‘Girls’ Talk: “Hannah’s Diary”
Welcome to our inaugural edition of 'Girls' Talk, where we'll be joined by two critics every week to discuss the hit HBO show 'Girls,' created by and starring Lena Dunham.
ScreenCrush.com editor Britt Hayes is joined by Kate Erbland and Allison Loring to discuss this week's episode, titled "Hannah's Diary." Kate is the Associate Editor at Film School Rejects and a contributing writer for MSN Movies and Box Office Magazine. You can tweet her @katerbland. Allison is a contributor for Film School Rejects and Reel Vixen. You can tweet her @allisonloring.
Britt: The theme in Hannah's new work environment with her grope-happy boss is "get used to it." Her co-workers (and fellow ladies!) think the groping is gross, but the job's perks outweigh the unethical behavior. As women, we've gotten used to a lot of things, and the response we often get as women when things are unfair is "get used to it." Hannah is clearly uncomfortable with this behavior, but she notes later in the episode that she's sort of getting used to it as well. How long can this go on?
Kate: It's going to go on for awhile. The series kicked off with Hannah getting the parental kick in the pants -- you're cut off, get a job -- paired with getting fired (sort of?) from her internship after she tried to turn it into a paying gig. One of the central themes of 'Girls' is job dissatisfaction, made exponentially worse by the girls' (or at least Hannah's, as we learned this week that even Marnie still gets parental financial assistance) need to finance their lifestyles.
The situation is definitely uncomfortable, and it's made all the worse by Hannah's new co-workers expounding on all the cool perks their grope-y boss provides to them -- over the top perks really, gifts that seem to signal that he knows what he's doing and he's essentially buying their silence with iPods. It's gross, but Hannah thinks she's stuck -- both because she needs a job and because she's yet to harness her voice in a way that would allow her to speak up about what's going on beyond just bathroom gossip.
And the boss pulls a neat trick later in the episode, asking her to tell him if his wandering hands ever bother her, right after he pats her on the bum. He's just an affectionate guy! Feel free to speak up, Hannah! But by being the first person to talk about the situation out loud, he both normalizes it and takes control of it. Hannah's free to say something, but because he's brought it up, it suddenly feels less taboo and so much more acceptable. Of course, it's not, but that doesn't mean it will stop any time soon.
Allison: I agree with Kate. I also think that Hannah will allow her boss' less than appropriate behavior to go on for a while. She is new to the office and while she naturally (and rightly) had red flags go up after his non-work appropriate massage, once the other ladies confirmed that it happens all the time and it's apparently no big deal, you could see Hannah immediately start to question her natural reaction in favor of fitting in with the "office environment." She even went so far as to let those ladies paint those awful eyebrows on her and rocked them for the rest of the day!
I think the fact that she quickly let her new co-workers start dictating how she should feel about her boss, her appearance, and the state of her relationship (despite the fact that they were right on in their advice about Adam) is a sign that Hannah is still trying to figure out how to best navigate these waters and, just like we have seen in her every day life, will probably continue to make the wrong decisions before (hopefully) making the right one.
This is seen again when she finally confronts Adam, but quickly falls back into old habits when her outburst turns him on and he wants her back in his bed. Hannah wants to be accepted and I think it is going to take her a while before she learns the right way to get earn acceptance.
Britt: It also seems to touch on some authentic ideas about real life work environments -- not like a woman being too scared or intimidated to speak up, but the idea that a woman might be so economically discouraged that she feels stuck, and working directly under her new boss like she is, I doubt that even if there is an HR representative that it would do any good. And Hannah is definitely, as you both say, searching for her voice in the world. She's not yet built the confidence she needs to assert herself and articulate her feelings, and this is technically her first job, so she's following the unfortunate lead of her co-workers. Including, yes, those ridiculous eyebrows that gave me Vietnam-level flashbacks to seventh grade.
Hannah finally grows a voice this week with Adam, but it turns him on and she quickly retreats to the comfort of old habit. Adam is a problem. Here we have a man who is selfish and non-committal in a very familiar way that I think a lot of people relate to (from either perspective), but he is so dismissive of her very basic needs, emotions, and desires -- basically, he's dismissive of her personage and that's just unacceptable. Our 20s are a difficult time where we resent advice and willfully ignore what's best -- and it's a good thing because that's when we make the most mistakes and learn, but when will Hannah learn?
Kate: I feel like so much of the series will be about Hannah specifically growing. I can see when I think Marnie will grow the hell up (because, man, does she need to). We got hints of a sexual awakening for her last week, and I think that's something essential to Marnie's specific journey, but Hannah needs some other stuff to happen to her before she can actually mature and learn -- when, to be cute, the series can go from being 'Girls' to 'Women.' I think that Hannah is still stuck confusing sexual desire with affection, and actual sex for love, and that informs a lot about her, even outside of her relationship with Adam. Hannah and Marnie and Jessa are still playing at being adults -- they think that having jobs and sexual relationships and dinner parties and living on their own mean that they're grown ups, and it's obvious that they're not.
Allison: I think a big plus in Hannah's life is her best friend and roommate Marnie, who certainly has her own problems and makes her fair share of mistakes, but also provides a good voice of reason and is always looking out for Hannah's best interest. Granted, Hannah rarely listens to Marnie or takes her advice (see: sexting photos).
I could see Hannah taking a stand at work if her friends reinforce that her original reaction was correct paired with Adam finally pushing her too far with his indifference to their relationship. Taking charge of how she is treated at work would be a good way for Hannah to take back some control in her life if things fall apart with Adam and she has the support of her friends backing her up. Since Hannah is still new to the office (and has yet to reap any of the fringe benefits the other ladies mentioned), she may be more apt to say something since she does not have this behavior and environment ingrained in her yet. She felt able to stand up to Adam this week off of some encouragement from two girls she just met, imagine how she may react if she got that kind of motivation from her close friends!
I think this will be the beginning of Hannah starting to change and grow up, but it certainly will not be the end of her making mistakes that she will continue to have to learn from as she grows from a girl into a woman.
Britt: Adam is so terrible, but I have to admit -- I think he's attractive in the tall, lanky goofus way. And he has his moments! Like making Hannah pinch his fat in last week's episode and then doing that silly hump motion in her direction. These are things friendly couples do when goofing off, and it was cute to see him just let loose in a small moment and be more free-spirited. Of course that moment last week was preceded by him horribly playing with her belly fat. Still, when he has those brief, flitting moments of being silly, I think I can get the attraction.
Allison: Plus it's hard to deny that us girls do have a thing for the hard to get -- and Adam is never super available to her. So I can see how (even though she complains about it), it's part of the attraction too.
Kate: While I am not attracted to Adam, I get why Hannah is attracted to the "Adam" in all our lives. Also, it's hugely exciting to her to be a sexual object for someone, though it's pretty obvious to everyone else that he is indeed just using her, it's big for Hannah to be desired.
But why are his pants never zipped up?
Britt: Well, if that sexy text was any indication, I don't think he can zip them up.
Speaking of mistakes -- this week Ray and Charlie snoop around the apartment while the girls are away, discovering the painful truth about Marnie's feelings for Charlie in Hannah's diary. Charlie and Ray make up a song using the words from Hannah's diary, effectively embarrassing Marnie, who throws her drink on Hannah, calls her a "bitch" and storms off. Clearly Marnie is more angry with herself -- probably realizing how much Charlie actually means to her -- and with Charlie for his immature display. Is Marnie right to be mad at Hannah? And does Charlie's discovery retroactively justify his snooping? Dan Savage often tells his 'Savage Love' readers that snooping is wrong, but retroactively justifiable if you discover wrongdoing.
Kate: Regarding Marnie, pardon my French, but what a b-tch. She's obviously mad at herself and humiliated, and she's taking that out on Hannah. Regardless of whether or not Hannah wrote about Marnie and Charlie's relationship in her diary because she's a) a writer, or b) someone who is, against her will, mired in their relationship, she's allowed to write about whatever the hell she wants. Hannah is not wrong for writing about it. Marnie is not wrong for feeling that way -- but she is wrong for taking it out on Hannah.
Charlie is totally wrong. Would I feel differently if he and Ray snooped in Marnie's diary and found out the information? Maybe, and in a Savage-approved way most likely. But it's wildly out of bounds that both Ray and Charlie would snoop in Hannah's diary. Charlie's long looked the only emotional stable person on the show, but his digging into Hannah's diary and singing about show that he's far more insecure than we first thought -- and he's far more aware that something is wrong between him and Marnie. Still, he's wrong and Hannah is the most innocent one in the whole situation.
Allison:I have to say I understand Marnie's knee jerk reaction at the end of the episode. I think it's what most of us would do in that situation in that moment. But I do agree it is certainly not Hannah's fault and in the end, this discovery will probably (hopefully) lead Marnie and Charlie to having a real and much-needed discussion about their relationship, and I'm sure Marnie will end up apologizing to Hannah and know in hindsight, Hannah ended up being the much-needed catalyst for her and Charlie to either fix or ditch their relationship.
The boys certainly should not have been snooping, but I think it is also one of those things where in real life, a situation like Marnie, Charlie and Hannah could drag on forever if no one ever says anything or someone doesn't discover the truth, whereas in TV land, you need to move things along and this was a perfect way to do that.
Britt: Agreed. And what do we think of poor Shoshanna this week? So eager to lose her virginity, but she wins my heart week after week with her beautiful personality. She's so honest and non-judgmental, and it was sad to see someone balk at her honesty in such a crummy way. She feels bad enough about being a virgin at her age, but now she has this guy reinforcing her insecure idea that she should be ashamed of it.
Allison: My heart broke for her too. But I appreciate that she seems to dust herself off and gets back up again. And as harsh as it can be to watch, these bumps in the road are sometimes necessary to toughen you up and make you have a less idealized view of the world and in turn, keep you from being so naive. But I really loved that she was honest and didn't pretend like she was more experienced than she is to just lose that v-card and never let the guy know. It may be hard to find a guy who will respect her choices and where she is at in her sexual experiences, but at least she's trying and being honest about it as she goes.
Kate: Shoshanna is swiftly becoming my favorite character. Whereas Hannah, Marnie, and Jessa are playing at being grown ups, Sho is making a true and honest effort to grow, change, and experience things, even in fumbling ways with doofus men. I think Shoshanna is actually approaching getting rid of her virginity in a weirdly mature way -- she's just done with it, she wants to move on, she's not swoony about it at all -- which made it all the more amusing that her potential suitor would admonish her and say he didn't want to do it because virginity-losers get clingy. Maybe she would have and maybe she will when she loses it, but Shoshanna was approaching the situation with her aims and desires clear -- that's more than we can say for Hannah.
Britt: Any final thoughts on this week's episode? Can we talk about how sexy Alex Karpovsky is as Ray?
Kate: Can we talk about how I hate Ray and then in that preview he talks about "being in love" with Charlie in this really nice and lovely way?
Britt: Yeah, Ray's a little bit of a jerk, but still. I just like my dudes tall, lanky, and doofy. And I enjoy the thought of an emerging bromance!
Allison: That moment in the preview is why I have been enjoying this show so much -- you can never just write any of the characters off or pigeon-hole them because they are constantly doing things to surprise you or change your perspective about them, just like people do in real life! Plus I too am all about the bromance.