Of all the things that have addled and irritated the watchers of Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls (the characters are too white and overprivileged! Lena Dunham spends too much time naked!), of all the things that have made a noisy sliver of them feel that the show is worthy of their “hate,” the late-in-the-game revelation that Dunham’s middle-class lost-girl princess Hannah suffers from OCD seemed all but designed to stoke the hostility of those who dislike Girls but can’t stop watching it. To someone like me, though, who adores the show (I’ll put my passion right out there: In two seasons, I think there has hardly been a false moment on it), when Hannah began to deal with her anxieties by counting, compulsively, to eight, any and every way that she could, even to the point of mutilating her eardrums, I found the twist gripping and scarily authentic — and one of the reasons that I absolutely went with it is that, after the first OCD episode, I began to imagine what a character trait like that one might have looked like in, say, a mediocre Sundance movie devoted to a discombobulated heroine with OCD. And I could just, you know, see those cutely kooky scenes of personal derangement (look, she’s arranging her Tater Tots into a perfect triangle!), the deadpan-disturbed lead performance by Elle Fanning, even the ad campaign (“Love is a compulsion”). And I just thought: What that movie wouldn’t have is what Dunham brought to every twitch and tremor of Hannah’s obsession — an anti-kooky concentration and troubled fever, a sense of how the OCD is literally, physically torturing Hannah, but how it’s also her way of hanging on to an identity, of giving herself one, as her assorted other roles in life (girlfriend of Adam, transgressive e-novelist) fall away, with nothing to replace them. To a desperately exacting degree, she became The Girl Who Counts To Eight. And, more important, she took us with her. READ FULL STORY
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