Jessa

Hate-Watching the Girls Season Finale

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Jonathan May

Jonathan May’s original explanation and defense of hate-watching Girls can be found here. This post covers only the season finale, which aired on Sunday.

[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post erroneously identified this in one instance as the series finale of Girls. It is actually the season finale. We apologize for the wishful thinking.] 

What can I say? All’s well that ends well, and end well this doesn’t. (Pro tip: Never make a Girls/Shakespeare comparison). I spent most of this disaster of an episode hating Marnie for hurting Shoshanna; I do admit that if Shoshanna hadn’t pushed Ray away, it might not have happened at all, but such is the wanton heart. I find myself thinking about the show purely in terms of the romantic engagements, which hearkens back to my theory that the show is in no way (and under no uncertain terms) a comedy, but rather a romance. But for a show all about girls, there is certainly a lot of attachment to boys.

This episode attempts to wrap up a season’s worth of false starts and prolonged miseries. Adam’s sister reappears, and tada!—she’s living with Laird, with whom she’s expecting a child. Then she promptly disappears from the plot. (Situation: resolved?) Marnie, no shocker, feels it necessary to reveal to Shoshanna that she and Ray slept together.Why she feels it necessary is beyond me. In a Western world of privilege, Marnie feels it’s her duty to unburden herself of guilt, rather than keep silent. She does this not for Shoshanna, but for herself, using the guise of truth as a way to assuage her own loneliness by bringing Shoshanna into co-misery. So, my real shocker for this episode was hating Marnie more than Hannah.

Which brings us to Hannah, unavoidably so. Her acceptance to Iowa was a trite and tawdry move on the part of the plot; Hannah lives in a world of limitless opportunity as a writer, even though we never see her writing. Comparisons to Sex and the City noted, Carrie’s main grace as the central protagonist was that the narration began and normally ended with her writing, her articles, because she was a writer. We never see any articulation or actualization of Hannah’s writing, just its end results. Where are the hard hours alone? The time spent putting together an application for a tough-to-get-into program like Iowa? We see none of that, and we’re the worse for it. Missing those moments cheapens the idea of work behind creative writing. We see Adam practicing constantly, Ray reading, Marnie singing, but we never see Hannah writing.

All in all, the episode closes with dramatic flourish typical of an inflated season of histrionics, with Hannah clutching her torn acceptance to Iowa like a sad, frumpy Vivien Leigh. Jessa’s arc throughout the season was the most interesting, and her courage in helping the photographer to end her life (and then save it) was the strongest point of the episode. Jessa makes it clear that at least some of the Girls aren’t just living for themselves.

My predictions for next season: We open in media res after something (?) happens to Hannah at Iowa, forcing a return to Brooklyn. Jessa has finally found herself. Adam is wildly successful. Marnie does something better with her hair. Shoshanna leaves the drama behind.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at owen.may@gmail.com.

Image source: Grantland

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On Hate-Watching Girls

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Jonathan May

I must admit that I love to hate-watch shows. I don’t apologize for it. Many people love to hate things all of the time: other people, their Facebook pages, movies everyone loves, Republicans. So I claim Girls as my love-to-hate show. Besides the obviousness of it, that these are girls you are supposed to not-like, the show offers little in terms of episode-to-episode flow, the most appalling examples of which fall in the most recent and unfolding season (Adam’s sister, anyone?). For the first two seasons, I also held the show to be a comedy, which it fails at disastrously. The only funny moments involve Shoshanna, a character rendered tangential by her lack of “worldliness”—a quality which Lena Dunham and her ilk hold highest.

The problem with this is that these girls, apart from Jessa (sometimes), live out their petty dramas in the TV-bubble of New York City. Unlike Sex and the City, however, this works against the girls, casting them as Jenny-come-lately poseurs in a city that Carrie and crew embraced full and well years ago. This is more than just a problem of looking at two groups of women in completely different points in their lives/careers; as a result of hipster influx into Brooklyn (among myriad other U.S. locales), these girls don’t even recognize their status as interlopers, which is the root cause of their unhappiness. Marnie spends a lot of time alone; she has no friends because she has chosen to move to a city where sacrifice could mean something greater, but often doesn’t. Hannah never escapes her insular world made up of Adam and the occasional friend and the writing she is literally never doing. Each of the Girls revolves in a world populated by just a few.

Now, back to the hate-watching. I hate-watch Girls not only because I can and am free to, but also because I hate-read a few hundred romance novels when I worked at a used bookstore over the course of nine years. Girls’ formula is unfortunately so formulaic as to be laughable; it follows the exact arc of most good romances, which is lucky because the show fails as a drama and a comedy. So, why is everyone, myself included, obsessed with this new brand of romance? What does it offer? Well, I hate-but-don’t-hate to burst your bubble, but the show offers nothing besides pure romantic entertainment. There are no higher messages or coded morals; there are no expressions of the Zeitgeist or proclamations of culture. We have ripped tank tops and party dresses; we have unanswered texts. What we have is romance, and all proper romances end in marriage. So I guess we’ll see if Girls fails in that regard as well.

Image source: Grantland