‘Girls’ Review: “I Get Ideas”
If Jessa is the free-flowing river, then Hannah and Marnie are adrift at sea in this week’s ‘Girls.’ And maybe Shoshanna and Ray are the only ones who really have “it” together, whatever “it” is.
Thanks to his dalliance with Marnie, Elijah and George have broken up, but Elijah’s still bent on Hannah never finding out about it. As much as Marnie’s been troubled and has made some questionable decisions, her desire to confess to Hannah still indicates that, beneath the superficial eye rolls and self-absorbed behavior, Marnie is good and decent — or at the very least, she’s a good friend.
The biggest issue with Marnie is that, for all her self-absorption, she hasn’t the slightest idea about who she is or what she wants. She goes out for an interview at another art gallery where the owner tells her that she won’t give her the receptionist position because she doesn’t see Marnie in the art world; in fact, she doesn’t know that she sees Marnie anywhere. Is this the energy Marnie is putting out into the world, or is she simply so lost that not even another person can see where she belongs? The last part of that question is key — you have to know what you want and find the place where you feel you belong, and then you can start making your way there. Marnie’s smart Ann Taylor dress suit and immaculate grooming are no adequate replacement for real confidence. If she has no idea where she belongs, then how will anyone else know? We’re only two episodes in, but it feels like each week we’re slowly peeling back the layers of Marnie to get to the core of who she is, or at least why she is.
A woman like Marnie is given false confidence because people, like Shoshanna and Ray, encourage her to take up a “pretty person job,” like working as a hostess for a club that caters to wealthy old white men. But Marnie is discovering that the confidence that comes from outer beauty is no match for the confidence in one’s self. When she tells Hannah that her new job will afford her time to explore her interests, I wonder if Marnie even has genuine interests. Maybe this new job will afford her the time to find interests.
The relationship between Hannah and her black Republican boyfriend Sandy implodes this week, when Sandy reveals that he actually did read an essay Hannah sent him, though he’d been telling her he hadn’t had the time to read it. The truth is that he’s not into Hannah’s navel-gazing style, and while she acts like it’s no big deal, her bruised ego inspires her to awkwardly address Sandy’s political views, which leads to a meta conversation that sort of address the lack of diversity on the show. Sometime during season one, Lena Dunham responded to criticisms of the show’s lack of characters of color by saying that she was speaking only to her specific experiences, but also that she didn’t think of the world or the show in terms of color, and it was only later that she realized all four of her characters are white. With this argument between Sandy and Hannah, you get the sense that Dunham might even disagree with herself. As Hannah explains that she doesn’t see the world in “divisions,” Sandy responds that she must because that’s the world she lives in. She can deny that she recognizes the divisions between people based on race, political or religious views, or financial standing, but she can’t deny that those divides exist or that people interact or judge others based on those differences.
Dunham’s explanations about the lack of diversity were earnest, but they did seem naive, which is fine for a woman who was 25 when ‘Girls’ began. It’s fantastic to see her not only respond to the criticism, but sort of respond to her own response to the criticism in a way that’s thoughtful and legitimate. Sandy never once feels like a character included because of his color, though he does feel like a conduit through which Dunham can speak to her specific experience, and as she’s expressed before, that’s what this show is about — and isn’t that what all art is about, anyway? We take our own specific experiences and we try to translate them in a language with which others can relate, whether it’s with song lyrics or the fictional dialogue written for a character, who is little more than a fragment of the writer’s self.
Meanwhile, over in Shoshanna and Ray’s sunshine-happy-fun-time land — the relationship is starting to make more sense. Ray is attracted to her for many reasons, but perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that she allows him to express a side of himself that’s more feminine, thoughtful, and tender. The look on his face when he’s saying “I’d love to experience that emotion with you” is incredibly hilarious, batting his eyelashes and pursing his lips — almost as if he’s in the middle of a girly sleepover where he’s been allowed to reveal his hopes and dreams, and later there will be hair-braiding and someone will spill nail polish on a rug. The Ray we knew last season was more abrasive and cynical, but Shoshanna is just this big wad of bright bubblegum, and he’s totally stuck in it.
I’m having the most difficult time reading Jessa, but then again she’s always been sort of an enigma. She’s like a river, just flowing in whichever direction the current takes her because it’s easiest, and she doesn’t fight back. When she says to Hannah “this is what it’s like when the hunt’s over,” I don’t buy it because Jessa never seemed to be about “the hunt” for a mate in any traditional sense. And it’s not something I feel like any of the women on this show would actually think about or say. This isn’t a show about women trying to find husbands and settle down, so Jessa’s comment doesn’t resonate, which I think may be the point. I didn’t notice last week that Thomas John was still a jerk, but I’m reminded of who he is this week — that wealthy businessman who postures himself as the cool guy, always trying too hard to put on a show. He’s an infomercial of a person.
Jessa’s happiness isn’t hard-won and her relationship with Thomas John isn’t built to last, obviously. She’s always been the kind of down-to-earth friend who gives great advice, and she’s so well-traveled that she often comes off as wise (not too far) beyond her years, but now that she’s married, that advice comes from a place that’s sort of typical of married friends, as if they’ve unlocked some great secret by exchanging vows. The biggest question I have this week regarding Jessa’s plot line: how long did Thomas John keep those puppies hidden in that basket?!
I’ve updated the ‘Girls’ Season Two playlist on Spotify: