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Daily Reads: Why ‘Girls’ Isn’t Evolving as a Show, the Best Cameos on ‘The Good Wife’ and More

Daily Reads: Why 'Girls' Isn't Evolving as a Show, the Best Cameos on 'The Good Wife' and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential
news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. Why “Girls” Isn’t Evolving as a Show. “Girls” has always been polarizing but vital television, but it might have reached stasis if the first five episodes of the show are any indication. The Village Voice’s Inkoo Kang wrote about why it’s not evolving as a show.

“Girls” does have something new to offer this season — a dubious gift that reveals Dunham to be a very smart lady (if that wasn’t already abundantly obvious) who can be embarrassingly on-the-nose. More than during any other season, she and her writers use the show as a forum to respond to its critics, riposting to the reasonable ones and ridiculing the loons… But as fascinating as it is to get (what appears very much to be) Dunham’s take on these critiques, such meta bits distract us from the actual show, in which Hannah is rarely so cogent. Meanwhile, we’re still left wondering whether or not Girls believes Hannah to have talent as a writer or not — and what the rest of the cast is up to. Read more.

2. The Objectification of Women in “Inherent Vice.” Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest is another melancholy film about broken people and relationships (albeit a frequently hilarious one), but one of its most memorable scenes shows something uncomfortable about Anderson’s portrayal of women. Writing for Avidly, Evan Kindley writes about how the doomed relationship is at once moving, troubling, and a potential stand-in for Anderson’s past relationship with Fiona Apple.

When I figured out how to watch the movie this way — as a story about star-crossed lovers, informed by Anderson’s relationship with Apple — it clicked for me, and helped me overcome my ambivalence about the source material and welcome “Inherent Vice” into the Anderson canon with open arms. But isn’t this “one that got away” sentimentalism, in its way, as objectifying as seeing all women as sexually available? One is monogamous, the other promiscuous, but both are fundamentally about men, and what women can do for or to them. There are a lot of illusions that “Inherent Vice” doesn’t seem ready to let go of, and this one — the belief in the power of women to redeem or validate men — is perhaps both the most beautiful and the most pernicious. Anderson doesn’t seem to realize that the macho posturing of “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (who, like the silent father in Boogie Nights, is dominated by his shrewish wife) and the passive hippie romanticism of Doc Sportello aren’t really so far apart, are really in fact part of a single skein of American patriarchy — or maybe he does realize it, but can’t imagine any alternative. Instead he goes on idealizing his flawed father figures, the bad dads and horny devils you can’t help but love. Read more.

3. A Few Caveats About the New World of TV. Things are changing as networks and streaming services are getting better at delivering high-quality shows that can compare with cable, but Linda Holmes of NPR has a few caveats about the changes in television.

This is not the first time the delivery system for television content has changed. When they unveiled the new package that would provide ESPN to the same television you have now, only through a set-top box instead of a cable box, there were reactions suggesting that this – THIS! – was the beginning of the end of television. Of course, we’ve already gone through a change from the antenna to the cable, the air to the cord, and it didn’t kill television. It just changed the way you get fundamentally the same stuff. The idea that television, the fundamental thing that is television, means cable boxes and cable bills is very much a function of a particular and limited historical perspective. Changing the delivery system itself does not necessarily change the nature of the thing. Read more.

4. Alessandra Stanley’s Troubling Reaction to the Golden Globes. Alessandra Stanley is no stranger to putting her foot in her mouth, and she made a big mistake last night by calling the Globes’ selection of “Transparent” a “politically correct” choice and referring to Jeffrey Tambor’s character a transgender man rather than a transgender woman. Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder takes on Stanley’s mistake.

As regular Outward readers will know, we are rarely interested in the kinds of hypersensitive language policing that can come from certain corners of the LGBTQ community—but this gaffe is ridiculous. Anyone who has seen even an episode of “Transparent” (and Stanely definitely has), or who knows the first thing about trans identity, will understand that one of the central motivations for coming out as trans (and perhaps physically transitioning, as Maura does over the course of the series) is the hope that one will then be referred to as the correct gender. Maura is a woman—indeed, as she so eloquently explains in one episode, she has always been a woman, albeit hidden in a sort of societally imposed male drag—and referring to her as a “transgender man” is both ignorant and disrespectful. Read more.

5. The Holocaust Movie That Was Too Shocking to Show. In 1945, a team of British filmmakers (including Alfred Hitchcock) went to document the horrors of the concentration camps, but their film was never shown. Stuart Jeffries of The Guardian writes about “The Night Will Fall,” which documents the film’s “creation and supression.”

Bernstein assembled a remarkable team, including the future Labour cabinet minister Richard Crossman, who wrote the film’s lyrical script, and Alfred Hitchcock, who flew in from Hollywood to advise Bernstein on its structure. They set to work on a documentary entitled “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.” As they worked, reels of film kept arriving, sent by British, American and Soviet combat and newsreel cameramen from 11 camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. As well as the dead, the footage showed starved survivors and human remains in ovens. Read more.

6. “The Good Wife’s” Best Cameos. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews showed up on last night’s episode of “The Good Wife,” but it isn’t the first time the show has called on real political figures to make cameos.The New York Post’s Elisabeth Vincentelli picked the five best.

Gloria Steinem. Much as she did in “The L Word,” Steinem pops up here to guide the young ’uns. In this case, she basically guilt-trips the waffling Alicia into running for office. “If do a good job, you would, run, you should.” Thanks, Feminist Yoda! Read more.

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