tv

“You Found Me”: On “Search Party”–Season 4

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Spoilers ahead.

The whites of Alia Shawkat’s eyes, despite their size, blind and flood the screen, in contrast with the actress’s olive skin tone, painted Seurat-esque with freckles, her head cut and her body dusted in soot. Her eyes, they’re cream-colored, a blank canvas, white enough that if you were to look into them, you would be staring into the other side. And you do, the blackened lungs of Shawkat’s character, Dory, expelling fear and self-loathing, the smoke and bilious parts of herself boiling over. I can still hear her.

Alone in a trunk, alone in a room, alone with yourself. This is all a fever dream, a nightmare. Or, as the ninth episode’s title might call it, an inferno. Or purgatory.

Read the full essay here.

Start from Hello, Old Friend: In Loving Memory of Julie Klausner’s “Difficult People”

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Being one of the two shows I actively make an  effort to watch, the cancellation of the brilliant Difficult People is devastating for me.Biting gay men and their equally witty female counterparts, or arguably vice versa, are a shopworn cliche in comedies. But the significance of Difficult People, the Hulu Original created, written, and starring Julie Klausner and starring Billy Eichner, is the show’s ability to flesh out the world to be hyperspecific beyond bon mots. Playing a struggling writer and a struggling actor, the finely observed details of their relationship, in both cruelty and joy, are hard to find in most media. To use “Old Friends” from Stephen Sondheim’s cult flop musical in the season three finale, and the unexpected series’ end, is another example of the deft way in which Klausner could paint mean people as being capable of deep intimacy and love.

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It’s a Small World, After All: “Difficult People” and Intimacy

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difficultpeoplepicJulie (Julie Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) want to be seen as mean, bitter, small people that live a small world. As Inkoo Kang posited, “Difficult People is a sitcom about smallness.” To embrace the title as a fundamental part of their identity is a form of myopia that they are proud of, at least externally and publicly. Its first season, which premiered on Hulu in August 2015, established that bitterness and restrictive world view and arguably sense of self was not merely a character detail but the character itself; the pilot opens with Julie and Billy furiously walking down streets of New York yelling at people, ordering strangers out of the way, and making cutting remarks passing by, only to convene and… continue to do the same thing, but together. But though it wasn’t the focus of the first eight episodes, that there was a textural layer to this “haterade”, and emotional one no less, was there from the beginning. Difficult People is not only about small people and smallness, but small people continually struggling with to what degree they want to reach out and, like unlike the audience numbers of NBC’s Hannibal, grow. Read the rest of this entry »

Barely Here and Queer: Authenticity, Identity, and Queerness in Lena Dunham’s “Girls”

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(Author’s Note: This was originally written for my favorite class lass semester, “HBO’s Girls and the Millennial Generation.”)

Queerness is rarely the focus of Girls, and when it does appear, it does so as well-worn character trope (Elijah as gay best friend) or form of tragedy (Laura in the rehab center).] Yet, while the show focuses its efforts on examining the “authenticity” of characters, it rarely considers queerness as an element of authentic identity in a serious or earnest manner. This is troubling, given that questions of authenticity are something that dogs all of its characters. The show relegates queerness and queer identity as punch line and not as element of authentic identity as equally as gender, experience, or class.  By depicting queerness as an object with which ostensibly straight characters can utilize at their will, often to ignore reflections of themselves and their own privilege, Girls reveals that its concepts of authenticity and queerness is limited to a straight, white gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

Impure Imagination: American Horror Story: Asylum – 2.11, “Spilt Milk”

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Left unchecked, Ryan Murphy can wreak havoc on a show, and not necessarily in a good way. American Horror Story as a property in and of itself is a test of balance for Murphy, and Brad Falchuk seems to be there to tip the scale so that their shows run more cogently, so they think. Murphy’s extremism in sentimentality and camp is supposed to be checked by Falchuk’s seemingly egalitarian approach, which has felt more exertion in Asylum than it did in Murder House. That seems to come off in certain aesthetic and formal choices: “Spilt Milk” presents its shocker of a beginning with a transaction with a prostitute that specializes in a fetish involving breast milk. That button pushing concept sounds like a Murphyism, but the camera angles, ostensibly chosen by AHS veteran Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, but the focus and concentration on Johnny (returning cast mate Dylan McDermott) feels more like Falchuk wanting to reign in the weirdness with mapped out nuance. Read the rest of this entry »