald Trump as president, making all those prestige-drama portraits of toxic patriarchy seem quite relevant to our circumstances again..."

"Toxic patriarchy" appears to be one of those phrases that doesn't require any definition or explication by the writer. It's in your nation and in your face and ruining your life right now, right?

We all know what is meant by "toxic patriarchy", don't we? Don't we?

Well, I don't.

I mean, I can think of some old-school traditional patriarchal societies that would feel pretty toxic to me, if I had to live in them, but they're not in my nation or in my face or affecting my life in any way, really.

Sam L. said...

Sorry, not interested.

Gahrie said...

Having multi-dimensional straight male characters in a drama would mean that some one would actually have to create & write those roles. And that would mean the writers & directors would actually have to understand & have sympathy with cis-gendered, het, males.

This explains why I have never seen an episode.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

but mostly the male sex seemed adrift, permanently boyish, a bundle of hormonal impulses leagues away from any kind of serious and potent manhood....

Of course they did. The show would have been ridiculously unwatchable if Lena and the others had been trying to form relationships with a bunch of motivated young West Point graduates!

HoodlumDoodlum said...

[T]he male absence felt more like a signifier of masculine failure than feminine empowerment

So? If true, why the hell would that matter? In the context of the world of the show, I mean. So what?
Do fish give a damn if the quantity or quality of the available bicycles declines? Why would they?

Peggy Coffey said...

Having never seen the show and having other women try to explain it to me, my impression is that it's about 20-something self absorbed girls, drifting through life, with no direction and no will to find any. They seemed to have no ambition to make something of themselves, other than to be whiny bitches and blame their life on the "mean men who are holding them down". I could be wrong though. I have no interest in that kind of show.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Angel-Dyne said..."Toxic patriarchy" appears to be one of those phrases that doesn't require any definition or explication by the writer. It's in your nation and in your face and ruining your life right now, right?

The phrase going around is "toxic masculinity" so I guess this is a subset thereof. The existence of the thing itself is assumed, of course, and since it's toxic by definition no one seems very interested in making/arguing causal connections between it and whatever problem they're identifying/discussing/blaming on it.
So yeah, kind of a boogeyman catch-all, really. Unconscious bias works the same way--it's always there, poisoning everything, no proof or even argument required. Marxist class conflict, too.
Invoke the name, cast the spell...BAM! All is uncovered, all is explained, and the proper action is clear. Roman augurs had a harder time of it--they had to point at something, at least.

Sebastian said...

So what would Boys be like? Would the Boys be equally self-absorbed? Would the image of the culture be similarly dystopian? Would the wreckage of feminism be just as obvious? And who would look more pathetic in Boyish scenarios?

rcocean said...

Did Ross Doughnut understand its supposed to be Comedy? A comedy about women?
most modern female centered comedies like "Absolutely Fabulous" have no patriarchal figures. If you want comedies about women reacting with Patriarchal figures, go watch "I love lucy" "That Girl" or "Mary Tyler Moore"

"Of course the real-life civilization [the girls] are part of just elected Donald Trump as president, making all those prestige-drama portraits of toxic patriarchy seem quite relevant to our circumstances again."

Only a NYT "conservative" would label Trump with "toxic patriarchy"

Roughcoat said...

Okay, mark me down as someone who never watched "Girls." But I've read all the posts (plus comments) here about the show. From what Althouse and the rest of you have written, I get the impression that "Girls" is very sad show about very sad people, girls and men alike. It seems to portray a world very strange and different from the world I live in. As I imagine it, based on what I've read here, it is not an appealing world and the people who inhabit it are decidedly unappealing. The apparent overlay (or is it an underlay?) of neurosis is not interesting to me. I don't find sad neurotic people in any way interesting or appealing. Neurotic women and un-manly men are not people I want to hang out with. So there.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Sebastian said...So what would Boys be like? Would the Boys be equally self-absorbed?

Silicon Valley is on HBO and almost all its main characters are guys. They're archetypal ultra-nerd guys (with a few stock VC/StartUpBros mixed in) and I doubt Mike Judge is shooting for the same kind of "meaning" as Lena Dunham, but maybe that's helpful for your comparison.

buwaya said...

"Silicon Valley is on HBO "

IMHO absolutely the best thing on TV now. Judge "gets" the feel and facts of the place and time and the people. Its like a great painting, Velazquez "Las Meninas" for instance -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Meninas
Or Conrad's "Nostromo".

It is the sort of thing that so immerses you with explicit and the implicit detail that you "get" it all. This is how it is, or was, the Spanish court of the 1650's or Latin America of 1900 or Silicon Valley, 2002.

The only complaint I have is that the time and place of the thing, the setting and events, isn't today, but ten or more likely twenty years ago. Its not really like that.

Yancey Ward said...

YoungHegelian beat me to it with the very first comment. I don't think that many writers could ever write for such a typical adult male, at least not those show business employs these days.

readering said...

Ask Ailes and O'Reilly what is meant by toxic patriarchy.

readering said...

More on toxic patriarchy from TMP:

The intelligence community was allegedly directed to provide cover for President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped by his predecessor, the New Yorker reported Tuesday.

An anonymous intelligence source told the magazine’s Ryan Lizza that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’”

Asking for an “all-points bulletin,” or a request to look through intelligence reports, White House officials said, “We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower,” according to Lizza’s source.

readering said...

Unlikable heroine from Shattered:

As Hillary thumbed through the pages, the speech struck her as tone-deaf. It’s too charged, she thought, too political. When Hillary was done reading, she looked up and told her advisers it was too much.

“It’s not my job anymore to do this,” she said, her voice growing more forceful as Chelsea nodded in agreement. “Other people will criticize him. That’s their job. I have done it. I just lost, and that is that,” she continued. “That was my last race.” With clear marching orders, she instructed her speechwriting team to go back to the drawing board and strike a balance shorter on stating values and longer on graciousness.

William said...

I recently saw season five. There were some interesting plot arcs, but they happened to uninteresting and unappealing characters. I got the sense that all the characters exist only within Dunham's skull. I've never met anyone like them in real life, although, admittedly, I don't travel within Dunham's zone or demo......One good thing about the episodes I saw was that she only picked on her own people. There were no straw men conservatives or radical Christianicists........Parks & Recreation is far more politically correct, but the jokes are funnier and the characters more likable.. Is Amy Poehler the voice of her generation?

holdfast said...

Ross Douchat is the Platonic ideal of the modern cuckservative.

I assume he and Caitlyn Jenner have the same surgeon?

Bob Loblaw said...

Ask Ailes and O'Reilly what is meant by toxic patriarchy.

How would they know? If we were really in some kind of patriarchy they'd both still have jobs.

Or did you mean toxic matriarchy?

Martha said...

"And the genius, and resonance, and staying power of Lena Dunham’s show rests not only on its artistic quality but on its message to its mostly liberal viewers: You do not have this alternative figured out."

I agree with Douthat. Baby Grover needs a father who is present. Hannah getting pregnant was irresponsible. Why did she rely on the man for her birth control! Hannah spent more time picking out outfits to wear than in choosing a father for her baby.

readering said...

I bailed during Season 1. But a very sympathetic review in Nat Review by Kyle Smith, titled, Lena Dunham's Ultimately Conservative Message.

Luke Lea said...

Then I read a review like this and think I should give Girls a chance: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2012/06/07/loves-lena-dunham/

But then I would have to sign up for HBO. . .