Words: James Ekron
“Am I seriously the only one of us who prides herself on being a truly authentic person? This is tripping me out.”
When Hannah Horvath is so intellectually moronic that it boils your blood, the darling Girls has you by the short and curlies (because assuming a Brazilian wax is quite simply, patriarchal). She endears and then frustrates – being both totally understandable and then living out on the Warholian fringe. Horvath’s struggles through her 20’s are a comment on the position of white, female, middle-classed, university graduates who seem to lack the ability to cook pasta or stay off heroin. With it, the viewer will laugh, but it won’t be for long or very loud.
Girls is aired by the daring HBO (Game of Thrones, Sex and the City) whilst Judd Apatow (who should win an Emmy under the ‘Cancelled Too Soon’ category for Freaks and Geeks) produces the show. Lena Dunham, who plays Hannah Horvath, is the writer-looking-to-make-it-big-in-New-York with her friends from university Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna. Two seasons and a whole lot of nudity ago, her parents gave her the proverbial boot from the nest and hoped she’d catch wind before hitting rock bottom and, largely, she has.
With a burgeoning career as a writer and a boyfriend, Adam, whose feet she is comfortable touching with her feet, Hannah’s life is on the up. The same cannot be said of her frenemy, Marnie – a shockingly accurate and sometimes mean-spirited indictment of girls still stuck in high school, “being both too stiff and too hopeful.” Season Three is not her season, involving an embarrassing YouTube video, face-palming open-mic nights and the kind of sex that friends judge other friends for having. As one reviewer claimed “we don’t hate Marnie. We hate how much Girls hates Marnie”, and that is why her story is tough to watch.
Jessa’s story continues to be a shambles despite her claim to having figured her “shit out when I was five years old.” A brilliant and Sorkin-paced cameo by Richard E. Grant (debut star of cult classic Whitnail and I and UCT graduate) lights her ass on fire to provoke a change in her behaviour. By the end of the season, her selfishness and drug addiction bring about a thoroughly moralising question which, if it weren’t for the fact that she is “junkie thief”, may actually redeem her for having had an impromptu marriage. Whether or not Jessa can become employable, hate less things and find a colour other than black to wear is still up for debate. Season 4, episode 1 will tell.
Shoshanna defines YOLO this season with one conquest, claiming that being with her was like being in a rap video. Currently in the “off” part of her on again/off again relationship with Ray, she is a hot mess (with a weird hair bun to boot?). Her “shenanigans” bring calamity to her studies and we see an all too understandable defeat at the hands of deadlines and passing exams. With Ray, she claims to be the best version of herself, making Season 3 a story she undertakes alone and in so doing, makes this her first real attempt at going at anything alone. This will, undoubtedly, bring about a new level of maturity to everyone’s favourite fast-talking, glitter-loving Princess Leia doppelganger.
Then, of course, there is Hannah. Every season begins with a pan camera shot along Hannah’s body to reveal her sleeping partner – first Elijah (her previous heterosexual lover and current homosexual bestie), second was Marnie and now, Adam. This was ‘their’ season to make it work, frequently opposing Adam’s depth and complexity against Hannah’s selfishness and literary pre-occupation. When Adam successfully lands up on Broadway, her response to his needs is more than a little wanting, causing us as the audience to gain a wider view of Hannah’s ambiguity. She doesn’t mean to be the architect of her own neurosis, but then she does, and viewers revel in the “squanderisation” of Hannah’s talent.
One element of the show which deserves specific mention is its soundtrack. Girls works very hard at bringing authentic musical choices to its set pieces – Lily Allen’s upbeat ‘Incidentals’ accompanies Hannah’s buying of a dress after selling out to the man and “making it rain.” Jessa dances to an ancient soul LP by Lee Moses called ‘Bad Girl’ in the throws of a detox. Marnie sings (Dunham describing her voice as that of a Disney princess and Hanna’s like a dying squirrel) ‘Roll on John’ by Bob Dylan which, after years of listening to him, I had never heard before. Similarly, Miguel’s ‘Simplethings’ shows the show is not deaf to trending musical performers in their trademark post-credit tracks.
The real problem with Girls is that they aren’t girls, are they? They have entered the age of respectable adulthood and, as Dunham stated on turning 25, “unless we are winning the Nobel Prize, everything is age appropriate.” Career changes, death and fame all become poignantly relevant to the characters and the audiences within which it resonates. There’s bitchiness, nudity, bad puns (my favourite is a “need for tweed”) and a choreographed dance number with a chorus line of gay men. In the end, they are going to be audacious. That’s what adventurous women do.