[Please note that there are spoilers for those who have not finished watching the second season of Girls.]
I was a bit late coming to Girls and even though it took me a little while to become invested, I am now engrossed in the world of Hannah (Lena Dunham), Marnie (Allison Williams), Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) and Jessa (Jemima Kirke). Actually, I am more than invested – I feel compelled to tune in. It’s a funny word to use but at times I find Girls unsettling and downright uncomfortable. The question is, then, why do I watch?
Part of the answer is that it has a voice. A raw, honest voice. Most of that is due to the talented Lena Dunham, the creator, writer and star of Girls. There has been much written about Lena and she has received a lot of personal and professional criticism. Is the show confronting? Yes, it is. There is frequent sex, talk about sex and nudity in Girls, much of it coming from her charcter Hannah. Although Girls is not unique in this (see Game of Thrones, True Blood) the way sex is shown and spoken about has a frankness that is rare on TV; as rare as seeing a ‘non supermodel’ body naked. While some viewers may not identify with the dialogue that Hannah and her boyfriend Adam (Adam Driver) have during sex, there may be many who do. The braveness of Girls is that they don’t simply talk about the behaviour after the act, they actually show it. When Girls first started I read it being hailed as the new ‘Sex and the City’. In my opinion the only thing Girls has in common with Sex and the City is Shoshanna having a Sex and the City poster in her apartment.
It is difficult to argue against the fact that the main characters are pretty much all self-involved and that this can sometimes be quite annoying. A perfect example of this is Marnie’s on-off relationship with Charlie (Christopher Abbott), which highlighted all of her insecurities perfectly. I have always been highly uneasy with TV characters humiliating themselves and I have to admit that the first time I watched the episode “On All Fours” in the second season I fast forwarded the karaoke scene. It was just too excruciating for me to bear witness to.
If that wasn’t enough though we are then forced to watch a scene between Adam and his new girlfriend Natalia (Shiri Appleby) which left us wondering if he had raped her. Although she did not say ‘no’ she was highly uncomfortable and some may argue unwilling. This is something that Adam should have picked up on, if he hadn’t been drinking and wasn’t wholly involved in his own sexual fantasy. By comparison, while Hannah is a bit taken back by Adam’s sexual behaviour she is willing to play along and even manipulate the situation occasionally for her own gain. However the episodes with Natalia shows just how dark Adam can be when he drinks (which is most likely one of the reasons why he is in AA) and how horrible he can be with someone incompatible to his sexual desires.
Another distressing but gripping development for me in season two is the journey that Hannah goes on with her OCD. I found it to be unexpected and brave television. To see a character become disconnected to her support network and fall back on old insecurities and patterns struck a nerve with me. I feel that Jessa disappearing was the catalyst and Hannah became more and more desperate as she reached out but got no response. Watching Hannah’s struggle was humbling and I must admit, as clichéd as it was, Adam running to her apartment to save/rescue her had me in tears. Was it wrong that in the end she was saved by a guy? Was that a cop out? Maybe it is not the feminist ideal that she was unable to pull herself out of her self imposed hell without a guy. However I think it was more that she was helped by someone who, no matter how flawed he is, loves her and is her friend. To me, at least, that feels very realistic.
I have no idea what the third season of Girls will bring but I am sure both the characters and the viewers will not be in for an easy ride. That is not why we watch Girls though. We watch it to be provoked, to be taken to the edge and then pushed that little bit further.
Who is your favourite character in Girls? What do you find the most challenging part of watching Girls?