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I finished season 2 of Girls a week or two ago but haven’t had much time or energy to sit and write thoughtfully about it. As it turns out though, I’ll probably wind up writing about Lena Dunham and Rebel Wilson in my conclusion as forerunners of future trends in fat female celebrity, so I’ll definitely be giving the series and the star some more careful consideration over the next year. However, before I lose all insights, here’s some impressionistic residue left over from this initial screening of the second season.

-Overall I was underwhelmed by the second season, to the point that I missed the provocation of the first.

-I also remain unimpressed with the show’s plotting and characterization. Even if it’s provocativeness feels blunted, it’s still a problem when the series relies so much on shocking audiences and jerking characters around to compel interest and drive the narrative.

-I realize that Dunham does these things to deliberately toy with expectations, including incorporating stock elements like the season finale reunion between two of the main couples, but from my production teacher perspective, it suggests a basic lack of imagination at the very least.

-However, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy parts. I still tend to enjoy just parts though, not whole episodes, only moments. Jessa’s breakdown in the tub after the end of her marriage comes to mind as one of those unexpected but illuminating times (albeit, still couched in another one of those inexplicable two-girls-one-tub moments that are so bizarre I can’t even).

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-The moments to which I most looked forward wound up being those between Ray and Shoshanna. I would never have predicted that from last season. Firstly, I would argue that Zosia Mamet’s performance has made Shoshanna the show’s best drawn lead character. Secondly, maybe it’s our grad student connection, but Ray seems to be the character for whom I have the most empathy. Because he’s the oldest? Because he has some kind of authority role? Because he makes himself so vulnerable with Shoshanna? Whatever the reason, this was the couple in which I found myself most invested. That said, the fact that the men are so often more likable and empathetic than the women on the show, and that the next season is supposed to have more male than female writers, remains an issue.

-However, there was one episode that I liked so much I would argue it not just for best of season but  best of series. “One Man’s Trash” was brilliant. The controversy around the pairing between Patrick Wilson and Lena Dunham only enriched it, at least for me and my research.

-As much as I loved “One Man’s Trash,” one of my main concerns with the series generally is that the valorization of Dunham’s fat naked body is used to deflect the many legitimate criticisms about the show’s lack of diversity from both seasons. Donald Glover’s two episode arc had little impact on the season and solved nothing.

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In Media Res has run a two-week series on GIRLS in conjunction with the show’s season two premiere. Week 1 focused on the text of the show, and Week 2 is focusing on reception. My post curating John Cook’s recaps on Gawker appears today, as part of this week’s theme on reception. While popular, the Gawker recaps are surprisingly difficult to find through the Gawker search engine, so I’ve posted them here as well in case anyone wants a further look.

Recap 1: “‘Small Girl Big Mouth:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 2: “I Don’t Want a Baby That Looks Like That:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 3: “‘My War:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 4: “I Just Want Some Skank: A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 5: “‘I Just Want Your Fresh Young Jimmy:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 6: “‘Kids Don’t Follow:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 7: “‘Ghetto Defendant:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 8: “‘This Ain’t No Picnic:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 9: “‘That’s When I Reach for My Revolver:’ A GIRLS Recap”

Recap 10: “‘Am I Rich Enough?:’ A GIRLS Recap”

“… women might begin to reweave the web of visual power that already binds them by taking the unruly woman as a model–woman as rule-breaker, joke-maker, and public, bodily spectacle…. Mary Russo notes that the category of the grotesque is often projected on the female body when it makes a spectacle of itself through… violation of proper feminine bodily containment. She asks how this category might be used ‘affirmatively to destabilize the idealizations of female beauty or to realign the mechanisms of desire’ (221). In acts of spectatorial unruliness (emphasis added), I believe, we might examine models of returning the male gaze, exposing and making a spectacle of the gazer, claiming the pleasure and power of making spectacles of ourselves, and beginning to negate our own invisibility in the public sphere.”

Rowe, Kathleen Karlyn. THE UNRULY WOMAN: GENDER AND THE GENRES OF LAUGHTER. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1995. Print. 12.

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“You’re lucky I don’t take all your money considering you made me watch this all afternoon.”

Hannah (Lena Dunham) to Adam (Adam Driver) as he gets off on her watching and degrading him while masturbating, on GIRLS S1.E5 “Hard Being Easy”