Boy, did I really hate this week's episode of Girls, "Dead Inside." I mean truly despised sitting through this skin-crawling episode. And it's not just because the series has concretely proven, once and for all, that the main female characters (Hannah in particular) are actually just self-absorbed sociopaths with few remaining qualities left. But it's that the men seem to be the only characters left with any shred of decency or interesting characteristics or compassion. I'm not saying that Lena Dunham has to make her girls on Girls inauthentically sweet or overly emotional version of themselves, but I do think she has to make them marginally human human beings. They are not. They are mean, nasty people. And again, I don't need heroes and I don't need flawless characters (that's boring and doesn't ring true to life) but the line is blurred about whether we are supposed to be rooting against these people or gleefully basking in their outright horribleness. I quickly lost my patience with Entourage because it glorified a pack of emotionally vacant jerks who got everything they wanted, even if they didn't deserve it, and it became a marathon of pointless, joyless excess. Girls may not be a show about excess, but it does make you wonder if any of these women will actually grow up or they'll get to continue their path of selfishness and we have to just go along for the ride. Are the guys of Girls going to continue to be the only personable characters? Or can the girls get in on that action at some point, too?
Why all of my sudden contempt for Girls? After all, it's not like their annoying behavior is anything new. Well, it's because this week, for the first time, the series dealt with death and it was not pretty. At the beginning of the episode, we see a rushed, under-dressed Hannah (so Hannah) getting ready for a meeting with her editor David Pressler-Goings (played by John Cameron Mitchell), who we last saw making a scene at her birthday party. In the lobby, everyone is panicked and buzzing and crying around her. In a truly hilarious, authentically New York moment, Hannah asks the receptionist, "I just wanted to know if it was safe to be on the floor of this building." It was; it just turned out that David had died.
Now, it probably didn't come as much of a shock to anyone that David passed; we only knew him for a few episodes and he was a shakily written character, at best. But you know who it really didn't have any effect on whatsoever? Hannah. In fact, her immediate reaction was to whine about the fate of her book now that he was gone. It was a reaction that pretty much horrified Adam ("They probably weren't thinking about your book, Hannah, and I can't believe you are, either") and caused the two to have some equally upsetting discussions about death. Hannah saw no issue with reading snarky posts about David's death on Gawker (a thinly veiled reference to online commentary about Lena Dunham herself), while Adam argued that it was nothing more than petty jealous. When Adam told her that "the world would blur," she admitted that she thinks about what she would say at his funeral and how she would pay rent. In short, Hannah really is the monster Adam called her in the Season 1 finale. How did Adam, the once emotionally vacant caveman into degrading sex, become the heart and soul of this show? Why would Hannah not want an awesome framed picture of Tom Hanks for their apartment to boot? Seriously, what's wrong with her?
To be fair, everyone deals with grief in their own way. But there is something wrong when Hannah repeatedly refers to David as her "close friend" to get a reaction out of people, but then follows it up immediately by saying his death has no effect whatsoever on her. ("I literally feel nothing. I don't even feel numb, but I would love to go home," she says, dead-eyed.) Even Ray – who spent the better part of the first two seasons being a sarcastic loner – pondered to Hannah, "You don’t think it's odd I feel worse than you do and the one time I met this dude he hurled me across the room?" It is odd, and Ray, of course is feeling extra sensitive to death considering he may soon lose his own boss and actual friend Hermie. What it boiled down to was that Hannah wasn't finding with ways to deal with grief -- she simply wasn't grieving at all.
The culmination of this came when Hannah spent an afternoon frolicking (yes, frolicking) in a cemetery with Laird (who confesses his whole life "has been surrounded by death") and Adam's certifiably insane sister Caroline. Caroline concocted this elaborate, albeit ultimately fake, story about how when Adam was younger, he stayed by the side of their cousin with muscular dystrophy and granted her dying wish to attend a high school prom. Not only did Hannah not have any emotional reaction to her boyfriend's loving (albeit fabricated) gesture, but she later told the same exact story as her own to Adam to get him to believe she's not actually a sociopath. Which is ironic, really, because doing that made her a bona fide sociopath. For a moment I thought I saw a hint of recognition of the story on Adam's face and that he would call her out on it, but no. I've never hated Hannah more.
But Hannah wasn't the only girl to have a disturbing reaction to the topic of mortality, as David's death got Jessa and Shoshanna to recall their own experiences. (Marnie, on the other hand, spent the bulk of the episode exercising and whining about her music video some more and then quitting her job.) Shoshanna shared that she had a friend in high school that died and after she pondered for a brief second that she was "Hmm, sad," she immediately followed it up by saying, "I took over her position in the friend group we were always truly meant to be a five-some." Who are these people?
Jessa – who had already been spouting her own misguided theories about life and death throughout the episode ("It's something that happens, like jury duties or floods") – found out that her friend Season, who she thought had died ("She choked on vomit, or something") actually faked her death to get away from the enabling Jessa. Cruel and a little bit extreme? Yes, even for Jessa, who disappears on her friends all the time and doesn't give it a second thought. In fact, during their confrontation, Season admits she got away with throwing a fake funeral because she knew Jessa wouldn't attend anyway. Jessa also didn't see the forest for the trees that not only was her friend alive and clean and living with her beautiful family in a Brooklyn brownstone. Instead, she snapped, "None of this is going to work out for you, by the way." Aaaaand that's exactly why Season took the measures she did. Jessa's friends are nothing more than novelties to her; their well-being is an afterthought. When Jessa wistfully walked away moments later, I couldn't tell if the calm smile that crept across her face was relief that her friend was actually alive or that it's another fucked-up anecdote to add to her pile or that she, like Hannah, is simply numb to it all.
I know, I know, another line-in-the-sand think piece on Girls (and coming from someone who has defended this show from the start, no less) but this felt like a huge turning point for me. These people aren't flawed, they are simply rotten. But, at least I know that from here on out. Dunham and Co. can still play them up as childish (sorry, but a 25-year-old should be able to process death), but the ship has sailed on these characters being relatable or even marginally likable. And that's okay, too, because there are some truly brilliant shows with truly despicable characters that I stuck with when they did unspeakable, unforgivable things. But I stuck with them because they were fascinating and even in the fog of their selfishness could see the big picture and did things for other people. (Hell, at least Carrie Bradshaw actually liked her friends on Sex and the City.) I never related to Walter White on Breaking Bad, so maybe that's why I was able to watch at a comfortable distance, but Hannah started as someone relatable who has only gotten worse as time goes on. The problem with that is if you're a twenty-something in New York (or any city for that matter), you tend to drift from the friends who feel entitled and/or don't emotionally evolve with you. Girls either has to grow with its audience or we'll move on to someone who gives a shit about us, too.
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