It seemed during Marnie's miserable rendition of Kanye West's "Stronger" during Sunday's episode of "Girls" that the show couldn't take viewers any further out of our comfort zones.
But that was before the semen scene.
The episode climaxed (sorry) with relapsing alcoholic Adam (Adam Driver) showing his delightful new girlfriend Natalia (Shiri Appleby) his apartment for the first time. She noted its messiness, saying it didn't fit his personality, and offered to help him get organized. At that, he told her to get "on all fours," a line that gave the episode its title, and had her crawl to his bed. She did, with a bit of annoyance.
"OK, so, what is it you're going for, exactly?" she asked, before he grabbed her, threw her onto his bed, had hurried intercourse while demanding to know if she liked his apartment and him, and surprised her by ejaculating on her chest.
She protested, he ignored her, and we, the audience, saw his fluid splayed there.
"I, like, really didn't like that," she said, speaking for herself and many others.
The scene wasn't just for shock: It clearly helped build both characters. Adam was sabotaging his new relationship after running into his ex, Hannah (Lena Dunham). And he was trying to reclaim what power he lost when Natalia saw that he lived in a dump.
"Girls" has gone where very few shows have before, sex-wise, especially in its graphic depiction of Adam's porn-influenced sex with Hannah.
Semen is a common enough sight in the videos that fuel Adam's sexual fantasies, but not on TV -- even premium cable. We were hard-pressed to think of any case in which it has appeared before. (It is even a rarity in non-adult films. It has appeared, most notably, in "There's Something About Mary," and made a disconcerting cameo in Todd Solondz's "Happiness.) But it turns out that poor Natalia is not the first HBO heroine to find herself in the position she did Sunday.
"Girls" has borrowed lots of "Sex and the City," including four female leads, a New York City setting and frank talk about sex. It turns out the two shows also both feature very disconcerting scenes with characters being hit with ejaculate.
It happened to Miranda in the 16th episode of Season 2. (We were helpfully reminded of this by someone wishing not to be named.) The "Sex" episode, like Sunday's "Girls," also featured a character dating an alcoholic. And both ejaculation scenes took place in the second season of their respective shows.
One difference: On "Sex," the person responsible for the semen wasn't the alcoholic.
Did something that first aired in a 14-year-old "Sex" episode still surprise us? Yes. The "Sex" scene was the rare TV milestone that wasn't quickly copied by other shows trying to seem groundbreaking, long after the ground had been broken.
But "Girls" did do something new: It didn't play the scene for laughs. It wasn't how-gross-can-we-be gross, like Cameron Diaz mistaking semen for hair product in "Mary" or Miranda being hit in the face with it on "Sex." This was a realistically awkward, awful sex scene, featuring a messy yet pivotal product of sex that is almost never acknowledged in fiction.
Like so much of the sexual content on "Girls," we don't know what to make of it yet. Is Dunham's frequent nudity about self-love? Feminism? Comedy? We haven't even resolved that one.
And we suspect "Girls" isn't finished surprising us.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Adam Driver
- Shiri Appleby