Read of the Day: How Girls is a Modern-Day Little Women
5:30 pm, January 23rd | by Colette McIntyre
In today’s Read of the Day, the hilarious Chiara Atik (seriously — go follow her right now; you’ll thank us) expands on her long-running theory that Girls‘ girls are just the March sisters with a WiFi connection.
But the similarities between Little Women and Girls goes beyond the basic premise: The characters of the show are analagous in a way that suggests these four girls — the writer, the responsible one, the sweet one, and the wild-child — are time-honored archetypes for American women, rather than products of their creator’s imagination. Or maybe American society and American girlhood just haven’t changed that much in the past 150 years.
Take Jo March and Hannah Horvath, the two protagonists. Both want to be writers. Both gamely try their best at conforming to the societal mores around them, while somewhat missing the mark. Both struggle with some of the simpler things in life — for example, how to dress themselves.
“What are you wearing?” Marnie asks Hannah, horrified, after a coked-out dance scene in season two of Girls. “Oh, a shirt,” Hannah bites back.
“You must have gloves, or I won’t go!” Meg commands Jo, horrified, before Mrs. Gardiner’s ball in chapter three of Little Women. “Then I’ll go without. I don’t care what people say!” Jo retorts.
Hannah Hovarth, like Jo March before her, goes to New York to seek her fortune, to gain life experience, to get published. Both are met with failure at first. Both lament the fact that nothing exciting enough has happened in their own lives that’s worth writing about. And both, ultimately, find success by mining the universality of their own life experiences: Jo March, in writing about the domestic foibles and aspirations of her sisters in small town Massachusetts; and Hannah, in writing about “jerking a kidney stone out of some Puerto Rican Jew’s dick.” In times of duress, both Jo and Hannah go for a dramatic approach by chopping off all their hair. In both cases, it doesn’t look amazing. And in both cases, the characters bravely, defiantly, pretend not to care that much.
If fictional characters have past lives, then Meg March is certainly a worthy candidate for being the previous incarnation of Marnie Michaelson. They’re both type A, both responsible-minded, and both the ones most chagrined by yet seemingly jealous of the antics of the Hannah/Jos of their world. Megs and Marnies feel enormous pressure to dot their i’s and cross their t’s, to keep things together, to give the outside world the semblance of perfection. They crave the kind of easy rebellion that seems to come naturally to those around them.