John Cook’s Gawker recaps of Girls rely on postmodern elements of parody and pastiche to critique the show and its commentaries. Although Cook derides Girls through snark, his creative form generates ambiguities that incited weekly debates in the comments. The recaps thus produce a response as complex as the reception to the show itself, demonstrating the significance of this paratext in Web 2.0 media culture.
Ostensibly plot summary, recaps have assumed critical, creative functions as regular features of online television discourse. Although snark—sarcastic “snide remarks”—is ubiquitous, individual writers use it and the recap structure uniquely, challenging the form’s origins as “objective” reportage. Here, Cook exploits his cultural expertise, particularly punk and independent music, to critique Girls and its commentaries.
Cook’s postmodern style suggests a contradiction in his discourse, arguing against a singular interpretation while affirming his response through his cultural vernacular. He establishes that perspective early, through the pastiche between iconic subcultural music and Girls in each header and title. This pastiche continues with the introduction, where Cook compiles incongruous elements of popular culture, including television, music, and politics. These absurd relations function ambivalently, undercutting the form’s authority while underscoring Cook’s cultural knowledge.
Starting recaps with “The appropriate response to Girls” parodies other commentaries, emphasizing their prescriptiveness and the impossibility of a standard reception. Cook often echoes this critique by claiming that loosely connected lyrics of featured musicians are the “only take that matters” on Girls. Signing off with the tag “Skrillex,” a nonsensical reference to the contemporary electronic musician, Cook mocks Girls’ hipster milieu in contrast to his own subcultural canon, notably comprised of mostly white men. Thus, Cook engages in elitism, misogyny, and generational hegemony, criticisms leveled at many of Girls’ commentaries.
The comments richly correspond to the recaps. As is common, support and opposition coexist, with debate occurring through replies. Aside from misogyny and ageism, the most criticized part is Cook’s use of the actors’ parental relationships in place of the characters’ names, a parodic allusion to broad accusations of Girls’ nepotism. Cook enters the fray, occasionally in the comments and eventually in the recap, by responding to the most common criticisms in his final entry. Ultimately, the complexities in Cook’s recaps and their reception reflect not only those in Girls and its reception, but also the significance of recaps as likewise creative and complex components of contemporary television culture.