So much of the discussion surrounding HBO’s dramedy “Girls” involves critics firing back at accusations of privilege, class warfare, favoritism and Lena Dunham’s weight.
There’s not much I can add to those discussions.
Sexism lies at the heart of them all. People are threatened by a 26-year-old woman being successful, so they try to tear her down any way they can.
It’s unfortunate because all of the noise is louder than the discussion we should be having, which is that “Girls” is one of the best shows on the air.
Dunham, who serves as its creator, producer, director, writer and lead actress, made the case even stronger two weeks ago with “One Man’s Trash,” the fifth episode from the ongoing second season.
“Trash” is the finest episode of television I’ve seen since “Mad Men” aired “The Suitcase” in 2010. Both are crazy-good, midseason, character-building strokes of small-screen genius.
I know the episode is special because I don’t want to see it again soon. For many works, that’s a sign it was terrible, but for some, it’s a compliment, a hope to preserve a piece’s mystique and freshness.
In “Trash,” Dunham plays Hannah, who enjoys a dream-like, 48-hour stay in the Brooklyn brownstone of a man she barely knows, Joshua (Patrick Wilson).
During the course of her visit, Hannah learns about herself. One devastating scene burrows into her flaws and deepest beliefs while simultaneously losing Joshua’s interest entirely.
Hannah says too much and acts too selfishly, as her character often does. In the final scenes, she wakes alone in Joshua’s bed, enjoys a brief gasp of solitude and then walks home alone.
The reason “One Man’s Trash” – a title that has to be taken with a wink and nod given viewers’ love-it-or-hate-it reaction – encapsulates “Girls” is it shows how well-crafted the characters are.
“Girls” has jokes, often stemming from crude and awkward sexual escapades, but that’s not the primary reason it’s worth watching.
Dunham crafts complex characters who have a journey on which to take us.
Dunham’s girls are human, fallible and honest. While “One Man’s Trash” focused exclusively on Hannah, all four of the show’s women are flawed.
The show’s creator knows this and pours gas on that fire: “Living the dream one mistake at a time,” says the first-season promotional material.
Other shows that give us a whole-person perspective, creating lifelike characters, are lauded as great television.
Viewers face the same decision about the characters as they do people off screen, the choice to accept other humans for their imperfections and their strengths.
We don’t have to want to be Hannah’s friend to enjoy “Girls,” but it is interesting to see her journey and, reflexively, ask questions about ourselves.
For Dunham to have such a grasp on these emotions and what they look like to outsiders is a power few filmmakers have.
“Girls” is funny, raw and challenging. That’s what good art should aspire to be.
And it should inspire a stronger discussion than whether Dunham’s paunch makes the show unwatchable.
To read more of Nick DeCicco’s blogs, visit http://dailyrepublic.typepad.com/forthoseabouttorock. Follow him on Twitter @ndeciccodr.