GIRLS at the Half

You can thank Eric Harvey for prodding me today to write this quick follow-up to my initial GIRLS post. This’ll be short-ish. We’re halfway through this first season of GIRLS. I decided about two weeks ago to wait until the entire season was over to take any other lengthy stabs at analysis or criticism, but there are a few important things to mention.

First of all, in my initial post, I forgot to mention that it was part of the “Blogging GIRLS” event on Facebook. I started this group with fellow academics Kristen Warner and Amanda Ann Klein after a series of social media conversations on the show’s promotions and reviews. Lots of people were already talking and writing about it before the premiere, with really strong and divergent opinions. We thought it would be great to do a blogathon, and set up a place where a bunch of academics with an interest in the show could post and discuss their thoughts on the premiere episode. I hoped we’d have about ten people sign on to participate. We had over thirty. While not all those folks wrote blog posts, most of them have participated through comments and conversations, or even posting other articles of interest for everyone to share. It’s definitely become a kind of community bulletin board, and people keep joining and posting even though the initial event is technically over.

I think this has been extraordinary for a couple of reasons. Firstly is the fact that people do keep joining and posting. The second reason it’s been extraoardinary is that a lot of us interact more on Twitter, so for me, having such a flourishing interaction together on this other social network felt unusual but good. As Amanda wrote on one post, “I am really enjoying this group page, with everyone sharing information and opinions on the show. Can we do this for EVERY show I watch?” I agree and hope more people do! The third reason is that the page has now become an archive, not only for all the articles, reviews, and posts, but also for evolving events, opinions, and interactions. For example, it’s interesting to see how the conversation explodes around Arfingate in the first week. That didn’t happen until after most of us posted our initial opinions, but certainly the discourse about the show has been shaped by it ever since. My hope for this event is that people will continue to join and post, and that the information there will be useful for future research. That’s why we academics do all this stuff anyway, right? We might wind up having to export the info and migrate to some other Facebook category or another social medium, but overall, I think the initial event was a big success and I’m thankful to everyone who joined in with us.

Secondly, I want to re-emphasize the evolving nature of reception and criticism. As Myles McNutt and Jason Mittell point out in what they posted for the “Blogging GIRLS” group, seeing more than just one episode is important to criticism. I still think our experiment was valid. The point was partly that we had already seen so much about the show through promos and reviews, we wanted to actually see an episode and have our say, to participate in all that paratext, if you will. We did that. But that doesn’t have to be it. We and the texts go on. There’s more to say. Like I noted above, I’ll write more at the end of the season. Having seen all episodes so far, I should admit that I’m not a fan, definitely not yet; you can thank the second and third episodes for that. But this week there was a little break in the clouds. I definitely felt more sympathy for Hannah than I had in any of the previous episodes, and I noticed a few other folks whose initial reactions were not far from mine to also have a more positive reaction to the episode. Not sure how the rest of the season will go for series or audience, but certainly, all could change.

Thirdly, along with the text goes the paratext, from blog postings (ours included) to interviews (like the recent one with Lena Dunham on FRESH AIR) to reviews. I’ve already suggested this a bit, but reviews have played such a huge part in the hype that has surrounded the show. Whether those reviews were positive or negative, it doesn’t matter: they all stirred the pot. One reviewer whose work on GIRLS I’d like to highlight is Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress. Rosenberg has been a supporter of the show who has also been open to its criticisms. As you can see from the previous link to her writing, she’s been pretty strenuously working through all the revelations and discourse about the show as they’ve come up. I haven’t always agreed with her opinions on the show, but I think she’s made great contributions to the dialogue around it and has avoided going strictly on the defensive from her first review. I’ve certainly learned a lot from her thoughtful writing, engaging comments, and diplomatic interactions about the show, and look forward to more in the future.

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