The 'Girls' Spinoff No One Needed

Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in HBO's <i>Girls</i>

Lena Dunham as Hannah Horvath in HBO's Girls

The “porn parody” industry has become so wilfully unimaginative these days it makes its mid-’90s forerunners seem like sublime works of satire: Tits A Wonderful Life, Buffy The Vampire Layer, Pulp Friction, and the immortal classic Ass Ventura: Crack Detective, seem like relics of a simpler, sillier time.

Now, it’s sufficient to simply whack “this ain’t” or “a XXX parody” fore or after the original inspiration’s title, cast some porn stars who look vaguely like their non-porn equivalents, and Bob’s your uncle’s pool maintenance man’s lonely MILF wife with a pearl necklace fetish.

So it is with Hustler’s recently wrapped porn parody, This Ain’t Girls XXX, in which: “Hannah (Alex Chance) decides to forsake men, and boyfriend Adam, to experiment with lesbianism. After a few satisfying jaunts she returns to Adam (Richie Calhoun) -- and mankind. Adam accepts her back into the fold, but, true to the original show, adds a dominant and quirky dimension to the scene.”

An intimate scene between Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) in the first season of <i>Girls</i>.

An intimate scene between Hannah (Lena Dunham) and Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) in the first season of Girls.

Girls’ creator and star Lena Dunham expressed her dismay about the parody on Twitter: “Okay, I wracked my brain to articulate why I can't just laugh off a porn parody of Girls and here are 3 reasons: 1. Because Girls is, at its core, a feminist action while Hustler is a company that markets and monetizes a male's idea of female sexuality. 2. Because a big reason I engage in (simulated) onscreen sex is to counteract a skewed idea of that act created by the proliferation of porn. 3. Because it grosses me out.” 

It may seem like Dunham is being unduly serious about something that could be chalked down to a low form of the highest form of flattery, but as Slate’s Amanda Marcotte notes, there’s a difference here, namely that Girls is already chock full of sex, unlike other parodied shows such as 30 Rock: “[The] porn parody of 30 Rock looks like a hoot, a sexualized tribute to the beloved NBC sitcom. What makes porn parodies like that one work is that they inject sexual situations into shows that aren't actually very sexy, and the absurdity of it all is amusing.”

There’s a bitter irony to the Hannah-and-Adam storyline being turned into a porno “storyline”, given Adam’s sexual peccadilloes are arguably illustrative of the ways in which porn - particularly the sort that Hustler and their hardcore peers peddle - has affected the sexuality of Millennial (and not-so-Millennial) men. In this way, the pop culture Ouroboros has well and truly bitten down on its tail.

Take the distressing scene in the penultimate episode of Season 2, ‘On All Fours’, in which Adam forces Natalia to have rough, porny sex, while she protests “I didn’t take a shower today” and “No, no, no, no, not on my dress!” It’s an extreme example of a dating climate where men think nothing of asking for anal on a first date, money shots are banalities, and internet dating site members will follow “hi how are you” with remarkably frank bedroom talk straight from Penthouse Forum.

That’s not a Gail Dines-esque theoretical rant, either: most people I know, myself included, have all manner of horror stories from the dating circuit when it comes to porn’s influence on the way we go about the business of the bedroom (turning down “Do you do anal?” only to be immediately asked “Well can I come in your mouth then?” is one particularly romantic memory I have).

Just ask Dunham herself, who told the New York Times last year (on the topic of dating and sex), “I remember noticing things, certain behaviors, where I thought, ‘There’s no way you learned that anywhere but on YouPorn.com. There’s no way any teenage girl taught you and reinforced that behavior.”

So, if Girls - both Adam’s sexual tastes and Hannah’s well-meaning attempts to go along with them in the pursuit of love - is a subtle comment on the ways in which sexual interaction has shifted in the 21st century, a porn parody of those interactions not only misses the point, it just keeps the production line of future “Adams” rolling.

21 comments

  • Lena, stop being a prude!

    Commenter
    Angu
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 8:33AM
    • Is this a hilarious joke? I'm not sure you could accuse someone who engages in fairly graphic simulated sex in most episodes of their TV show "a prude".

      Commenter
      Clem Bastow
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 9:34AM
    • Idiot. Can I bet you've never seen a single episode of Girls before?

      Commenter
      Miffy
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 10:19AM
    • It's not an uncommon response. Plenty of "edgy" and "subversive" artists will baulk if the message of their own work is subverted in any meaningful way. Sex in mainstream porn has become borderline grotesque, but Lena's best response to this would be to not acknowledge it at all. That's the same thing the left tell the religious right whenever they complain about things like The Vagina Monologues, or Piss Christ or any explicit art. It's really the only appropriate response from someone that champions freedom of expression: if you don't like it, don't watch it.

      Commenter
      James Hill
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 1:27PM
  • She is so far from being a prude. I am not anti-porn, but I am certainly against the unequal relations portrayed in mainstream porn, and I think Lena Dunham is right to lament this action by Hustler. It's not prudish to care about people, how they are treated, and what detrimental tropes they perpetuate or have forced upon them...

    Commenter
    madams
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 10:07AM
    • "but I am certainly against the unequal relations portrayed in mainstream porn,"
      The porn industry like all other industries supply what is demanded.

      Commenter
      Budz
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 11:20AM
  • It's unhelpful to call women who critique porn 'ranters'. Some of your statements are basically in agreement with Dines. I've read her book and it was reasoned and measured, not a rant at all. But if she does rant on occasion, so what? It's not like pornographers are polite and reasonable when it comes to some of the ways they depict and treat real, live women. Why should we not get angry, why should we be polite?

    Commenter
    Emma
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 10:08AM
    • Emma, I didn't call Gail Dines a "ranter", I said "Gail Dines-esque theoretical rant". There's a difference, and it refers to the theoretical/hypothetical scenarios that are often used in anti-porn rhetoric.

      Commenter
      Clem Bastow
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 10:48AM
  • The emphasis Dunham places on what men are supposedly learning from porn demonstrates that she doesn't actually know that much about the male sexual psyche.

    It's great that Girls is an expression (key word) of the a certain view of male sexuality, because this is valuable in itself. Women should talk about their sexuality, and their view of men. From this we can all learn, and of course be entertained.

    But this is of course what's being missed in a female lead (and non-truly-honest male conversation about porn. It IS an expression of male urges that are on some level already there -- however corrupted some versions of it might be.

    In fact, all of the male sexual behaviour that negatively impacts women is indicative of some underlying urge (the argument of biological or not is a silly one, because it doesn't matter).

    The diamond didn't invent the underlying urges it focused on diamonds - it understood them. And that of couse - on an intellectual/problem solving level - is my major issue with much femininst discourse on male sexuality. There's no genuine and empathetic attempt to understand the issue. Male power is conflated with self-knowledge. We may be in charge, but are not the most self-critical bunch. Obviously we need some help encouragement. I know, poor us!

    So here is my honesty:

    I also like to engage in rough sex from time to time. So does my partner. She's never seen a porn in her life. I have, OF COURSE, seen many.

    Not all my urges would sit well with all women, but that's ok, because I'm open and honest with my partner. Even if she's uncomfortable, she doesn't ever reduce them down to some kind "wrong" that needs to shamed. We talk.

    Commenter
    LukeR
    Location
    Santiago
    Date and time
    May 27, 2013, 10:35AM
    • Clem is there are particular reason why my on-topic, non-offensive comments are being rejected?

      Silencing opinions that you disagree with is of course your prerogative on your blog, but is tantamount to admitting you don't trust that you or your other readers have a decent argument to respond with.

      Commenter
      Christian
      Date and time
      May 27, 2013, 10:58AM

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