“He’s not un-nice or anything, he’s just f**king weird,” says Marnie to Jessa in the latest episode of HBO’s Girls. She was talking about Adam, the mostly mean-spirited, flakey, yet controlling guy Hannah sleeps with.
“Not un-nice” is actually a pretty kind compliment for a man on Girls, which is yet to introduce a truly likable male love interest. Last week, James Franco examined this issue in a Huffington Post article about the men on Girls: “The guys in the show are the biggest bunch of losers I’ve ever seen.” He reasoned this was almost fair because women have had more than their fair share of unfair portrayals on TV and in the movies. But after the latest episode, I’m starting to agree with Franco: the guys on Girls have simply gotten too, unrealistically awful. While lots of men suck, if you randomly sampled a population of men in New York City, not all of them would be this horrible.
In earlier episodes, Adam forces Hannah into awkward and submissive sex and teases her about her imperfect body. On last week’s episode, Hannah’s best friend Marnie meets Adam for this first time and immediately announces, “I know all about you and your sick instincts.” But on last night’s episode, Marnie decides he is “not un-nice” because he has suddenly taken Hannah on as a girlfriend.
Adam seems like he might respect Hannah, when he starts including her in important parts of his life, like by taking her to a rehearsal for a play he’s written. She seems exceptionally proud of this, even though any nice, normal boyfriend behavior he exhibits pretty much stops there. He is incapable of hiding his crazy, flipping out during the rehearsal when another performer tries a bit that he doesn’t like; then on the way home, he goes ballistic in the middle of the street when a driver gets in his way. He excuses the tantrum and cursing at the driver by saying he was trying to protect Hannah — but it’s clear the guy is really just unleashing pent up anger, and Hannah is just along for the ride. Any shred of respect Adam might have left for Hannah goes literally down the drain when he sneaks up on her in the shower at his apartment and purposefully urinates on her. Here is your “not un-nice” man, peeing on his girlfriend. He finds it funny, which it sort of is, if your sense of humor is kind of sick like that.
Later in the episode, we encounter another dude: a venture capitalist who Marnie and Jessa meet at a bar. The wealthy gentleman buys the girls martinis, and invites them back to his luxurious apartment to enjoy an expensive bottle of wine while he tries to show off hysterically bad DJ mashups that he’s produced (most notably “If You Steal My Sunshine” with samples of “sounds of children laughing in a field”). A few minutes later, the seemingly kind, wealthy businessman goes ballistic, and yells at Marnie for spilling wine on his $10,000 carpet. He proceeds to get angry with both girls for not jumping into bed with him. Charming, huh?
But he was just the latest in the string of other unimpressive men who did not appear in last night’s episode, including: the clinging, needy ex-boyfriend who is friends with a pretentious, angry barista dude; the middle-aged boss who gives his female employees unsolicited massages; the dad of the kids Jessa babysits for, who tries to seduce her; the artist who said he would “scare” Marnie the first time he had sex with her. These characters have had redeeming moments, but just moments — overall, they’ve been as awful as they sound. The female characters are flawed, but their intentions seem okay. They have flashes of awful but are mostly good people.
The girls on Girls are at times unable to hold down jobs, sexually naive, sexually repressed, and occasionally mean. But we get the idea that they’re trying. Sometimes they fail, but that’s just because it’s a hard world out there and they’re still growing up and finding their way. The guys, meanwhile, are failing, and only sometimes trying — because they just suck as human beings. That doesn’t seem fair.
I do wish that the men on Girls were more like many men who exist in the real-world: flawed, but well-intentioned. At the same time, I suppose Franco was right about the show evening the playing field. At last, it’s not the women who are being put into a box.