In Defense of Hannah Horvath

Random Musings, TV

Now entering its fifth (!!!) season, HBO’s GIRLS is still as refreshing and whip smart as its original premiere back in 2012. The sustained level of coolness is thanks in no doubt to the multi-talented Lena Dunham whose aloofness is a very admirable quality. The depicted storylines of the four main, well, girls, are ones that are so seldom seen on television, let alone premium cable. GIRLS is like a seedier, more urban Sex and the City, despite both shows being set in the same Gotham where dreams happen and are then typically broken. I concede that comparing SATC with GIRLS is like comparing apples to oranges, but they are indeed both equally acidic.

An Atypical Heroine

Dunham and co-creater Judd Apatow hold nothing back when it comes to telling stories that are sometimes cringeworthy for the viewer, eliciting memories of the awkward early adult years where emotions and experiences are heightened beyond verbal descriptive capacity. But they are careful not to stereotype any of the show’s characters. They are all unique and complicated, simple and sassy. My goal here, however, is not to write another review of a show that people either love or hate. My intent is to break down some of the thematic constructs of the show that I have not come across in my reviews

The Number 4 – Interestingly, like with Sex and the City and many other shows preceding it with four titular lead characters (The Golden Girls, Designing Women, The Facts of Life…), GIRLS four leads share unique resemblances to the #4. The number itself is often linked to a cross or a square, which I find particular telling of the dynamic between the girls of GIRLS. They all sort of co-exist but hate to admit it. They’re all part of each other’s psyche and co-dependently navigate life without really realizing it. Heavy.

  • A Girls Tableau

The number itself also allows the show to play off different character values and ideals, though often times, they all interplay with one another in terms of plot progression and development. Marnie is the naive but strong one, Hannah is in her own world, Shoshanna is the one with conviction, and Jessa is the wild one. Of all the characters, Jessa is the most underdeveloped character in that she seems to only exist for the sake of making other people’s lives difficult. It also doesn’t help that Jemima Kirke, the actress who plays Jessa, is thoroughly unlikeable.

When the girls of GIRLS happen to be in one scene together (which, is strangely rare) their physical placement in relation to one another is often consistent. Hannah and Marnie are always the farthest away from one another, yet Jessa and Shoshanna are always very close. Hannah and Marnie are often depicted as opposites but they are essentially the same – they want to be heard and to be successful, though they have no concept of what would make them truly successful or happy. Shoshanna and Jessa, on the other hand, are the fire and water of the show. Often parodies of what it means to be semi-socially inept and sociopathic, these two GIRLS respectively could use some character development.

Having just watched the episode “SIT IN” where Hannah leaves Iowa and returns to Adam, I was slightly disappointed at how her predicament was treated by her friends. A self-proclaimed narcissist, Hannah encounters zero sympathy from her social network upon finding out Adam is dating someone new. In fact, Jessa reveals that she is the one who set Adam up with his new flame. Hannah’s friends just sort of seem to accept the fact that Adam has moved on, despite her having been gone to Iowa for just a month. I don’t get it. It might be that if they did emotionally support Hannah then that would mean Hannah would need to, in turn, support them on their frequent emotional struggles.

I think GIRLS is an important TV show. I think it presents an incongruous image to the world of what life is really like in this age or in all post-industrial revolution NYC. Despite being set in the city where anything could happen, things just don’t happen on the show. If you really sit back and think about, not much actually happens on GIRLS. But it’s oh so entertaining.

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