Girls Recap: Is This Real Life?
4:15 pm, May 14th | by Sarah Devlin
I’ll be recapping the remainder of this season of Girls. My qualifications are these: I am in my early twenties, live in New York City, just finished an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, work for a media company, and my thesis was — you guessed it — a collection of personal essays. Unlike the other 90% of the population, my biggest problem might be that Girls is too relatable.
After watching the first few episodes of the show, I’ve found that I would still like to see more development of Shoshanna and Jessa’s characters. They are certainly the more outlandish half of the leading quartet of girls, but they still feel like caricatures to me. Shoshanna’s virginity got its own subplot last week, but other than that she’s still creeping around the periphery of the show. Her big moment this week was accidentally (and then not so accidentally) watching Jess and her ex-boyfriend have sex in her apartment, which Jessa breezily categorized as proving she is “not smote-able,” whatever that means.
Jessa’s sexy baby-sitter story is marginally more interesting. It’s still unclear to me why she is friends with Hannah and Marnie, other than the fact that they went to school together. Her globe-trotting and free-spiritedness, which somehow also manages to be pretentious, certainly don’t seem like they would lend themselves very well to long term friendships. Her delight last week at Charlie’s performance of “Hannah’s Song” seems to suggest that she doesn’t particularly care about being kind to her friends, and she doesn’t seem to have much of an identity beyond having crummy parents and being an almost magically powerful seductress — why do they keep her around?
The big story this week was the fallout from “Hannah’s Song,” which Charlie and his horrible band played at a gig in Bushwick last week, and which features lines taken directly from Hannah’s diary, like “What is Marnie thinking / she needs to know what’s out there / how does it feel to date a man with a vagina.” This led to Charlie dumping Marnie, forcing her to visit his apartment for the first time (!) to beg for his forgiveness. This is preceded by an ugly little scene where Marnie vows to get Charlie back at the breakfast table, and when Hannah expresses misgivings about her change of heart she tells her she doesn’t understand the situation, because “you’ve never been loved as much.”
YIKES. I know that Hannah wrote some pretty shockingly cruel things in her journal, but that line was tossed off so casually, and Hannah accepting it so calmly after it’s followed up with “except by me. And your dad” felt very bizarre. Also odd was Hannah’s reaction to Marnie’s anger about the journal. She reads the same lines we heard last week out loud, again. She claims that it’s part of the book of essays we’ve been hearing so much about, which makes so little sense it makes my head spin around 360 degrees. Those lines aren’t lines from an essay — they sound like a journal entry.
After getting this glimpse at Hannahs’ writing it’s clear that it’s not very good, but I feel like the show does want us to take her literary aspirations seriously. At other points in the show, it seems clear that Hannah is supposed to be sympathetic on some level. But I also feel like that sympathy and willingness to cut her some slack would come more easily if she was demonstrably talented, a sentiment the show seems to think we will agree with despite mounting evidence to the contrary. I have whiplash from the show’s ever-shifting perception of Hannah, making her hateful and sympathetic and relatable and delusional in alternating intervals. I suppose a counter argument might be that she is complex, but to me it reads as inconsistent.
Marnie’s story, in contrast to everything else this week, felt grounded in reality. We found out how she met Charlie, at a party at Oberlin that unsurprisingly set the tone for their one-sided relationship. She begs Charlie not to break up with her, promising him everything (even blow jobs) to get him to consider trying again. They end up in bed together and Charlie asks her to make some truly insane and sad concessions, like “You should act like my life is real.” When Marnie hits her head on the metaphorically apt ceiling of Charlie’s weird cage-like bed frame and he latches on to her like superglue, she realizes that she wants to break up after all. It seems, a little bit, like she just wanted to be the one doing the dumping.
I like the show, and certainly find it funny, but I’m just not sure how I’m supposed to read each character. Is Hannah’s memoir any good? If not, then what makes her struggle in New York City meaningful to me? Hopefully this question will be answered in more detail in the coming weeks.