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Bravo to HBO for Backing Female Talent with Enlightened and Girls

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Two shows on TV push the envelope for leading roles for women – Laura Dern on Enlightened plays maybe one of the most complex characters I’ve seen.  And now that the show’s in trouble I can see it going the way of HBO’s Hung, another great series about women.  On Enlightened, Dern plays a newly rehabbed older woman very much in keeping with many women I know in Los Angeles and online.  She’s worried about things she has no control over but believes she can somehow make a difference. Her intentions are always good but her efforts futile at best, delusional at worst.  One of the funniest scenes on a recent episode had Dern having a dream about a co-worker getting taken away by police once Dern’s imaginary expose on the company she works for is brought to light. When, in real life, that woman is rushed to the hospital, Dern feels personally responsible, so she rushes to the hospital and tries to insert herself into the scene to “make it better.” She has no idea the woman can’t stand her.  She lives her life around many people who feel sorry for her, in fact, or can’t stand her. Gee, now do you see why I like it so much?  Ahem, moving on…

Laura Dern is like Martin Scorsese’s Rupert Pupkin in King of Comedy — full of delusions of grandeur with zero chance of ever becoming who they think they already are.  She lives with her mother — of course, Diane Ladd, and works in some awful basement pencil-pushing job alongside the brilliant Mike White (creator and writer).  All too often we don’t have well written shows about darker, less successful people who hover around us every day, but Enlightened shows us that dimension of this American life.  My hope is that people eventually discover it and somehow it stays on the air.  My cynicism tells me, forget it. Not enough hot chicks with bouncing boobs.  But you know, hope is the thing with feathers …

The other great show is of course not in danger of getting canceled because Lena Dunham has transformed Girls in season two from the show it was trying to be in season 1.  Gone are the storylines that only revolve around the men in their lives and in their place, stories that revolve around the girls.  This has made the show instantly captivating.  Dunham herself has broken free as a character and no longer seems to have silently apologize for her very presence. She now knows what the worst thing someone can say about you is — she survived it and came out the other side. It’s always good to hear that if you’re a woman — the absolute worst insult imaginable? You realize that ultimately sticks and stones hurt for about two seconds then you move on to something else.  Every storyline on Girls has improved and they do it without any man-hating, lest the target demo start to feel left out.

Both Enlightened and Girls are on HBO on Sunday nights.  Watch them. Talk about them. Keep them in the conversation.  Maybe,  just maybe, they’ll never go away.