A "Girls" Lover And Hater Debate The Season 3 Premiere
The always buzzed about HBO comedy returned tonight and BuzzFeed's Entertainment Editorial Director Jace Lacob, who's looked forward to watching every episode of the series, and Deputy Entertainment Editor Jaimie Etkin, who's begrudgingly watched every episode of the series, discussed the back-to-back episodes. They agreed on one thing. Maybe two.
SPOILER ALERT if you have not yet seen the Season 3 premiere of Girls!
Jaimie: I am simultaneously excited and nervous about this. My Girls rage is about to become public knowledge. I mean, I don't have negative feels about Lena Dunham as a human or woman, but her show just makes me really frustrated. HOWEVER, I must say it was eye-opening to see how people talk to her, as exhibited by the TCA debacle last week. Dunham handled Tim Molloy's awfully approached question about Hannah's nudity very gracefully and of all the things I find unrealistic about the show, the nudity isn't an issue for me. Let's be honest: Pants are the enemy.
Jace: HA. I'm not bothered by the nudity at all within Girls. (Randomly, I'm listening to Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" right now, I should add.) To me, it's an integral part of the emotional reality of the show; Hannah's willingness to bare herself is not at odds with her interest in baring her emotions to everyone around her. And the scene in the season opener, where she rolls over to answer Jessa's call, makes so much more sense that she wouldn't be dressed; there's more verisimilitude because of it. Why are people still so bothered by the notion that she's not dressed, three seasons in?
Jaimie: (Sure. "Randomly.") Because Hannah doesn't have the conventional Hollywood body type. And as a twentysomething woman who doesn't either, I appreciate that. That said, I have to be honest and say, that I think it's incongruous with her very insecure character to be wearing bikinis (as we see in the trailer), some of those short shorts, mesh tops (*cough*), and the like. That, to me, doesn't make sense for her character. But in the comfort of her own home, it's very honest to see her not wearing clothes because, unlike in most shows, even on cable, we see someone get out of bed with their partner and put on clothes to answer the phone or something similar, which is just not realistic.
Jace: It's the magic of the L-shaped sheet that we see so often in television shows! To me, it's refreshing that Hannah, for her hang-ups in other areas, is very comfortable with her sexuality and her nudity. We should celebrate that, not denigrate it. But the show itself, to me, is refreshing in the honesty of how it handles the dynamic of female, twentysomething relationships. The Hannah-Marnie dynamic — with its embedded animosity and resentments — is endlessly fascinating to me. As is that between Hannah and Jessa. I loved the scene between them at the end of the second episode: anger mixed with relief.
Jaimie: UGH! JACE! UGH! I think I audibly groaned at the start of that scene. The way Jessa tried to deflect by complimenting Hannah on her hair was so annoying to me. And, in my mind, any human would respond with something to the effect of, "How dare you think complimenting me will get you out of this!"
Jace: But that's the essence of Jessa! She has an amazing ability to get out of most situations: She's a quicksilver insane person with preternatural skills to get under people's skins. She knows how to push buttons better than anyone.
Jaimie: I do not disagree. But Hannah's response was, "Thank you. I am happy you like it." Who says that when they're hurt and upset? And I feel like it takes away from the importance of that conversation that that silly hair back-and-forth exists and is supposed to be humorous. Largely, my anger with this show is when it makes twentysomething women look like ginormous fuck-ups and invites you to laugh at them! Hence my groan!
Jace: I don't see that scene in that way at all. These are two friends who, for all of their current issues, have deep-seated feelings for one another and a history. Did Jessa abandon Hannah last season and disappear for months? Absolutely. Is Jessa a truly terrible friend? Absolutely. But they haven't seen each other and she *would* comment on Hannah's haircut. I mean, she selfishly made Hannah (and Adam and Shoshanna) drive all the way up there to get her when she could have flown back herself. There's a desperation and a need within her to romanticize things — or make them sexier and bigger than they are — that's just so apparent. (Like how Richard E. Grant seems so charming and roguish until he's revealed to be a T-shirt-clad perv.) She can't help herself.
Jaimie: Jessa's behavior in this whole episode is very true to who Jessa is: an incredibly selfish person. I do not disagree with that. It's more of Hannah's response to her that I find inconsistent and unrealistic to who Hannah is. But going back to Jessa, her whole interaction with Laura was infuriating to me because, as the rehab director pointed out, it was so fucking selfish. But I am getting ahead of myself. Firstly, TAYSTEE (Danielle Brooks)! Secondly, can we talk about how horribly stereotypical Girls' first lesbian character was? A) They associated her sexual orientation with her having been molested. And on a far less serious note, B) THERE WAS AN EFFING VEST JOKE! Seriously?! It is 2013! If any comment should've been made about her attire it was that she was dressed straight out of a Limited Too! (Do those still exist? I hope so.)
Jace: I was waiting for you to bring up Laura! I thought the line about people thinking she was automatically great at sports because she was a lesbian was hilarious, even if some of the way she was introduced left a lot to be desired, particularly that correlation between sexual abuse and her sexuality. But the scene in which she and Jessa talk about secrets was great, I thought, because it gave us a glimpse of the real Jessa for a split second. And then, in true Jessa fashion, things took a turn for the crazy.
Jaimie: I did like seeing Jessa let her guard down. But for me, it didn't make up for the Laura character. Taystee deserves better. Though I did appreciate, like I mentioned, that Jessa was called out for thinking she did this woman a favor by going down on her. The straight woman offering to "experiment" with a gay woman schtick makes me want to throw things. But yes, I did laugh at the sports joke. I cannot tell a lie.
Jace: At least you will admit that! But I thought it was cheeky that it went from Jessa asking if she had ever kissed a girl to THAT moment.
Jaimie: 'Twas cheeky indeed. But "cheeky" is not something I wanted out of a Girls lesbian storyline. Especially how it all started with Jessa removing her "Females Only" sign. I mean, COME ON! On a different note, though I know we were seeing the rehab facility through the eyes of Jessa, I was uncomfortable by how much the group sessions were filled with what appeared to me to be intentionally humorous moments. And feel free to disagree with me, but the Kelvin character was clearly laughable. I find it a bit frustrating that Girls would treat whatever illness he has far less seriously than the show did Hannah's OCD last season. I hesitate to bring us into Q-tip territory, but it just feels unfairly inconsistent, particularly since we're aware that OCD is something Dunham has personal experience with.
Jace: Well… I'll address the Kelvin situation first. It's clear to me that he's there for treatment for addiction, which isn't what the show was asking the viewer to find funny, but rather his thoughts on how the addition of a frozen yogurt shop destroyed the Fellini-like fantasy he had constructed about his neighborhood. It acknowledged that there's bravery in confronting addiction, but acknowledging that this step doesn't make people automatically heroic, or unselfish, or wise in all aspects of their life. But I thought that there were a bunch of interesting choices throughout: like how the show is handling Marnie, who once seemed like she was the one who had it the most together. She's first shown sleeping on Rainbow Brite sheets on her mother's couch! She's working for Ray! She's waiting for the bus!
Jaimie: I disagree about Kelvin. On a lighter note, I had those Rainbow Brite sheets! But Marnie bores me as a character and I feel no compassion for her. And to me, it's cliched that the formerly most together person is falling apart the most. Can we move on?
Jace: *Grumbles* You'll eat those words when you see the next few episodes! But that's to me so much of what the show is about: not only those troughs and peaks, but the little hills that these characters encounter, the false starts, the heartbreaking stops that are quickly forgotten about. This season particularly feels like it's painting a picture of post-adolescent wandering and confusion that's really palpable while also making for compulsive viewing. They fall apart, they fall together. They fight, they hug, they drink, they swear, they make up. It's got a rhythm that's really unexpected and surprising.
Jaimie: Well, since you've seen more of this season than I have, I will (sort of, kind of, not really) trust you on that. The one person whose ups and downs make some sense to me are Adam's. His sweet moment with Marnie vs. his, in my opinion, completely fucked-up treatment of Hannah, whining that he can't sleep unless they have sex while Shoshanna was in the room, was offensive to both of them. And it bothered me immensely that Hannah didn't tell him to deal with it and then, after having not done that, to not apologize to Shosh?! Awful. He is a disgusting human and I was mad at myself for having liked him in that Marnie moment. I mean, his highs and lows make sense to me, but the show's handling of them drives me insane.
Jace: Well, during that scene, he admits that he's a "thug." And he doesn't come off well in that moment in the motel room, but that scene with Marnie — and the one with Shoshanna in the woods where he says that Hannah is his "best friend" — show that people, even Adam, are insanely complicated and capable of surprising depth. We get that he's not always the best guy. Wait, we haven't even discussed that scene at the coffee shop with Natalia and Amy Schumer!
Jaimie: Amy Schumer always! Speaking of that scene, if someone included the word "cum" in their Girls drinking game for this premiere, I fear that that someone is currently suffering from alcohol poisoning. But that scene was intended to make us empathize with Adam, as was the scene with Shosh in the woods, and with Marnie at dinner and that is frustrating to me because he truly treated Natalia abhorrently and in the motel scene, he also treated Hannah or Shosh disrespectfully in different ways. I'm glad Natalia told him he "fucked [her] like a piece of meat," but considering that very controversial scene last season and the fact that her confronting him included her yelling about having to get a blowout because he came all over her, that downplays how sexually horribly Adam treated her and, seemingly, women in general. It adds too much humor to that issue. It is troublesome!
Jace: It is troublesome, but I feel like the show addresses Adam's attitudes and behavior patterns with a degree of realism. (And as I discussed last year, it punctures the heterosexual male fantasies that are rooted in porn.) He's so childish at times, such as when he tells Hannah that he doesn't want her friends coming over. But he's capable of generosity and love and compassion, such as when he cares for Hannah last season. He's selfish and selfless. He's…sort of like a lot of guys his age. Or a lot of guys, period. I may not be able to convince you that this is necessary to the show!
Jaimie: "Childish" is generous. Listen, straight men in their twenties are not my area of expertise. And I am not complaining about that. Personally, I've felt alienated by this show quite often as a gay woman and I thought that was perhaps part of my hatred of it, but others I've spoken about it with haven't felt that way. So, I don't wholly know what it is about watching Girls that makes me so angry, but part of it is the inconsistencies I see and the lack of consequence I've mentioned and it's also that I do not want to be associated with these people. Not that I think the world works like this in general — yes, Girls is a TV show — but people who are not twentysomethings in New York have said things to me about the show, supposing that I relate. And 95% of the time, I do not. I am grateful that I do not.
Jace: It's certainly not my world. And perhaps there's an assumption that this represents the reality for twentysomething New Yorkers, that it reflects some basic element of their lives in a vivid way. Maybe it does for some? But it's representative of a very small group of people in a very small part of the world living in a very specific way. Even when I don't relate to every minute of Girls, I see human behavior patterns refracted through this specific lens. I don't, for a second, think that we're supposed to find these characters charming all the time or paragons of humanity. They are who they are.
Jaimie: I guess I see them as caricatures of humans more so than humans. But, this is Dunham's world. And that is the reality she chooses to represent, I suppose. And, of course, I'm glad that a twentysomething woman is getting to do the work she's doing. I think we can all agree that's a good thing.
Jace: It *is* a good thing! At least we can finally agree on something about Girls, Jaimie.
Jaimie: Miracles happen. I'll leave you to Robyn. And Icona Pop.
Jace: I'll buy you a cupcake.
Jaimie: Audible LOL. I'll keep it far from the bathtub.