Girls, girls, girls. Never mind the teapot tapes. This election year we’re debating the semiotics of the wardrobes of female politicians. Pioneering feminists and the Speaker of the House clearly never thought to sort out what a woman is allowed to say while wearing an Adrienne Winkelmann jacket. The jacket police – National’s Anne Tolley and Judith Collins – make the callow core characters of Girls seem like paragons of acumen and sisterhood.
Still, Lena Dunham’s excruciating series has taught us that these days girls can do anything, including being childish, self-absorbed and mean. “You’re not gonna get any milk out of those tits,” observed Adam’s ex, Natalia, on his new girlfriend Hannah’s reproductive potential. Ouch.
And we find that Jessa’s sometime best friend, Season, faked her own death to get rid of Jessa. An eternal unfriending. “Looks like you got it all figured out with your brownstone and your baby and your cool-looking husband,” Jessa sneers, of Season’s drug-and-Jessa-free life. “None of this is going to work out for you, by the way.” Jessa could give Judith Collins a run for her money.
It would make complete sense in Girls-world that Tolley and Collins would decree that Greens co-leader Metiria Turei can’t talk about poverty or social justice while wearing an ugly, expensive jacket. Even as they sport such jackets themselves. Well, it distracts people from talking about poverty and social justice.
Tolley took exception to being called out of touch by Turei, who “lives in a castle”. Turei cried racism, sexism and possibly castle-ism. Collins came to the rescue, in the manner of one putting out a fire by chucking petrol on it. In hilarious footage on TVNZ’s website Collins explains the finer points of Turei’s alleged hypocrisy. Did she have a problem with Turei wearing a $2000 jacket?
“Only if she is going to stand up there and talk about child poverty and about how the National Party is out of touch,” said Collins. On calling the jacket ugly: “Well, it was a really ugly jacket.” Why can’t nicely dressed MPs champion poverty? wondered a bewildered reporter. “Well, they can, but she doesn’t dress nicely,” beamed Collins dangerously. By now even Collins seemed to sense she was about to be engulfed by a king tide of her own balderdash and took off.
Meanwhile, the media have been beating a path to Turei’s Dunedin castle, which turns out to be a sort of hippie folly. “How much did it cost?” wondered John Campbell. “$137,000,” said Turei. “The cost of a house deposit in Auckland,” mused Campbell.
Is Turei’s flash wardrobe even news? Former Green MP and beauty queen Sue Kedgley was always smartly turned out, even when in a sow crate. Still, the disturbing sitcom that is Parliament offers clues when it comes to understanding the girls on Girls. You have to admire Hannah and co’s largely baseless confidence, their defiant nudity, their soaring sense of entitlement. Yet you’re aghast at their self-absorption, their casual cruelty, their stunning lack of self-awareness.
Hannah fails to register a scintilla of emotion at the death of her editor David, other than to worry about her wretched ebook he was meant to publish. Ray at Café Grumpy is … aghast. “Hannah, why don’t you place just one crumb of basic human compassion on this fat-free muffin of sociopathic detachment? See how it tastes.”
She can’t. All she can come up with in order to demonstrate some normal empathy is to steal an already faked childhood memory of compassion and pass it off as her own, in a scene that was a little chilling. It was also very funny. Kids today. But we can’t really afford to laugh at their craven values. Episodes like the jacket wars show where they get it from. As they search in vain for a crumb of wisdom or leadership in the fat-free muffin of our public life, their role models let them down.
GIRLS, Sky Soho, Thursday, 8.30pm.