Girls Just Wanna Have: HBO's Girls and Mary Harron's Moth Diaries

Grounded in a current day realism about sex, friendship, and work for recent college grads, HBO's much touted series Girls, airs this weekend. To focus on one aspect of its satire, in Girls, sex is free and freely given, an unsatisfying service by the girls, done with bewildered cads, happy to get what they can. Is this hooking up the logical extension of what Erica Jong extolled in her landmark 1973 novel Fear of Flying: "the zipless fuck?" Freed, women should pull down their pants at whim the way men do, right? For women who grew up with these "joys of sex," watching Hannah (Lena Dunham of Tiny Furniture fame who also writes and directs) and her twenty-something pals is an untoward vision of what many suspected back in the day, that liberation did not necessarily bring enlightenment. Viewers can watch Hannah's guy (Adam Driver) enter her from behind, with not much going on for her.

Despite its engaging wit, Girls' coming of adulthood is more troubling than Mary Harron's The Moth Diaries, a fascinating soft horror movie based on Rachel Klein's novel, to open in theaters next week. Set in a girls' boarding school in a wooded area ready for alluring supernatural forces and vampires, the film shows a handsome male teacher Mr. Davies (Scott Speedman) lecturing on the properties of gothic novels: Sex, Blood, and Death, writing these words large on the blackboard. Suggestions of transgressive titillation play on the girls' imaginations. A newcomer, Ernessa (model/ actress Lily Cole in a black Mortitia wig) threatens friendships among these appealing, wholesome teens, seeming to possess Lucy (Sara Gadon), best friend of Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), and causing her to go mad, another gothic trope. These girls, fine actresses all, are especially good at evoking tender vulnerability.

Old school, this dark romantic tease stands in for sex. By contrast, Girls will have none of it: the yearnings, obsessions, repressions, betrayals, danger, or death. Smartly styled as pointless, with few pleasures or surprises, their sex has "the consistency of Velveeta" to borrow another Erica Jong phrase. Funny, yes. But, where's the fun?

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.