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‘Girls’ Review: “Bad Friend”

Girls Season 2 Bad Friend
HBO

It’s not really a “crackcident” if you do it on purpose. Hannah and Elijah do some cocaine this week on ‘Girls,’ inspiring Hannah to get incredibly honest.

Hannah scores a freelance gig at the kind of place where the editor wants her to try drugs and have a threesome so she can write about it. Really, that’s just perfect for Hannah, who  makes choices for herself based on what will be more interesting to write about. So Hannah scores some coke from a former junkie downstairs and she and Elijah do what you do on coke — they wear ridiculous clothes, talk about their dreams, and go dancing. It’s almost unsettling how perfect Andrew Rannells and Lena Dunham are at pretending they’re high, though I don’t think I know anyone who would effectively lick a toilet in that scenario.

The thing about coke — or any drug that gives you that euphoric, restless high — is that you start getting real honest with yourself and the people around you. It allows you to feel uninhibited, and you feel safe because you know your companion is also high and therefore will not judge you. So Hannah taking Elijah’s dream (to raise show dogs, obviously) and scrawling it on her wall when he tells her to “leave her mark” is, I think, indicative of the kind of person Hannah is — rather than leave her mark or do something wholly original, she derives from others and tries on these different life choices to see what fits or what will perhaps inspire her. It’s not necessarily a bad thing — we spend most of our formative years, well into our early 20s, mimicking the better and more interesting decisions of people we look up to. But someone else’s choices and desires are their own, and those ideas will always be like a slightly misshapen sweater — it fits but not really, it just sort of resembles the idea of “fitting” — and it takes a while for some people to figure that out.

But the most honest moment comes later, when Hannah and Elijah (and the aforementioned former junkie, Laird) trail Marnie to Booth Jonathan’s apartment (!!!) so Hannah can confront Marnie about being a bad friend. One of the things I enjoy most about the show is the way that the characters are empathetic (vs. sympathetic), and how there’s no clear protagonist because everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes aren’t indicative of whether someone is a good or bad person, and if they did, we’d all be terrible people. Marnie made a mistake — a very selfish, thoughtless mistake, but a mistake no less. Hannah will inevitably forgive her, but her assertion that this mistake makes Marnie a bad friend and Hannah a good friend, while a little too cut and dry, is one of the more honest moments Hannah has had. Maybe she should do coke every week.

I’m in Hannah’s corner only in the sense that she’s right about Marnie’s Type A personality — being a good friend doesn’t mean following a set of rules or instructions and doing things you despise doing (like going to have frozen hot chocolates with a flight attendant named Elody). Being a good friend, as Hannah says, means that you don’t do something that you know will hurt the other person. It is, of course, more complex than that. Right now Hannah is feeling justified because Marnie has always been the one who “has it together” and here Hannah is, feeling high and mighty because she works part-time at a coffee shop and landed a freelance writing gig. I wouldn’t say that Hannah knows what she wants any more than Marnie, but she does have a clear career path that she’s determined to follow, and she probably has a better idea about what she thinks she wants. Marnie, on the other hand, is blatantly meandering.

And there’s no better evidence of how lost Marnie is than when Booth Jonathan drops by her place of employment, and even after she tells him his artwork is derivative, she allows him to lead her to his apartment by her hand. That simple act of hand-holding is all we need to see to know just where Marnie is at right now — she needs her hand held. She doesn’t feel like she’s capable of making the correct decision, as if there is only one right choice, and it’s easier for her to resign herself to the desires of someone more confident, even if that someone is a total wank.

Booth Jonathan is a total wank. The guy still uses AOL, he’s a pretentious little jerk who thinks he’s God in the art world because he puts together nightmarish doll houses and television installations that play Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing” on a loop. I’ve mentioned this phrase before in the context of ‘Girls,’ but there’s that saying, “Fake it ’til you make it,” and Booth is one of those guys that did. His cockiness gets him everywhere, and watching him have sex with Marnie is awkward and almost embarrassing, made even worse by his demand that she stare at — and describe the feelings of — a creepy doll next to the bed.

And still, Marnie does not look like she’s enjoying this sexual encounter, just like she never seems to enjoy a single sexual encounter because she doesn’t care about the person she’s having sex with and she can’t seem to form a deep connection with anyone. Her smug look post-sex is one of triumph, but only in the sense that she accomplished something that others could not — she had sex with the Booth Jonathan, and even if it wasn’t enjoyable and even if his art is derivative, she had sex with him. He is not a person — he is an object to placed on a shelf in Marnie’s mind. Marnie takes no enjoyment in her actions; instead, she only does what she thinks she needs to do to be seen as a better, more superior person. Maybe Marnie could use some coke, too.

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