While ‘Love’ isn’t armed with too many new, groundbreaking insights into the misguided ways in which some people search for intimacy, it does shed some light on the idea that, as women, it is our right to be, for lack of a better word, ‘difficult.’
When Netflix’s Love introduces its audience to Mickey (played by Gillian Jacobs) it instantly cultivates the image of a certain kind of girl: hotboxing in cars with guys she just met, wearing a swimsuit under jeans to a “church,” and fully expecting to get away with forgetting her wallet at home. Dripping with every visible trace of fun, detached, indie girl that we’ve been collectively trained to register as cool (if not Manic Pixie), Love turns a curve by exploring what happens when the subject of one’s infatuation turns out to be more than just your standard cool girl — but a complex, increasingly problematic woman with very real addiction issues.
Written and developed by Judd Apatow, star Paul Rust (who plays Gus), and Rust’s off-screen wife, fellow “cool girl” writer Lesley Arfin, Love builds on a modern television trope that has not been without its lack of press in the last few years: female leads who aren’t exactly likable. While certainly nothing new to the increasingly diverse, feminist-leaning spectrum present on TV today — Broad City, You’re The Worstand Girls (on which Arfin previously served as staff writer) come to mind — what makes Love’s Mickey interesting is that she feels like a fully-fleshed response to criticism that dogged Apatow earlier in his film career — that instantly recognizable Apatowian male fantasy of cluelessly goofy, complicated everymen who become entangled with insanely gorgeous, less complicated women.
For all intents and purposes, Mickey, though intentionally made under to pronounce her dark circles, unwashed hair and makeup-free complexion, is still the most glow-y, effortlessly beautiful version of Gillian Jacobs there ever was. But what the series does so well is cleverly undercut her conventional attractiveness with some very ugly, self-destructive impulses that still somehow (thanks to Jacobs’ portrayal) play as sympathetic.
Throughout the course of its 10-episode run, Mickey carelessly pawns Gus off on her roommate (the scene-stealing Claudia O’Doherty) and leaves him hanging to get high with Andy Dick, while in another beat stalks his Instagram when he doesn’t text her back and shows up unannounced and gets hurt when she sees him with other girls. Her built-up exterior crumbles as the show progresses with Gus surmising: “You’re pretending to be this cool girl who doesn’t follow the rules… and then you immediately become like every other lame girl who gets clingy and won’t give a guy space.” It’s frustrating, uncomfortable to watch — but at the same time strangely familiar emotional territory for any girl who’s ever had a glimpse at the confusing landscape of romance.
While Love isn’t armed with too many new, groundbreaking insights into the misguided ways in which some people connect and disconnect in their search for intimacy, it does shed some light on the idea that as women, it is our right to be, for lack of a better word, “difficult.” Selfish, unstable, lacking in self-awareness, and needy, Mickey may be hard to root for but at the very least she is upfront about her flaws and vulnerabilities in a way that feels refreshing and relatable. And just like she tells Gus early on in the season, for this, “you should never be embarrassed.”
Love is available on Netflix Asia.