To be born rich, delusional, and superficially interested in having a career in the fine arts is to be born hilarious. Especially if said aspirations manifest on the insular walk from one’s Tribeca loft to a modernist Chelsea exhibit where art appreciation runs a distant third in the race between relentless self-congratulation and conspicuous small talk with the gallery owner.
In a broad sense, this sort of detachment from reality is why hipsters are fun targets. Same with spoiled preps or braggadocio rappers who aren’t actually that talented. Someone honestly believing they’re important when they’re really sad and pathetic is priceless and, when knowingly imitated on screen, stage, or in print, the backbone of much brilliant satire.
Lena Dunham, Isabel Halley, and Joana D’Avillez knew all this when they made Delusional Downtown Divas and I’m so very thankful for that. New York born-and-raised Lena followed the old adage “write what you know” when she re-created a world familiar to her and her co-stars (all offspring of New York artists) and absolutely ripe for mockery. The show, initially showcased in Index Magazine in 2009, chronicles the exploits of three halfhearted, well-funded Manhattanite aspiring artists who intend to fake it whether or not they ever make it.
What may seem esoteric or even New York-centric on the surface has garnered a broad response. Not only did the series’ success net the talented three a tongue-in-cheek MC gig at Rob Pruitt’s First Annual Art Awards at the Guggenheim, it also caught the attention of a one Judd Apatow who’s producing HBO’s upcoming series “Girls”, written by Dunham and very much inspired by the frighteningly cosmic and utterly carefree divas: Oona, Swann, and AgNess. I don’t want to say it but, you know, life imitating art.
Three quick reasons why you should give this week’s pick a chance.
Good satire is difficult to pull off because, in order to be funny, the writing has to be really smart and, in order to be smart, the writer has to have an intimate understanding of the subject she’s skewering. The entertainment value comes as much from beats’ pinpoint topical accuracy as from their abundance.
Counterculture is all about irony, doing something for no other reason than because it’s different than what’s expected. “Whoa. That’s weird…but cool…because it’s weird.” Everything’s straightfaced. Everything’s serious. Or is it? The great thing about the Divas is the extent to which they capture this phenomenon and unabashedly spit it back at the audience in a way so meta it makes me want to wear a gold lame cape with whatever footwear is least popular right now.
Simply put, and this ties into the whole authenticity piece, this show would not be nearly as good as it is without Dunham, Halley, and D’Avillez’s access to the highest rungs of the New York art community. I could be wrong, but I don’t think many people have Isaac Mizrahi in their web series or camp inside the Guggenheim.