It’s often surprising that a show like Girls which ostensibly trades in the exacerbated (first world) problems-that-aren’t-really-problems of a very particular social subset has the power to ignite a great deal of fervour in its audience, fans and detractors alike. That the minutiae of these extremely niche characters can fuel regularly impassioned responses on a larger scale is one of the things that makes the show and its surrounding discourse so fascinating.
Few episodes from the show’s second season have solicited the kind of uncomfortable response that this week’s penultimate instalment ‘On All Fours‘ did from its audience of hate-watchers and Dunham-devotees alike, particularly on account of one of the episode’s two-and-a-half sex scenes; specifically Adam’s contentious final exchange with Natalia (Shiri Appleby), the ‘climactic’ moments of which were edited out – or more appropriately ‘wiped’ down – by pay TV broadcaster Foxtel in this week’s third high-profile run-in with Australian censorship laws.
The scene in question involved Adam (Adam Driver), noted fan of the withdrawal method, reverting to the kind of self-destructive role-play we witnessed so often in him with ex-paramour Hannah (series creator Lena Dunham) during the show’s first season. In the scene, which was an unnerving inversion of the rules laid down in the opening sequence (Adam: “I like how clear you are with me” Natalia: “What other way is there?“), he ordered his relatively new girlfriend to crawl on all fours through his apartment to his bed over his wood-shop shrapnel of “nails and shit.” He then jerked both himself and her around for a while before his and the scene’s painfully uncomfortable climax in which he offloaded onto her chest, much to her obvious disgust and in keeping with his character’s tendency toward self-sabotage and the sexual humiliation of others; that’s to say it had context, and it wasn’t gratuitous or played for laughs.
One offshoot of the scene has been a frank discussion of recurring issues like explicit consent and manipulation. A second has been another instance of what does and doesn’t fly in the face of Australian television classification laws. TV Tonight writes that a Showcase spokesperson confirmed that shots of Adam’s ‘fluids’ were “not allowed by Australian censorship laws” in keeping with the show’s MA classification and as such were edited out for their realistic implication of sexual activity, which would ordinarily be befitting of an R-rating.
While the scene in Girls was undoubtedly hard-to-watch (an HBO spokeswoman defended its “raw honesty” and stated it was “nothing more than the use of props”) whatever schadenfreude it provoked was exceeded only in its unbearabilty by Marnie’s serenading an office full of tech start-up employees with an acoustic cover of Kanye West’s Stronger.
It’s the second time this week that popular American shows liberal in their depiction of sexual activity have been revised for local broadcast. On Tuesday night’s episode of Glee, intimations toward same sex love scenes were removed entirely in order for the show to stay within the guidelines of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. You can read more about that here. If anything, at least the Girls example goes some way to showing that edits made to allow broadcast are not related to the gender or sexuality of the characters involved.
However, upon comparing both the original HBO version and Showcase’s fast-tracked edit of the scene it’s safe to say that while Foxtel were legally required to remove as much of the fluid as possible, despite their best intentions a little bit of Adam still managed to get through.
The final episode of Girls airs Sunday night on HBO in America, which is around midday Monday AEDST. It’s fast-tracked on Showcase or however you choose to totally legally obtain it. Like the season one finale, Jessa’s throwing a party; it sounds like it’ll be a good time and nothing will go wrong at all.