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Ironically, my favourite characters in HBO’s ‘Girls’ were the men

I’d heard a lot about HBO’s ‘Girls’, so I decided to give it a crack. From what people had been raving about, I expected it to be a funny, warm yet realistic representation of life for early 20-something women trying to make their way in the world. I thought ‘Hey, I’m a 21 year old woman I should be able to relate to these women and their stories’. I was bitterly disappointed and a bit frustrated that I’d been promised this great show and was instead stuck with a series I kept watching just in case it got any better.

The series opens with the main character Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) having dinner with her parents. Her parents then have the AUDACITY to tell her that they’re going to stop funding Hannah’s life, which is what they’ve been doing since she graduated college 2 years ago. Hannah promptly throws a hissy fit (remember, she’s in her early 20’s) and tries to explain to her parents that she’s going to be a fabulous writer and the ‘voice of a generation’. I vomited a little bit in my mouth when she said this. She then goes home to bitch and moan to her equally vapid friends about how she needs a job, yet when it’s suggested she work for McDonald’s, she vehemently declines. She is of the mistaken and arrogant mindspace that beggars can be choosers and that she’s ‘too good’ to work at McDonald’s because she has a writing degree. So even from the start, because I’m not a spoilt brat, I had nothing in common with the main character. Sure, I receive some financial support from my parents, but I also pay rent, actively apply for jobs, am completing an Honours degree, and volunteer in my spare time (I know, I’m fantastic).

We’re then introduced to Hannah’s roommate Marnie who is whinging about her boyfriend loving her too much. Then ‘worldly’ Jessa who looks like she googled ‘How to dress bohemian hipster’. Finally, Shoshanna who is Jessa’s cousin, and a neurotic ditzy Sex & the City fan. Don’t you want to totes be BFFs with these girls?!

I watched the first episode, was put off by all the characters, and couldn’t relate to any of their first world, petty, spoilt problems, but I persevered. Maybe it was just finding its feet and the characters would soon blossom to become normal and likeable? By no means do I expect television characters to be gorgeous, witty, charming and all round fabulous, but I do like to feel some sort of connection, I want to root for them.

I finished season 1 last night. It was a relief to say the least. Why did I keep watching? Ironically, because my favourite characters in Girls, were the men.

We’re introduced to Adam in episode 1 as Hannah’s semi boyfriend/friend with benefits. She antagonises over how many times he’s texted her (something I unfortunately can relate to), whilst he is completely unaware of how much distress he’s causing her. He walks around topless, makes useless things in his workshop and is very sexually expressive. He’s your everyday young man. He displays slight autistic qualities such as saying strange things at inappropriate times, but this just makes him more endearing. He doesn’t try hard to be anyone, he doesn’t care. He’s the complete opposite of Hannah. Throughout the series, Hannah explains to him that he’s not treating her well and blah blah blah, so he changes. They turn into a real couple. He cares for her deeply and eventually tells her he is in love with her. Apparently this is too much for Hannah, who if I remember correctly, WANTED EXACTLY THIS. She spills a boring monologue about how insecure she is and how hard her life is. Yeah, it must be really hard having lovely parents who support you all the way through college then for two years after while you live in a nice apartment in New York working on your ‘writing’. Where do I donate to your charity? Adam calls her out on her spoilt white girl shit and then breaks up with her. I wanted to high five him.

Next likeable guy is Marnie’s boyfriend (then ex) Charlie. His problem was that he loved Marnie too much. Now, where did I put my tiny violin?… After 3 years together, she breaks up with him. Fair enough, some relationships can fizzle out. I can understand that. He is heartbroken and finds solace in another girl’s arms a fortnight after their break up. Marnie finds out and gets all mopey and looks through Facebook photos of him and his new girlfriend. An appropriate response in today’s modern age. If anything, this situation is the one in which most women can relate to. But what annoys me is that Marnie is just boring. There’s no spark to her. She has no ambition. Charlie isn’t the most developed character, but I feel sorry for him. I decided I liked him because unlike the other female characters, I don’t cringe when I watch him.

Finally, my favourite character in Girls; Thomas-John. He is played by the adorable and hilarious Chris O’Dowd and only appears in 2 episodes. However, he gave me the first and only genuine laugh in this supposed comedy series. He is introduced as a dapper businessman sitting at a bar, who hits on Marnie and Jessa and asks them to come back to his place for a bottle of wine. Now for anyone with a third of a brain, this can be decoded as ‘I would like to attempt to sleep with you two’. I assumed the girls knew this, and were okay with it. So they went up to his apartment, he turned out to be a wannabe DJ and while the girls lied on his carpet (what?) he tried to initiate a threesome. Marnie and Jessa act offended and indignant. How dare this man who obviously wanted sex suggest we have sex?! Then, because Marnie wants to be more crazy and loose, she starts to passionately kiss Jessa. Yawn. Thomas-John starts to become annoyed as they are ignoring his advances and goes on a hilarious tirade which includes my favourite line of the series ‘WHO WEARS A BOWLER HAT?!’. He rips them to shreds for being try hard rich daddy’s girls and angrily asks them if they’ve ever worked hard in their lives (Enjoy the rant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWsovTuub8g).

Many might say that Thomas-John is a pig, but I don’t see it that way. It was blaringly obvious that he was interested in sex with Jessa and Marnie. They could have easily said no. But to have led him on, make him believe they liked him, then to laugh in his face, I’d say that’s cruel on their part.

To sum up, don’t watch Girls unless you’re an entitled, arrogant, naïve, spoiled white 20 something year old living in New York. Or watch it if you want to feel better about yourself because you actually strive to achieve in life instead of moping around feeling sorry for yourself.

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Your hijab isn’t special

I’m a big fan of equality. I don’t think exceptions of the rule should be made, or tokenism allowed for anyone, regardless of gender, religion, ability or ethnicity. The idea of ‘equality’ usually evokes feelings of power and fairness, but sometimes equality can mean everyone gets treated the same in shitty situations. Sometimes life is unfair, but occasionally, you just have to suck it up. However, some people think they’re above this occasional unfairness. I recently read an article ‘Muslim women face an uphill battle against prejudice to find work’ (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/10/muslim-women-prejudice-getting-job#start-of-comments) in which Muslim women are sometimes forced to remove their hijabs for work. As I was reading, I experienced all the normal reactions; outrage, sympathy, etc. But then I removed myself from my default emotions regarding discrimination and realised that these women were using their religion to demand special treatment. Now before you yell ‘Muslim hater!’, know that I despise all religions equally. I’m a fair woman, so it wouldn’t matter if this article was about Christian or Hindu or Scientologist (if you can even call them a real ‘religion’) women not being allowed to wear their sacred religious garments.

I personally believe there is no harm in a Muslim woman wearing her hijab to work. However, when you look for and accept work, it usually involves being aware of that particular organisation’s or business’s dress code and expectations of employee’s presentation. I live in the real world. I know that some employers do not like my look. I have facial piercings and visible body tattoos and I’m aware that these are deal-breakers for particular employers. I wouldn’t be offended if I got knocked back to become a waitress for a café that serves high tea, or for a job teaching lady’s etiquette. I understand that by having these body modifications, I am limiting my chances of employment in some areas.

This is where it comes back to equal treatment. In supposedly secular countries, religious people should be treated exactly the same as those who do not identify with any religion. To me, this means that employers should have just as much rights to ask a Muslim to remove her hijab as they do to ask me to remove my nose ring. Both are cosmetic, materialistic items with abstract meanings. A Muslim woman’s hijab may be worn to make her feel more comfortable in herself, but this is the same reason why I had my tattoos done. Once you remove the element of religion, a hijab is simply an accessory. If we are to truly be an equal society, I believe religious garments, beliefs or rules should be up for the same scrutiny as their secular equivalents.

Sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. If you desperately need a job, and the only option includes a position in which you need to forgo or supress some of your values or beliefs, then you bloody take that job. I have applied for positions in all sorts of organisations that I don’t agree with, including; counselling at a private Christian school (in which I would have had to incorporate Jesus’s teachings in my advice), case managing for a Lutheran homeless charity, and volunteering for various different churches. This is the real world. People aren’t always going to pander to your personal values.

At the risk of committing the ‘Slippery Slope’ argument fallacy, where would it end? Under the rules of ‘religious freedom’ and free expression, people could argue that wearing giant blood soaked crosses around your neck is a Christian right, or that wearing a tin foil hat so that the aliens can’t read your thoughts is a Scientology necessity. Of course these are ridiculous examples, but religion is in the business of being ridiculous and nonsensical.

Of course there are exceptions to this opinion. Employment discrimination based on race, gender, disability, etc, is unacceptable. Furthermore, I’d have a problem if an employer suddenly changed his or her mind regarding the dress code and enforced rules that weren’t in place at the time of initial employment. But if I was employed and 6 months into the job my boss said ‘Holly, I’m going to have to ask you to cover your tattoos and piercings’, I would weigh up my options. If I desperately needed this job, I would do it. I might grumble a bit and write an angsty entry into my diary, but I’d realise that I need the money, and I’d have to grit my teeth and get over it. If I didn’t desperately need the job, I’d leave and find a new one where my cosmetic differences were accepted.

No accessory should be given precedence over another, regardless of whether it is religious or not. I’m lucky that I live in a free society in which I can leave my house with my piercings and science tattoos, as can Muslim women with their hijabs or burkas, and Christian women with crosses around their neck. Just don’t tell me one is more sacred than the other.

Don’t let women on the front line! They might bleed and stuff!

Before I start my rage induced spillage of opinions, injustices and general hatred of everything ever, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s 2012. Let’s proceed.

The Australian Defence Department released an extensive list of reasons why they’re concerned about letting women on the front line. I thought this would be a good read, and I was open to some serious concerns they may have. However, I was met with ideas and ‘risks’ reminiscent of a relic from the 1950’s. I’d like to go through a few of these seriously stated reasons why women should not be able to join the defence forces and serve on the front line. As aforementioned, please be aware that it’s 2012.

  • ‘May be an increase in sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour within combat units’ – Can anyone say ‘Victim blaming’? My jaw dropped when I saw this was included in a serious list of why women shouldn’t be on the front line. Basically, women should be banned from serving their country, because the men who are already in the defence forces may sexually harass them. I think the concerns here shouldn’t be with whether women should join the forces, but rather what kind of men are being accepted. Does the defence force admit men with sexual harassment tendencies? Why isn’t this major breaking news? Of course this isn’t a rare case of women being blamed for some men’s bad behaviour and ideas. Victim blaming is rife in rape and sexual harassment cases. The woman was wearing a short skirt, the woman was flirting, etc, all seem to be good enough excuses for some men to get away with inappropriate behaviour. It’s worrying to know that the defence force is employing this reasoning as a deterrent for perfectly capable women to join.
  • ‘Physical testing will increase incidents of injury among females’ – Well we are fragile little creatures with brittle bones and no tolerance for pain. Also, women who are applying for the defence forces are in a fantasy world where they think they’ll be serving alongside rabbits and kittens with nothing potentially dangerous. Seriously, that’s like saying ‘going swimming might increase incidents of drowning’. Of course physical testing may result in an injury, but why does that increase if the participant has a vagina? If a woman believes she is fit enough to participate and pass physical testing, who is to tell her no? I felt like they were clutching at straws with this flimsy excuse.
  • ‘Allowing women to join would lead to the perception that the army is lowering its standards’ – Yes because as soon as women are involved in an establishment, it turns to ruins and means only blubbering idiots are allowed to join. This is just a blatant sexist remark. You can’t even make excuses about women’s strength or looks like you could regarding the previous excuses. This is explicitly saying that involving women makes something worse. Imagine if someone dared to makes these claims against potential defence force applicants of different skin colours? There would be an UPROAR. Hey defence force, keep your standards and physical testing and only let women in who meet these standards. We’re not asking for you to treat us differently, we’re asking for you to treat us the same.

I’d like to briefly discuss some other popular reasons why women shouldn’t be on the front line that were (thankfully) not mentioned in this release:

‘What if they get their periods?!’ – Yes, because being on the front line, none of the soldiers will have ever learnt how to deal with blood before. Furthermore, when has having her period ever stopped a woman from any job? Do policewomen take the day off when they menstruate? Does Hilary Clinton cease her duties and have a lie down once a month? I don’t think so.

‘Men will get too distracted’ – Once again, another case of victim blaming. Also, I’m assuming that women will not be parading around in bikinis on the front line.

‘Women are too emotional’ – Firstly, that’s a giant stereotype. Secondly, I highly doubt that those women intent on serving on the front line are necessarily the type of women who cry over a broken nail. Soldiers undergo extensive psychological testing before being put in the field, if she is ‘too emotional’ it will be picked up before she can even pick up a weapon.

So please big bad defence force, don’t give us shit about how there are ‘concerns about letting women on the front line’. They’re sexist, sensationalist, stereotypical and largely inaccurate.