Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tracy Sweeney – I May Not Get You, Lena Dunham, But I Appreciate You

I May Not Get You, Lena Dunham, But I Appreciate You

by Tracy Sweeney

Writing is very personal.  As cliché as it sounds, a part of the writer lies within his or her characters.  We give birth to these people.  So when a reader attacks one of your characters, it’s painful.  That’s my child you’re talking about.

But I’ve come to appreciate different points of view.  My main character in LIVING BACKWARDS makes a very tough decision at the climax of the story—one that I’m not sure I could have made myself.  I was shocked by the feedback I received.  Some readers were horrified by what she did, others felt it was justifiable.  It was surprising to me as the writer because I couldn’t see the story going any other way.  There was no option B.  But to so many readers, there clearly was.  I loved that it became such fodder for debate.

I try not to take that type of criticism personally because I’m not always an easy critic myself.  As a reader or viewer, I’m hard on characters.  I judge them.  I want to like them.  I’m confused when the protagonist does something stupid.  I yell at the screen.  I slam the book down.  (I try not to slam my iPad.)

Which brings me to Lena Dunham.  I have a love/hate/love relationship with Girls.  Like most people, I fell in love with the first season.  I couldn’t necessarily relate to the characters (although I’d like to hang with Shosh for like an afternoon), but I didn’t let that affect my judgment.  The characters were real and flawed and even when you didn’t like the choices they made or the things they said, you pulled for them.  That was the love part of our relationship.  This season I got a little ragey.  This season I wanted to punch Hannah continually in the face and tell her to please for the love of all that’s holy, stop peeing in public.  It makes my OCD flair up.  And stop trying to make mesh shirts happen.  That, if you hadn’t guessed, was the hate part of our relationship.

But then as the season unfolded, I think I understand what Lena Dunham was doing with Hannah.  It was so subtle at first with the stresses in her life building.  She was spiraling out of control, but Hannah is so dramatic regularly, like her parents, I was writing it off as hysterics.  Even in the end when I hated everything that happened in the season finale, I loved how it was presented.  Her ex-boyfriend Adam who should be with his hot and very understanding new girlfriend, is running through the streets to the sound of a rousing score to come to Hannah’s aid.  The sweeping music tells us that it’s a love story but it’s not.  Hannah calling Adam is a selfish act made by a scared girl.  This was not a happily ever after.  This was bad.  But instead of hating her for this, I found myself worried for Hannah.  While rushing to her aid was the wrong choice for Adam, it’s the wrong choice for her too.  She’s a trainwreck but I want to fix her.

So after watching the season finale, I had a new appreciation for the show and for Lena Dunham.  She’s done something that’s very difficult.  She’s created characters that aren’t entirely likable.  This is what I can only hope someone would say about the characters I choose to write about.  You may not always get them.  You may not always like them.  You occasionally want to punch them in the face repeatedly and send them to a stylist.  But you want good things for them.  Even Jessa.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jillian Cross refuses to believe that a pair of skinny jeans has led to her untimely demise. Life just isn’t that cruel. But when an overly-enthusiastic attempt at squeezing herself into them leads her to fall and lose consciousness, she is faced with just that possibility. When she awakens with both a bruised ego and a bump on her head, she’s not in her tiny apartment but her childhood bedroom circa 1999-the spring of her senior year in high school. Jillian knows that time travel isn’t logical.

But then again, neither was her decision to wear skinny jeans. As she attempts to navigate her way through the halls of Reynolds High, walking the same path and making the same choices she made years before, she knows that any change she makes can have a catastrophic effect on her future. But when she strikes up an unexpected friendship with motorcycle-riding, cigarette-smoking Luke Chambers, can she pretend to be the same shy girl she once was? At least she has her pink sparkly flask to take the edge off. One little change won’t hurt, right?

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Genre – Chick Lit

Rating – PG13

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