‘Girls’ Talk: “I Get Ideas”
We’re joined by another critic this week to discuss the latest episode of ‘Girls,’ which continues to show the ways in which our characters are confident in their choices, but maybe they aren’t so sure why they’re making those choices to begin with.
ScreenCrush editor Britt Hayes is joined this week by fellow critic Eric Lefenfeld to discuss the latest episode of ‘Girls.’ Eric writes for eFilmCritic and you can tweet him @EricLefenfeld, if and when he’s on Twitter.
Britt: What I want to get into right away is something I completely left out of my review this week, which is the continuation (and escalation) of Hannah’s trouble with Adam. I do find it maybe a little difficult to understand how he’s not taking the hint, but perhaps that has to do more with the show trying to heighten the comedy than with it trying to portray something outright relatable.
At the end of last season the power balance was uncertain. It seemed up to Hannah to make the relationship work and we saw how genuine Adam could be, but then he got hit by a car and his leg was broken, which I think gives him the upper hand. When you hurt someone in a relationship, even indirectly by arguing with them in the street until they get hit by a car, the hurt party can feel entitled, in a sense. I think Hannah did her best to take care of him out of guilt, but there’s only so much she can do, especially if she doesn’t want to continue the relationship. Watching her shove him and yell at him to get out illustrated not only to Adam, but to the viewer, how serious she is about ending it, but I still wonder if maybe she protests too much. Obviously the gravity of that relationship, which involves caring about someone else as much as she cares about herself, scares her. I just don’t think she knows that’s why she ended it. I still hope they can salvage the relationship, if only because I am so smitten with Adam myself, but what do you think?
I think it’s partially heightened for comedic value, but how is it that difficult to understand? Dude is heartbroken. We’ve already seen that he has a volatile personality even in the best of times. It’s this unpredictability (and rock hard abs) that drew Hannah to him in the first place. However, quirky turns into creepy when the other party is no longer reciprocating. Adam is just being a slightly more depressed version of the crazy ol’ Adam he’s always been. Don’t forget, it’s rare that we get to see Adam outside of the narrow field of Hannah-Vision (patent pending). He was portrayed as an overt creep throughout much of the first season until the crucial turning point where Hannah takes off her blinders long enough to see that there’s something real and quite fragile underneath his crusty hipster persona. She’s put them back on now, so Adam is back to being the unsympathetic weirdo again.
As for them getting back together, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll be having adorably kinky sex again in no time. I know I’m probably breaking one of the cardinal rules of the ‘Girls’-o-sphere by comparing it to that other show about four women in New York City, but Adam is Hannah’s Mr. Big, the man that is both perfect and horrible for her at the exact same time. I’m sure they’ll boomerang back and forth over the course of the series. Beyond any of that, though, Dunham and company have to know that they have a goldmine in Adam Driver; if there’s a breakout star to come out of this show, it’s him. He’ll sticking around for awhile.
Britt: I think you’re onto something with the Hannah-Vision thing — I hadn’t thought about that. I think I just assumed that once the last season ended, we were seeing Adam for who he really is, and would continue to do so. It never dawned on me that we’d see him through her narrow view again so soon, if ever, but I think that’s wishful thinking on my part. I’m actually glad if what you’re saying is accurate because I like the way the show presents the world through the limited view of these women. And I also hope you’re right with the ‘Sex and the City’ comparison — though I hope that’s the only comparison we ever need to make. I want Adam and Hannah to work this out, and I think often times the most complicated relationships are the best. These are the relationships where people have to fight for or against each other and compromise — the kinds of relationships where each person, through that fight, learns more about themselves and becomes a better person for it. Relationships shouldn’t be easy, and I think Hannah doesn’t understand that yet.
Eric: Of course Hannah doesn’t get that. Anything or anyone that tries to break her bubble gets shot down — first Adam, and then Sandy for daring to give her some constructive criticism on her essay. Everything’s peachy during cute toothbrush conversations, but the second he reveals a side that doesn’t fit into her narrow ideal of how she wants to be viewed by the world, it’s over. She has some vague idea of what she wants out of a relationship, but it’s probably been born out of way too much navel gazing and no tangible experience. She still can’t see anything beyond herself.
I’m not sure the Hannah-Vision idea can be applied to the show as a whole, as the ensemble has clearly been fleshed out beyond the titular girls. This episode opened on a (hilarious) argument between Elijah and his older boyfriend, two characters who weren’t even on the show when it started. I can also recall at least one or two scenes from the first season where it was just Ray and Charlie doing their own thing. I really enjoy this gradual expansion of the ensemble. Not to keep comparing ‘Girls’ to other shows, but I couldn’t help but make the connection to another Apatow project, ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ which did an amazingly organic job of fleshing out even the smallest of characters during its brief run. I get the same feeling from ‘Girls’ as it progresses. We’re not at the point where the show’s name could be changed to ‘Boys and Girls’ (with apologies to all three of you Freddie Prinze Jr. fans out there), but I feel like that title might become increasingly more accurate as the show continues to deepen its supporting cast.
Britt: Well obviously Hannah-Vision only extends so far, but I think the show does a great job of capturing the limited world view of all of its characters, and those are views that they’ve constructed for themselves. Jessa, for instance, is a really good example in this week’s episode with the way she’s just sort of become this wife and thinks that just because she exchanged some vows she knows everything there is to know about relationships. She’s always been the sort of person to dole out advice that at least sounds wise and well-traveled, but I’d argue that she’s just as lost as Hannah or Marnie. The world is what these women make it, which is just as true in real life for any of us, but heightened here for effect.
For Hannah, she has these ideas about how things should be, and she feels as though if she keeps repeating what she wants or how she wants to feel to those around her, then those things will come true. She wants to be the kind of writer that can take criticism and be okay with it, but she immediately attacks her boyfriend for not enjoying her work. She thinks she’s hiding her true feelings, but it’s quite the opposite. Actually, I think that’s true for every one of these girls. If Jessa keeps pretending that this is the life she wants, then it will be the life she wants.
Eric: I’d say Jessa is even more lost than the other two, just because she dives into these constructed personalities with such gusto and spectacle. It’s not enough to just have a steady boyfriend. That wouldn’t get people talking, so she has to marry the guy on a whim. I presume her arc this season will involve her realizing in the end, a “shocking” marriage is still just a marriage, with all of the complications and ordinary hassles that she feels she’s above. There was a nice pregnant pause after Jessa has that line about the end of the hunt. You can see the shock on Hannah’s face, never expecting to hear such a sentiment coming from the mouth of such a supposed free spirit. She’s embracing her new persona as the settled wife, but I don’t see that lasting to the point where it becomes her actual desire. Her attention span is too short for that, which can only end in heartbreak for her husband when something else captures her attention for a few fleeting moments.
Britt: What I find most interesting so far this season is Marnie’s story. She exists in the same selfish microcosm, but she’s so incredibly lost. It’s like she has no idea where to begin. She’s been trained in life to be this superficial person both through her parents, and guys presumably always telling her she’s pretty, as if that’s enough — and this new job as a hostess isn’t really pushing her to see life outside of that. She comes from a background where she’s been groomed to think all she needs is a stable job and a boyfriend and her life will be perfect, but nothing is ever that simple. There’s so much superficiality in her, and as much as I enjoy watching her try to find something — anything — that she likes to do or some place where she belongs, I also feel frustrated with her because she can’t just can’t shake this rigid frame in which she’s been built. With someone like Jessa or Hannah, they can envision a life that they want or at least think they want, but Marnie is too lost to do the same.
There’s something so empty inside of her. When we’ve seen her have sex, she seems detached. When she’s had moments to let loose with her friends, it still feels like posturing, like it’s just an idea of what she thinks fun should be. Her entire life is an idea of a life, which thematically gels with Hannah and Jessa’s stories this week.
Eric: In all fairness to Marnie, we’ve only seen her have sex with someone she no longer loves and a gay man who is just as indifferent to her as she is to him. Not exactly the best track record there. She was anything but detached when she met Jorma Taccone’s character last season. Maybe the hostess job will have the opposite effect. She’s always been told she was pretty, but this is the first the first time she’s blatantly allowing herself to be seen soley as a sex object. Perhaps a bit of self-awareness could come along with that. I sound like a bit of a Marnie apologist here. I guess I can’t help it CUZ SHE’S SO HOT.
Britt: Well clearly there’s no discussing Marnie with you rationally, then. What about Shoshanna this week? I’d argue that even with her awkwardness, she’s the only one that sort of has it together. I love her relationship with Ray and the way it brings out a gentler side of him. I’m not sure if this is the real Ray, but his desire to be with Shosh seems genuine, and I’d like to think that this side of him is the real him — the part he’s been hiding underneath all the abrasiveness and cynicism, which is why he’s so drawn to her.
Eric: I just want to pick up Shoshanna and put her in my pocket, and I mean that in the least sexual way possible. She really does continue to be the only character with some semblance of having their sh– together, which if anything, is because of said awkwardness. Hannah is awkward, too, but it’s run though a filter of self-awareness. When things get too real or complicated, she knows (at least subconsciously that her awkwardness will keep her detached. With Shoshanna, it’s not an affectation or a security blanket — it’s just who she is. That’s probably what Ray is responding to the most, after probably being mostly with types that were too cool for school.
Britt: I think we’re about ready to wrap this up — do you have anything else you want to add about this week or the show in general?
Eric: Criticism of ‘Girls’ and more generally, of Lena Dunham, has taken on a life that’s almost bigger than the show itself. The show has taken on this perceived cultural cache as some grand thesis on the state of young people in America. I’ve never felt that she’s been preaching any sort of agenda, and I think that HBO’s initial ads for the show that highlighted (out of its ironic context) Hannah’s line about being the voice of a generation did a disservice to the show. She’s not the voice of a generation. She’s the voice of herself, and I don’t feel like she’s ever pretended to be anything but. I appreciate that she took the time, with no obligation whatsoever, to address some of the naysayers that accuse the show of being too whitewashed, racially speaking. What I really appreciate, though, is that she didn’t try to refute these arguments. If anything, she sort of agreed with them, but instead of trying to backpedal on the matter, it’s been incorporated into Hannah’s painfully naive view of the world.