Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of friends who are always out experiencing the best of entertainment. Be it plays, films, concerts, exhibits, or games, they’ve learned that the arts are best when experienced together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. Recently, the girls discussed Brian Jordan Alvarez’s gay dreamscape of a webseries from last year. Let’s listen in on their conversation…
The credits flashed by under the sensual tones of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever,” as Dania lifted her head off the armrest of the couch.
“Yeah, basically,” Eleanor said. “He’s trying to get a longer series going on Netflix or something but for now it’s just five episodes.”
Dania rubbed her eyes. It was too late at night – “only five episodes” had seemed like a short enough length to watch, forgetting that at about 15-20 minutes each, the entire series was basically an 84-minute movie.
There was a lull as the girls watched the credits roll by, their eyes glazed over and fixed on the screen. Then, Eleanor popped up, and looked over to her friends.
“So?” she asked expectantly. “What’d you think?”
Another lull. Gwen had her thumb on her temple, considering what she had just watched. Trying to remember every twist in the intricately layered plot – who hooked up with who, and when, and how anyone’s stated sexuality even mattered in the end.
“I thought it was really funny,” Dania added suddenly, straining to look up without moving her head.
“Great!” Eleanor said. “I like it a lot. It’s just hilarious and refreshing to watch a romantic comedy in which the gender and sexuality is not really a factor. It’s a group of people, in love with each other, dealing with the fallout from who ends up with who.”
“Wait, sexuality is not really a factor?” Gwen asked, glancing up.
“Well, okay, it’s a factor,” Eleanor admitted. “But it’s never the cause of the conflict. The ‘boy meets girl’ standard plot, the inevitability of them getting together, that’s not here.”
“Hm.” Gwen looked at the screen, paused by the end of the YouTube playlist the videos were uploaded to.
“What, do you not think so?” Eleanor said.
“It’s…weird to me,” Gwen said. “I get what you mean, about it not having the contrivances of a standard romantic comedy.”
“But in a way…” Gwen said, straining to pick the right words. “It’s also extremely beholden to those old tropes as well.”
“How?” Eleanor said, shocked. “What romantic tropes exist for a relationship between six people? Because if you think about it, that’s really what the show’s all about. Six people in a relationship with each other, not knowing if those relationships are romantic or not.”
“True,” Gwen said. “It’s certainly progressive, and it kind of captures the wild tone that this kind of new dating scene can have.”
“Like the scene with Len in the first episode?” Dania said. “Where he’s like, ‘I think I’m going to be bisexual now, bisexuals are often more successful so I’ve got that going for me.”
“Right? Right.” Eleanor said.
“What is Len anyway?” Dania asked. “It feels like every single episode he has a different motivation. Trying to hook up with Freckle, or auditioning for Star Boars, or whatever the Episode Two joke was I laughed really loud at but now I can’t remember…” She trailed off, her head collapsing into the pillow.
“The pace of everything is just so fast,” Eleanor continued. “All the dialogue flies by. The whole first episode is just moment after moment, with Caleb meeting with everyone. The show operates on this weird balance where everything is the most important moment in their lives, until it fails, and then they move on really quickly.”
“The stakes are high before the conflict but are dropped afterwards,” Gwen rephrased.
“Like, the scene at the hot springs, episode 4,” Eleanor continued. “This is what I mean by rejecting tropes. Caleb and Benicio have their little falling out over that British guy, but things just get patched up by the end of the episode. Less than ten minutes later. In your standard romantic comedy, that’d be the will-they-or-won’t-they cliffhanger that keeps you watching between episodes.
“The show’s only way to keep you hooked,” Eleanor continued, “is by making every character so wacky and unstable that you have to keep watching just to make sure they don’t stumble into the wrong person’s bed.”
“And even when they do, it’s not an issue,” Dania added.
“True,” Gwen agreed. “The atmosphere of the show almost makes the relationships feel disposable, as though every character is so focused on finding companionship in someone, they’ve all essentially abandoned monogamy.”
“Yeah!” Dania said. “It’s a free-love scenario, but it doesn’t pretend to be perfect.”
“Except for one couple.”
“Caleb and Benicio.”
Eleanor looked up. “But Caleb and Benicio are constantly unsure of their relationship. After they make the deal not to sleep with other people, the whole series is about Caleb trying to uphold that. And it only gets harder –”
Eleanor stopped, and giggled at herself.
“Literally,” she smiled, “once Benicio arrives.”
“But that still requires a monogamous intention to the relationship,” Gwen said. “Even if the conflict in Episode 4 was resolved quickly, it was still a standard kind of relationship conflict. The love triangle between Caleb, Karen, and Billy is only abnormal considering who’s in the center, and the conflict in the final episode feels almost token, like they had reached the happy ending too soon and needed to extend it.”
“I don’t think so,” Eleanor said. “If anything, the Caleb/Karen/Billy relationship is the most interesting, because of how invested they all are in not letting it ruin Caleb’s relationship to Benicio. And come on, that scene in the car? Episode 3? That’s the entire show in a nutshell there.”
“Not to mention the side stories, right?” Dania butted in. “I mean, think about everything that doesn’t get resolved. The date with the bear. The entrance of the sister. Whoever those two guys at the beginning of Episode 4 are. If anything, I didn’t want it to be resolved so cleanly because that’s not how this kind of love story should end.”
“And it doesn’t,” Eleanor said.
“It kind of does, though,” Gwen said. “We return to stasis.”
“Okay, fine, Gwen,” Dania said, rolling her eyes. “Yes, they end in relationships. Except Freckle, obviously.”
“Obviously,” Gwen and Eleanor replied together.
“But it’s not about relationships,” Eleanor continued. “It’s all about wanting to either hook up or help other people hook up.” Eleanor reached down to her laptop, to find Episode 1 again. “The whole first episode has Caleb essentially playing matchmaker for everyone, trying to keep everything in line. But all the dialogue is cluttered and full of things that don’t make sense. It’s funny because they can’t even say what they want.”
Dania squinted at the screen as they watched Freckle and Caleb discuss Freckle’s upcoming date with Len (“It’s short for Lenjamin,” Caleb clarifies.) The scene transitioned to Caleb in the car (a large portion of the show took place while driving) talking with Len on the phone.
“I don’t think it’s cluttered,” Gwen said suddenly. “They’re actually pretty clear about what they want. It’s just that they keep trying to be casual about it. The dialogue is so fast because – like you said, Eleanor – everything is so important there’s no time to stop and breathe. But within that fast dialogue they keep stalling. It’s almost an illusion of speed while they keep evading each other.”
“Preach to evasion and B.S.,” said Dania, trying to remain awake.
Gwen continued. “Although that also comes down to the editing, which is never better or faster than in the first episode. It might set the wrong expectation if you start out thinking it’s going to be fast-paced the whole way though.”
“But if they don’t start with that,” Eleanor countered, “then it wouldn’t be as important when it does slow down later. In the later episodes.”
“Or in the phone call with Benicio,” Gwen said. “At the end of Episode 1. Which was more impactful because it followed that fast dialogue before. But the momentum doesn’t last past that episode.”
“It does too!” Eleanor said. “The fantastic guidance counselors? And the sister’s scene is super fast, and that’s episode four.”
“Gonna be honest, didn’t love the sister.”
“How can you hate the sister?” Eleanor demanded.
“Not hate, I just thought she was too over the top.”
“Over the top?” shouted Dania, finally standing. “The whole show is over the top! Do you think I’m enjoying it because the dialogue is realistic and the actors are nuanced? It’s a slice of camp gay humor and I don’t think it’s trying to be much else.”
“Excuse me, the actors are great,” said Eleanor, turning to Dania. “It sounds just like they’re talking naturally, almost like it’s all improvised.”
“It might be,” Gwen considered.
“And it’s more than just gay camp,” Eleanor continued. “It’s ridiculous, but aren’t all romantic comedies a little ridiculous? In my mind, it’s not perfect, but the progressive cast and coupling makes the show resonate. After all, shouldn’t LGBTQ people be free to fall into terrible relationships as well?”
“Yes!” Dania said, reaching out to Eleanor.
A moment passed, and Dania fell, laughing, into the couch.
“I’m really tired,” she said, before falling face-first into the pillow.
Photo Credit: The Daily Dot