Deleted scene from Girls Season 1. I want more of this show in my life.
I love this show. A talk at ACMI the other day on Girls really reinforced that and now I can’t wait for Season 2 to begin.
“I think I just fell in love.”
If you saw the thread between some of my friends about HBO’s Girls then you may have, like me, realised that the show can generate some really interesting conversation. It’s one of those shows that I feel like analysing immediately after finishing and to do so I have decided I will write a post each week explaining my thoughts about each particular episode.
Warning: spoilers follow.
Episode 5: Hard Being Easy
Amongst the varied feedback to Girls is the criticism that it is unfocussed, lacking a strong narrative from episode to episode. This never really bothered me, and while watching episode five I noticed that it’s because I view each episode of Girls like one of Hannah’s (yet to be written) essays. Just like in the collected works of David Sedaris, or Miranda July, there’s only ever a very loose theme connecting the mini-memoirs.
The idea of writing becomes especially apparent in episode five and perhaps that’s why I wanted to analyse it. Hannah’s plot line focusses on “doing it for the story” starting with the attempted seduction of her touchy-feely boss, and ending with an absurd sexual domination of her not-quite-boyfriend Adam. The episode didn’t run so smoothly, but it did provide a view that life is just an interesting collection of stories. I can’t decide if it was intentional, but it worked.
If I were to view this episode as an essay with a distinct theme, I’d have to say it was something along the lines of “the power of sex in a relationship”. Hannah tries to use sex to gain the upper hand (or at least some good writing material) in the work-relationship with her boss. She does the same, and unintentionally succeeds, with Adam later. Jessa follows the theme more obviously than the other characters, with a small side story that involves having sex with an ex-boyfriend just to prove she “cannot be smoted”. Marnie finds that sex is a game-changer with Charlie, helping her decide on the future of their relationship. Alas, Shoshanna doesn’t get much screen time at all, possibly because she is less experienced with sex, and therefore her character can’t provide such an insight to this week’s “theme”.
Maybe I’m reading too much into the show, but this was one of the first episodes in which there were distinct moments of symbolic imagery. The first instance that stood out was Hannah trying to flatten a box by simply pushing it against a wall. She was so hopeless, so clueless, but also so certain that if she persisted she’d end up where she wanted. This lead directly to the awkward office seduction which was in complete opposition to that idea.
I also liked Marnie deciding to break-up with Charlie after bumping her head in his enclosed bed. The claustrophobia of his home-made bed was symbolic for the prison (“of kindness”) that she was subject to in her relationship with Charlie. I thought that was very well executed. In the flashback (which didn’t sit too well with me, but I enjoyed nonetheless), Charlie hugging Marnie for the first time only to reach around and uncomfortably pat a pole was also an excellent metaphor. If I was a film studies lecturer I would talk about this moment for hours (“She was cold. He was uncomfortable. THE POLE WAS RED AND RUSTING!”) but the main message I received was that he got nothing in return. She needed the hug (tripping on hash brownies) and he was there to give it to her. She didn’t return the favour, just used him as a safety net. Maybe the bump on her head also had a double meaning - finally knocking some sense into her that she didn’t need him any longer. (I do feel bad for Charlie though, probably the only male character on the show who isn’t entirely awful.)
Even a suspected continuity error worked as a metaphor - Jessa’s thick “geisha” make-up suddenly disappearing after successfully seducing her ex-boyfriend. I’m sure it was an accident, but it just added to how much I loved that scene.
Episode five, for the first time, saw some movement in the character development front. Not an awful lot, but enough. Jessa and Shoshanna didn’t get much attention so we can exclude them from my overanalysis. Marnie and Charlie’s relationship was getting on my nerves, so I was glad to see her make a firm decision and break-up with him. And Hannah. YES! HANNAH! ACTUAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! From the box-flattening imagery, all through the awkward attempt to sleep with her boss, right until she knocked on Adam’s door I was irritated by her, as usual. “What are you doing?!” and “Look at your choices!” were common phrases running through my head. Yet when she sits down on the toilet and reflects on her awful day, something changes in her. Then, when she walks out to see Adam blatantly masturbating in front of her she takes charge in the weirdest, most unexpected way. She turns the tables, dominating the guy that has dominated her for so long, and even making $100 in the process. I nearly cheered when the scene finished. From her manipulation to her disgusted yell of “Are you fucking kidding me?!” she had a new sense of strength. Let’s hope it lasts, and carries out through her work … now that she has the story. It was quite a juxtaposition from her pathetic attempt to flatten a box.
Finally, even if you don’t want to analyse the show, this episode still had some shining moments where I literally laughed out loud. I loved the boss telling Hannah “there’s no suing app on your iPhone”, Charlie defending himself by saying he was “an important part of this community (of the apartment)”, the flashback hinting back to past episodes (such as Hannah’s blind-eye to Elijah’s questionable sexuality), Jessa’s way of describing Hannah’s predicament with her job (“Sir, I have half a mind to call the authorities, how dare you!”) and, my absolute favourite, Shoshanna’s reaction when Jessa bursts into her apartment with another man.
Episode five was really like reading Hannah’s notebook (“it’s notes … for a book”) and picking out these odd little stories linked by a very (very, very) generalised theme. I enjoyed it (largely after sitting back and thinking about it), and I’m looking forward to next week’s episode.
Four episodes in and I’m slowly losing interest. My favourite character is the French girl who babysits (I don’t even remember her name and I can’t be bothered looking it up). I like her disillusion with the world and what she articulated in the second episode: I’m offended by all of the supposed tos. I don’t like women telling other women what to do or how to do it or when to do it. I find that to be a very powerful statement - in regards to it being characterised as a ‘female’ show. It’s been the most poignant comment made by the show…everything else, the dramas, the pettiness of Marnie and Hanna - ohHanna! How do we solve a problem like Hanna? The protagonist is the most uninspired character of the lot. Her relationship with that guy she dates - what of it? To demonstrate her ineptness in every regard of her life? To show how shitty guys can be? She aspires to be a writer, yet does nothing to further herself. I have no desire to follow her plotline, it’s like talking to a co-worker who is stuck in a deadbeat job who talks incessantly about a guy and aspires to nothing. Hanna has nothing else in her life. She’s pathetic. This show is boring. I’m not even talking unrelatable. It’s dull and I don’t care what happens to any of them.
Every episode attempts to make a statement on an experience encountered by any given girl in the world, whether it be abortion scares, being treated like shit in a “relationship”, the alleged stigma of “virginity” - but the scatteredness of these topics, littered from episode to episode, means that it is difficult for the audience to attach themselves to a cause. With no thread of continuity, I don’t see how there could be any capacity for character growth. They experience a hit of life and boom! no impact. What is the point? Are ‘girls’ really this vapid or is it just this show?
i have also, quite literally, just finished the four episodes of girls, but i had the totally opposite reaction to you marta! not that i can rave about it, but that i respected what it was trying to do, and thought it was executed pretty well for a 25 minute sitcom.
i don’t see all the issues in the show as random and clunky at all, i think they are, overall, quite natural expressions of the real problems girls like that in each individual circumstance would have. i dont think girls is necessarily just an empty sitcom genre box filled with modern day white girl problems, but a show about the mistakes people make, because of the different problems we have and situations we are thrown in - because we are all different, temperamentally, goal-wise, everything. the british girl wouldn’t have hannah’s problem of being a deadbeat, unsuccessful young writer, and marnie wouldn’t have shoshanna’s problem of being an anxiety-stricken college student, who is still a virgin. the fact that the girl who reads the self-help manuals is the virgin and the hippy boheme is the one who wants to have lots of babies does challenge important archtype femmes. or even just on a base level, even though i dont think i’d ever be in a situation like hannah’s with the squirrel penis guy, i can’t help but see why she would. in my mind i’m like, hannah you stupid fuck, this guy is a cunt who gave you a FUCKING STD, but i see why she is different to me, and keeps going back for more.
mostly, i think it is unfair to dismiss the girls are vapid. the show is a twenty odd minute sitcom, largely about sex and relationships, so the show mainly explores this aspect of their lives, but, even then, it is clear that they all have something else going on in their life, or wants there to be - one’s an art gallery intern, another is scrounging around for shitty jobs whilst trying to write, one’s in college and another has travelled the world. even though we don’t go deeply into the goals of each girl, it is clear they are all smart, driven girls in their own way, but some are more lost than others.
i think the women on girls are in the process of ‘becoming’. they are not yet the cool, perfect woman they may become, if it is so in fact possible. they are only twenty something and they are making a shitload of mistakes. that’s what i like about it. these girls lives aren’t yet set in stone so they are just fumbling around until something happens.
#lol this show better be fucking good for the rest of the season, because i totally backed it up
Viv, it’s like you took the thoughts in my head and wrote them down in a more articulate way. Right down to the last sentence - I’m still not sold on it but I want to see what happens, if and how the characters develop, and keep up with the commentary. I like reading both criticisms and praises about it.
As well as ‘becoming’ (or perhaps, in line with it) I think this show is more about failure than success (or personal success (overcoming fears/confronting your problems etc) stemming from lessons learnt through failure?). And from experience and observation, that’s something twenty-something women (and men) deal with a lot these days (if not actual failure than often a constant fear of failing). Who wants to watch people flying through life with ease? I mean, yes, we need to see growth in the characters and story line but at the same time, who doesn’t identify with occasional apathy and being stuck in ruts and not being in control and relationship/friendship friction?
None of it is groundbreaking, but that’s not to say it’s just re-hashing old themes or uninspired, and its strength is that its current and delivers topics in a modern, often progressive way. Although I can’t relate to many of the characters’ experiences, I feel like they’re all real and believable (albeit slightly exaggerated for comic/dramatic effect at times). Views about such topics constantly evolve as society does so I think it’s important to reflect that in media like TV and films.
A very interesting discussion thread. I agree with Viv’s comments, but I also find criticism really interesting to read because it’s a show that is a little different (not as much as the hype purports it to be) from what we usually see in a 30 minute time slot.
It took me four episodes to gain interest. The first three episodes had some great moments that made me want to keep watching (I love the closing scene of episode three in which Hannah and Marnie dance) mixed in with scenes that leave me staring cluelessly at the screen (most of Hannah’s relationship with Adam - although I’m coming to understand it now).
As a guy I am yet to work out who the target audience is. With something like Sex and the City the target audience is obviously female, even if males may enjoy it. I think Lena Dunham has gone for a broader scope here, and while it may be titled Girls it really could be called Twenty-Somethings. I don’t find any of the characters completely relatable, and while some people that support the show say that’s not important, I always feel that on some level you have to want to watch these characters, even if it’s spurred by a negative relation with their downfall.
For me Hannah is the biggest problem and I like how Marta puts it:
“She aspires to be a writer, yet does nothing to further herself. I have no desire to follow her plotline, it’s like talking to a co-worker who is stuck in a deadbeat job who talks incessantly about a guy and aspires to nothing. Hanna has nothing else in her life.”
I can never stand people who are stagnant, and continue to complain about their lives. If you are that unhappy with your current situation, then try and change it. Yet saying that, I see a common type in her. I know people like her. Hell, I have even been like her at times when I’m sure that my life isn’t going anywhere. I watch because I see a real person there on screen in her characterisation. The characters are believable (for TV-standards) in every irritating way. Sometimes I wonder whether the irritation comes from relating to them, which is a whole different story.
The show is, in my opinion, smart and witty. It’s clever which makes it interesting, but it can also be off-putting. These characters aren’t immensely likeable, but they know that as well. They are self-conscious of being so flawed. In fact, they may be so aware of it that the audiences loses their position as an outsider judge. We like to accept that role, it may be why we indulge in reality TV, but the characters in Girls (not just the main four, but the whole lot, males included) are self-critiquing which spoon feeds particular reactions to the audience. It’s like a laugh track being included, but without the canned laughter and exaggerated sighing.
If anything I see Girls more as a TV show about twenty-somethings. Maybe it’s the unfortunate title that has sparked such debate - it shouts THIS IS A SHOW ABOUT GIRLS, FOR GIRLS, TACKLING GIRL PROBLEMS when really it is a show about four friends and that awkward time between college and “real life” where you’ve had the comfort of an education system ripped out from under you and you’re struggling to find your feet.
Finally, the show is very much like Seinfeld which is well known for its famous “I got this idea for a show about nothing” pitch. Perhaps this is why, only four episodes in, the issues are seemingly littered randomly throughout. In Girls these issues want to occur somewhat organically, as they do in life, and it uses the sitcom styling to accentuate (or normalise) that decision. In sitcoms there can be a marriage one episode, a death the next, and then everything is back to normal. We’ve seen it in Friends, Scrubs and in multiple others. I don’t see Dunham and the creative team pinning pre-determined issues to particular episodes before setting out the script. Instead I see them developing the day-to-day problems of this group of friends and stumbling over some bigger themes in the process. It may not be exactly like real life, but then it was never meant to be.
Girls Season 1 Trailer (HBO)
This isn’t the usual kind of thing I post but I am a sucker for a cute girl wearing Mickey Mouse ears (Is that bordering on a strange fetish? Let’s hope not). Take note all the sexy famous supermodels who are obviously reading this blog.