Girls

Purple Squirrels — Interview With The Creator

 

I recently watched the pilot for a bold, new Canadian television series, Purple Squirrels. Go here to read my review. The series is a lot of fun, shows great potential and is a refreshing take on Canadian life, combing elements of big city sitcoms like HBO’s Girls with the workplace satire of NBC’s The Office.

I’ve been in contact with the series creator and director Mike Lippert to do a brief interview about the creation and production of the Purple Squirrels pilot:

 

SR: Mike, what was your inspiration for the idea of Purple Squirrels?

ML: The primary inspiration was to write a funny, half-hour character drama. That’s what I started with. When it came time to decide the setting, Recruitment made sense. I’d worked as an agent in that industry for close to four years, so I knew it was something I could write to from an insider’s perspective. I wanted the show to be funny, but also wanted it to have that feeling of authenticity, like viewers were getting a backstage glimpse into this world they had no idea existed. The possibilities for comedy in that world are endless and something the rest of the series really builds upon. The title comes from a recruitment industry term to describe a candidate with a skill set that doesn’t exist. Like a Help Desk person with a PhD. In Astrology. It’s something that all recruiters spend a great deal of time searching for. Hence the tagline “Everybody’s searching for something.”

SR: What’s your favourite shot in the pilot? 

ML: It’s hard to pick one. There’s a lot of great stuff in there. I love the opening streetcar montage with the footage of Toronto and every time Alex makes that career defining trek from the washroom back to the office in the third act, I’m with him every step.

But really, my favourite, and the most impressive shot in the pilot is the closing credits. There’s a full crew of around 48 people in those credits and it blows me away every time I see it. This pilot was made with no budget, by people with no formal filmmaking experience or connections in the film industry. I went to the industry and said “Here’s a script, there’s no money but we’re going to make it. Would you be willing to help out?”

Every person on that credit roll said yes, just based on their belief in the script. I’m grateful to each and every one of them and can’t wait to work with a lot of them again.

SR: What was the most difficult part of making the pilot? Was it in production, writing or was there a specific technical day that really challenged you?

ML: The hardest part about making a television pilot for no money is making a television pilot for no money.

But seriously, the biggest challenge was probably writing the pilot. The pilot took around 12 months, on and off, to write. You have to establish a setting, introduce an environment, introduce a handful of characters, tell a self-contained story and leave the audience with enough to want to tune in next time, all within 25-30 pages. Not easy.

I’d say, given the circumstances, the production was very smooth. We had 48 hours to get everything we needed, in an office that wasn’t ours. People were on the clock for no money and we had a full cast and crew to manage. Looking back now, it seems daunting, but I think the key was that everyone saw that we were there to work and make something that would get recognized. No one wanted to be that person that dragged the whole team down. It’s a really rewarding feeling to see so many people get on the same page and strive for the same ends. You put so much time and effort into creating a show and you have no idea how anyone will react to it, but it all came together. Although everyone worked their asses off, I can tell you that I have never seen so many happy people on one set before. It was a very inspiring moment for me.

SR: Why should Canadians watch Purple Squirrels?

ML: It’s funny, it’s relatable and it’s very Canadian while also pushing the standards of what people have come to expect from Canadian television. The only place for this series to go is up. Remember, this is a completely independent production so I hope people will discover the pilot, see the potential for these characters and this setting and spread the word. Canadians have been waiting for a show like this. I think it’s time someone gave it to them.

 

Special thanks to Mike for taking the time to answer some questions and discuss his new show!

Watch the trailer for Purple Squirrels below:

 

I really recommend checking this series out. As I’ve mentioned in my review, I think it’s funny and smart and very exciting to see. Canadians will take a special interest in the show as it portrays a different side of Canadian life than most of the shows we see do, but it’s not a culturally exclusive show. It has a wide appeal, and I think anyone should be able to enjoy it.

The pilot is available to watch on the Purple Squirrels website.

Where Are the Men in HBO’s “Girls?”

by Jose Manuel Flores

“I think I may be the voice of my generation.” Hannah Horvath said in the very first episode of her hit HBO series, Girls, and little did we know, she was right. Girls is a very well-written comedy show about four female friends living in New York while complaining about the white girl problems of their generation. Hannah Horvath, Marnie Marie Michaels, Jessa Johansson and Shoshanna Shapiro (holy shit, they’re all alliterations) deal with shitty relationships, career paths, abandonment, sexuality and all the troubles that privilege entails. Oh, and privilege is horrible, by the way. A lot of people give the show a lot of flak for how selfish the titular girls are, but they do their best given the circumstances. However, I am not here to talk about the girls.

When Hannah said she was the voice of her generation I think she was absolutely right, so I started thinking that “Girls” wasn’t the best title, not that I could come up with a better one. The show stopped being about the girls a long time ago and it became about today’s culture overall, and the boys are an important part of the show too. But maybe, in a sick way, “Girls” is the perfect title for a show that encapsulates our generation, because all the boys of Girls are neutered.

There are a lot of shows out there about emasculation, from The Sopranos to Breaking Bad to name a few, but I propose that Girls is actually a show about castration. Most, if not all of the male characters in Girls are impotent when we meet them or become so over the course of the series. From Elijah’s sugar-daddy, to Jessa’s friend from rehab, to Hannah’s dad (who is totally gay), Girls is a show about men who willingly surrender their literal and metaphorical manhood to the girls.

Take Charlie, for example, whose sensitive and caring nature towards his girlfriend, Marnie is a point of mockery and annoyance during the first half of Season 1. Hannah and Marnie complain about how nice and unthreatening he is and Hannah even writes in her dairy about how Marnie must feel awful to “date a man with a vagina.” Even after publicly dumping her in a rare moment of awesomeness Charlie still doesn’t get the satisfaction of ending the relationship. Marnie goes to his apartment for the first time in the several years they’ve been dating and begs Charlie to take her back, only to immediately break up with him while having sex. Marnie dumped Charlie while his penis was still inside her. And Charlie is not a bad guy, he’s just so bland and vanilla. He is not a man in the eyes of Marnie or the audience. What Marnie really wants is a guy with balls, like Booth Jonathan, who bluntly tells her that he’s gonna fuck her so hard it will scare her, because he is a man, and he knows what he is doing. If only Girls hadn’t neutered Booth Jonathan too.

If Marnie seems like a bitch because of her treatment of poor, ball-less Charlie, take a look at Jessa. Maybe because of her abandonment issues, Jessa seems to be a magnet for guys begging her to take their manhood away. She acts like a tease to her boss in Season 1 and to her hipster ex-boyfriend (you know, the one with a girlfriend named Gillian), and especially to her husband Thomas-John. I hated TJ. He was the definition of white privilege and what it entails. He was also seemingly 12 years old and had a twisted idea of how women work. In his introduction episode he screams that Marnie and Jessa owe him a threesome because he works hard and they’ve never had to work for a living. They were blue-balling him by shutting him out of his own fantasies and he deserved it. Thomas John tries to reassure himself that he is still a man by controlling women (which by the way, is never okay). Jessa terminates the marriage early and in defiance, smashes his most prized, phallic award.

Let’s look at “Old Man Ray”, a 30-something year old guy making ends meet as a glorified barista. He is one of the characters on the show who started out already neutered. When Shoshanna ultimately broke up him after their sweet affair, she was quick to point out how he had no interests, no goals, no career plans, nothing to live for. Unfortunately for him, she has a point. The show has never pretended that Ray is anything more than the pathetic loser we see. Even when Marnie starts revenge fucking him she acts like it’s the most disgusting thing she has ever done right to his goddamned face, and he doesn’t even mind.

Not all the recurring male characters were always a flaccid mess. Take Adam, whose dominating and borderline abusive personality actually felt like a sharp criticism of a culture permeated by the celebration of hyper-masculinity. Adam is by far the most traditionally masculine of the main cast: he is a tall brute in a moustache, he works with wood (both literally and figuratively) and he is very sexually dominating. For the majority of the show’s run I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to hate him for being such a toxic influence in Hannah’s life or like him for being the only one who wasn’t a whiny bitch. But when Adam and Hannah broke up at the end of Season 1, his character took a turn for the nasty. As the intense guy that he is, he gradually fell madly in love with Hannah, admitted she was his new purpose in life and was immediately rendered useless by a passing bus that put him in a bed for months, requiring Hannah to look after him by day while she porked Donald Glover’s character by night. Unable to use his penis on his own, Adam even needed Hannah’s assistance to pee. By Season 3 I stopped recognizing Adam as who he was at the beginning. He didn’t engage in the sick (and frankly very entertaining) sexual practices that made him unique in Season 1. He compromised his artistic vision more than once for a job, something that Hannah had suggested earlier on. He became a better man for sure, but I never felt like he was a happier man. Hannah basically took his manhood away and eradicated what he felt had made him a man, effectively castrating one of the most dynamic characters of the show.

I’m not saying it’s fair to propose that the girls are the ones responsible for all the neutering going on. As I mentioned before, they are doing their best in their own shitty situations and they all lack the emotional maturity they need to have any functional relationship. All of the characters in Girls, male or female, surrender their individuality or their sexuality to someone else in order to function in their culture. For example, Hannah lets her meek, Santa-looking boss grope her just so she can keep her job, yet Hannah and the women at her office still have all the power over him. So is it any wonder that a show called Girls, and which claims to be the voice of our generation, features no traditional “real men”? More and more shows are redefining the notions of masculinity and patriarchy, and young men are still trying to figure out what it means to be a man in today’s society. Just like Hannah, we are all trying to figure out who we are.

Lena Dunham: A Glimpse Inside

If I was a woman I would want to be someone like Lena Dunham, or at least that’s how I’d like to imagine things. I can manage being a man as long as there are people like Dunham writing books like “Not That Kind of Girl,” something I’d describe as my imaginary sex change self-help how-to guide to living. It’s a perfect book for someone like me who thinks everyone is out to get him while simultaneously plotting revenge and sweeping acts of selflessness destined to immortalize me in the history of humanity. It’s a perfect book for someone like me who has never felt comfortable in my own body, unsure of any sense of sexuality, ravaged by ambition, lacking in any sort of purpose. In any sense, it’s a perfect book for my generation, lost in the internet, found in the solace of faux togetherness.

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Pretentiousness aside, Dunham’s honest prose is unafraid to tackle issues from virginity to rape to growing up to dying. She writes with ease, yet she writes as though she really has experienced her topics, not like she’s some sort of expert because she read Hemingway as a child, or she thinks she understands Sylvia Plath better than anyone else. Dunham’s writing is full of pain, and she finds it difficult to open up and be honest, but insists that she will anyways, and ultimately finds her way of discussing things with us much like a child would – open and direct, but aware of how difficult it is to do so, struggling to find the words to be understood. She shies away from taking too direct of an approach, often changing the topic, seemingly at random, when it gets too messy, but always focusing back in on what she wanted to say, determined to say it, to get it out there. As if talking would help, not just her, but us as well, and though she knows this and she must speak out, she can hardly force herself to relive the experiences.

This makes for a startlingly honest insight into Dunham’s life. Not only do we get to share her experiences, but we get to see a side of her that we didn’t realize wasn’t fictional. Dunham’s HBO show, “Girls” takes on a whole new light after reading this book. You realize that everything you thought was real turned out to be fabricated for the drama of the show, but all the things you thought couldn’t possibly have happened in real life did exactly that. Her biggest surprise in this book is not that she has some new moment of embarrassing hilarity to share with us, but that she is more relevant than we realized. It’s been three years since “Girls” premiered, has it? How many times have we heard reviews raving about how Dunham is “the voice of her generation?” Too many times that we’ve stopped taking it seriously. She really is the voice of her generation, but she never thinks of herself as such, and why should she? Why should anyone? It is this kind of pontification that this book is rife with, making it not only a pleasurable read, but a deeply insightful and unsuspectedly empathetic at that.

Dunham’s book will undoubtably resonate in particular with writers who feel they should have travelled more, or they’re too boring, too trite, too passé to be writers. Her explorative side comes out more often than not and the reader is left to compare their lives with hers, but she never makes that feel like a bad thing. Dunham never talks down to her readers, never thinks she’s better than them. If she were having this conversation with me right now I’m sure she’d be apologizing, shaking her head, insisting that no, that’s not what she ever meant to imply, and then immediately distracting the conversation by talking about how much she hates not living life to the fullest but also she doesn’t want to leave her bed. See, that’s how easy it is to talk to her, in my head anyways, after reading this book. This is not just for writers and artists, however, and the casual reader ought to be able to benefit from this book just as well, recognizing themselves a little bit, understanding a little bit more about the world they feel they’ve never really been able to fully live in. If human connection is the currency of the millennials, then this book is a goldmine.

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I always feel like I’m not living as much as I could, like I’m missing out somehow, like there’s a secret party somewhere that nobody told me about and I’m sitting at home on my bed for no good reason, wasting away. I’ve never really thought that other people feel that way too, but from reading “Not That Kind of Girl” I can understand that perhaps this fear is all too common, and that as artists it is perhaps our most shared curse. Whoever you are, read this book. It’s the best thing you’ll read all year. Well probably. Maybe.