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‘Girls’ Talk: “Hard Being Easy”

Girls
HBO

Welcome to our weekly edition of ‘Girls’ Talk! We’re joined in this installment by three critics instead of two to discuss this week’s episode of the hit HBO show ‘Girls,’ created by and starring Lena Dunham.

ScreenCrush.com editor Britt Hayes is joined by Meredith Borders, Gwen Reyes, and William Goss to discuss this week’s episode, titled “Hard Being Easy.” Meredith is the Managing Editor for Badass Digest, Alamo Drafthouse, and Fantastic Fest. You can tweet her @xymarla. Gwen is the publisher of Reel Vixen and you can tweet her @reelvixen. William is a contributor for Film.com and MSN Movies. You can tweet him @williambgoss.

Britt: I don’t know about you guys, but this week had me cringing harder than ever with Hannah’s naive attempt at a power play with her touchy-feely boss. We know Hannah doesn’t have a lot of work experience, or experience with anyone outside of her sphere of friends, really, but I think I have to admire her misguided bravado just a little. She’s not very good at asserting herself, but this week she makes some meek strides. What did you guys think?

Meredith: She certainly seemed to gain some confidence this week, both with her boss and with Adam, but I just wish that it weren’t in such entirely inappropriate ways. As she points out to her boss, “I just tried to f— you, sue you, and extort you,” so at least she gathers some self-awareness at the end of that excruciating scene. Hannah, please don’t ever take Jessa’s advice again. The free-living, consequence-disdaining, sex-for-stories life suits Jessa The Un-smote-able just fine, but I don’t think Hannah can pull it off.

I did love the way she handles Adam after his attempts to diminish her. At first humiliated after he essentially dumps her, she decides to use Adam’s love for dirty talk and domination in order to insult him, confiscate a hundred bucks from him and take control of that relationship. I’d still rather see her walk away, but their dynamic is a lot less disheartening than it used to be.

Gwen: But don’t you think, in a way, that she was still hoping he’d come around to loving her when she started speaking to him in that way? Like she’s constantly trying to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks in regards to her relationship with Adam. I was entirely impressed with her trying to “take charge,” but she still isn’t getting what she wants, and even with 100 bucks in her pocket she’s leaving the situation empty handed.

As for the boss — I mean, I didn’t think it could get any worse than calling the guy you’re interviewing with a “date rapist” (episode two, “Vagina Panic”), but then Hannah rolled up on her boss. I agree, Hannah needs to stop listening to Jessa (to everyone? But if she did that, then there would be no show, as Hannah is an empty, spineless shell of terrible decision making ability). I loved that her boss just laughed her off, refusing to let her quit. It’s nice to see commentary on the fact that even “adults” can make bad choices and act just as ridiculously as those they are supposed to be guiding. That was an incredibly smart move, Ms. Dunham.

Britt: I don’t know that I’d call her an empty shell. She’s not exactly a blank slate, but she does seem very receptive to the advice of her friends, whom she views as more experienced. Marnie has a job, Shoshanna is the goody-goody college student, and even the promiscuous, flighty Jessa has nailed down a stable source of income (though for how long?). I was absolutely flummoxed by her brazen confrontation with her boss, and the way that that scene in particular subverted expectations. As Gwen noted, even her boss engages in some ridiculous maneuvering there.

William: I agree that Hannah’s attempts to make the most of at least one bad situation still leave her stuck in said relationship, which is why this week shifted my pity for her a notch or two closer towards resentment. Marnie decides to put her foot down with the clingy-to-a-fault Charlie, Jessa doesn’t commit to anyone for long, and so it’s about time that Hannah extricate herself from Adam’s skeevy ways, if only to find someone worthy of her, at which point she will then cost herself a good relationship through her own awkward actions rather than enabling bad news to continue happening to her.

Gwen: William, I think you make a great point. But I don’t think Dunham will let Hannah have a typical HEA (Happily Ever After). I don’t know if a good relationship is in her cards, or even exists in the world of ‘Girls.’ Case in point: Marnie and Charlie.

William: I would rather see a relationship of hers destroyed by the best intentions in the near future (as with Marnie/Charlie) than much further resignation. And while I understand that her self-sabotaging mechanisms are fairly 24/7 in nature, I’d rather have seen her either manipulate Adam or clumsily confront her boss. There’s only so much pitiable behavior I can take in a half-hour.

Meredith: I think it’s early to decide that, but I do know that Hannah’s Happily Ever After doesn’t need to include a good romantic relationship. I think her friendships fulfill her personally, and if she can find the creative and professional fulfillment to go along with that — along with a little confidence and self-respect to boot — then she’s all set.

Britt: To Gwen’s point of a Happily Ever After (HEA) — Do we really need one in this series? TV and film are skewing more genuine these days, and HEAs are made to pander to the audience. As Meredith said, maybe Hannah’s HEA doesn’t need to include — or even hinge on — a relationship, at least not with a man. I know I’d personally despise the show if it went the route of ‘Sex and the City’ and made a romantic relationship the crux of Hannah’s happiness and her future.

Meredith: She has such a long way to go before she would even benefit from a positive romantic relationship. Hannah’s got a lot of Hannah work to do, and it’s important for her to make that progress of her own initiative. As Gwen said, Hannah reacts more than initiates at this point in her life, floating from friend to friend for advice rather than making her own choices. Even a great boyfriend right now would just be one more person shaping Hannah when she needs to shape herself first.

Gwen: Completely agree! I think this whole season is going to be about Hannah spiraling, and hopefully lead to a cliffhanger where she recognizes that maybe she should trust her own judgment rather than take advice from other people who are just as unsure.

Britt: I want to revisit Hannah and Adam this week. We’ve discussed her manipulation and her assertiveness in this scene, but I want to discuss a couple of things.

1. Adam is clearly toxic. It’s not his weird sex hang-ups (which really aren’t that weird, unless you found ’50 Shades of Grey’ shocking — P.S. don’t read it), but his self-involved, dismissive nature. She is clearly smitten with him for some strange reason. We can’t control who we’re attracted to, and I’m willing to bet all of us have had magnetic attractions to people who weren’t so great for us. Hannah continues to let herself get hurt, but this week Adam seems to almost be doing her a favor and trying to warn her off. Actually, for once, I didn’t find his behavior as repulsive. At what point does this cease to be something being done to Hannah and become something she’s doing to herself despite all the warnings?

And 2. Where the hell is Adam’s shirt? Does he even own a shirt? Starting a campaign to find Adam’s shirts.

Meredith: I agree that Adam tried to do the right thing here for one hot minute — before masturbating in front of Hannah, clearly knowing that would keep her around and mired in his web of apparently irresistible sexuality. Hannah is certainly doing this to herself — every person she knows warns her away from Adam, including now Adam himself, and she continues to submit to him. Even when he’s sexually submitting to her, there’s no question that emotionally, he’s the dominant one.

Not only does Adam never wear a shirt — his pants are honestly never buttoned. I know his penis is inconveniently huge, but surely he can find the wherewithal to at least button his fly?

William: Maybe Hannah’s just hoping to get an iPod out of the whole thing.

Britt: The guy makes weird blowtorch metal art and can’t afford shirts or pants that button. I highly doubt he can afford to buy her an iPod.

Gwen: Well, he is getting 600 bucks a month from his Grams…

Meredith: His drawers are stuffed with hundreds!

Gwen: Hustler!

Britt: I guess if we’re being real here, he probably sells his art to people that frequent Marnie’s gallery for way more than it’s worth. “Here’s this monument to man’s inner struggle I’ve made out of re-purposed bus stop benches and a crate of 45s from bands you’ve never heard of! $5k and it’s yours!”

Meredith: “I was in various states of undress during its entire creation!”

Gwen: I think Adam is one of the only truly self-aware characters. He knows what he wants, he doesn’t compromise, he knows how to manipulate, and he knows what others think of him. He’s not my cup of tea, but I find him the most fascinating because he reminds me of so many men I’ve known. He and Hannah are both selfish, but at least Adam doesn’t give a fuck if anyone else knows it.

I also kind of agree that maybe Hannah is letting this all happen to her. She does like the story, but do you guys think she also likes being a victim for her stories?

Britt: Yes. I absolutely believe that Hannah, with her sensitive, naive, creative little mind loves to be the victim in these scenarios because I think she equates being a victim with being a protagonist. She wants things to happen to her so she has a story to tell, and what better way to do that than to be the victim? I see a lot of struggle within her as she tries to reconcile growing up with maintaining this victimization for the sake of storytelling.

I think as writers we all want to have stories to tell, and sometimes it can be difficult to extricate ourselves from a situation when we feel like it’s providing fodder for self-expression. We end up becoming self-destructive for the sake of art, and most creative types are inherently self-destructive — the more you hurt, the more you experience negatively, the more you have fuel for your creative output.

Let’s move on to the other big happening this week: Charlie and Marnie. We saw the extent of Marnie’s selfishness last week when she misdirected her anger at Hannah, but this week we learn a little more as we discover she’s never been to Charlie’s apartment in the four years they’ve dated. The pair have grown comfortable together, and that comfort seems to have bred some complacency. Marnie is desperate to cling to this familiar relationship, presumably (and understandably) out of fear. I really loved the moment when Charlie said that he watches porn instead of thinking of having sex with her because it would make him sad. What do you guys think about the end of this relationship? Is this going to make Marnie a little more selfless?

Gwen: I’m really relieved that Marnie and Charlie are broken up. It was nice to see both of them exposed and honest. I thought their initial meeting was incredibly sweet, but incredibly telling in regards to the roles both of them play within the relationship: Marnie being needy and resistant to change and Charlie wanting to protect and be loved. Marnie wants so much to be the one in control, but she doesn’t want to be the one to end things or be the one who gets dumped. Regardless, I think her most selfless move was to selfishly break up with Charlie. He’s better off.

Meredith: I’m sure some people will paint Marnie as even more of a b-tch due to the way she ended it — refusing to allow Charlie to break up with her, having sex with him and then dumping him. In her own way, it was sort of her Unsmoteable moment. But I don’t think she planned it; she had a knee-jerk fear of losing a relationship in which she’s invested years, and for a moment she truly saw Charlie as the good person he is and actually listened to him, but when they had sex and he went back to his weird clinginess (“hold your face next to mine”), she realized she can’t do this for several more years.

Obviously, she should have allowed Charlie his moment of dignity rather than robbing him of the opportunity to break up with her, but she made the right decision in the end. Marnie only ever seems to be selfish and cruel when it relates to Charlie, because she resented him for trapping her with his insurmountable kindness for so long. I think, free of him, she’ll be a better person. And obviously Charlie will be better off without Marnie.

Gwen: And now we wait to see how long it will take for Shoshanna to hook up with Charlie… or worse, Ray (Alex Karpovsky).

Britt: I don’t think this show is that predictable, but I’d like to poll the ladies here (sorry, Will) as I did last week: Is anyone else bizarrely attracted to Ray and Adam or is it just me? I think my love of Ray has something to do with Karpovsky’s character in ‘Tiny Furniture’ and the whole Nietschean Cowboy thing, and I just love tall, lanky, doofus guys.

Meredith: So far, my ‘Girls’ attraction is reserved solely for Jorma Taccone. It’s possible I might hate-f— Ray.

Britt: Oh, don’t get me started on Jorma Taccone again. He’s too cute.

Gwen: I loved Alex Karpovsky in ‘Lovers of Hate.’ He’s like, stupid hot in it and the movie is insane.

William: I guess Horatio Sanz is all mine, then.

Gwen: Speaking of, I’m super down for the dad (Mr. Lavoyt) that Jessa is going to bang — my guess is… around episode seven.

Meredith: One of the BAD commenters calls him Sensitive Ponytail Man, which I can’t unsee. If Jessa makes it past the next episode without banging him, I’ll eat my hat and his ponytail.

Britt: And thank you, Gwen, for bringing us to our next topic: Jessa and Mr. Lavoyt. I got a very paternal vibe from their encounter last week and I was hoping that this was veering more in that direction instead of the predictable unsavory affair. This week, though, it seems very flirtatious. Is it possible that Jessa is confusing her need for parental guidance with love? I know it’s a bit familiar in concept, but I’m interested to see how they pull it off. Do you agree, or do you guys think something else is going on between them?

Meredith: I don’t think there’s a whole lot of insidious emotions going on with Jessa. I think she thinks Ponytail Dad is hot, so she wants to have sex with Ponytail Dad. He probably views her as an extension of his younger, more free self — that rebellious youth he’s trying to hang onto via ponytail and pot.

Gwen: I think it’ll be an “A-ha!” moment for Jessa. When she has sex with him she’ll realize that sex can hurt just as much as it feels good. He’ll get clingy, or maybe even she will, it’ll get awkward, and the wife will go bananas. It could also definitely be a fatherly thing, but they have a nice chemistry that works for either direction Dunham may want to take them.

But I also think Meredith makes a great point. Babysitter equals feeling younger.

Britt: What was everyone’s favorite moment this week, and why? Mine was Hannah in the bathroom. I’ve made that bathroom trip to emotionally exhale too many times in my life. The bathroom is a vulnerable place, so it makes sense that we go there when we need to escape someone and be upset.

Meredith: Charlie and Marnie’s frank discussion at his place. Charlie communicated as a fully-realized human for the very first time and Marnie acknowledged him as such. Their brief reunion followed by Marnie’s instant regret rang very true to me – as did the fact that she’d never been to his apartment, something very specific I did to a past Charlie in my life.

First runner up: Shoshanna in the curtains! Second runner up: Elijah and Hannah’s shared love of the Scissor Sisters.

William: The description of Marnie’s symptoms [when high] followed by Jessa’s “I want one” amused me greatly.

Gwen: Favorite moments were the flashback, 2007: “What’s on the brownies??” “Jello shots!” Moment number 2: the sneak peek that Lou Taylor Pucci is gracing our tiny TV screens next week. Please be gentle with him, Hannah.

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