The HBO Series Girls Is An Excellent Dramatic Portrayal of Today’s Young Adults


I have a news flash! I love the HBO Series Girls. Quite honestly, I have avoided this program for quite some time. It had appeared to me that the drama would be another desperate dose of Jersey Shore with Snookie and her friends. Fortunately,  I needed to rest this weekend. It is still cool here, and I am not quite ready to hit my garden with full force. I didn’t see anything else to watch, and by default, I settled on Girls. In doing so, I discovered a treat.

Among other things, the series has outstanding music. Check out Michael Penn’s song Anchors Aweigh, which was played in Season 5, Episode 8

I cannot decipher all of Michael Penn’s lyrics in his haunting song Anchors Aweigh, but the final lines of the traditional Anchors Aweigh summarize the essence of the series Girls:

Farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam, Until we meet once more.
Here’s wishing you a happy voyage home

the series Girls is about the crossroads of four girls who have graduated from college in New York City. It is the time between their youths and what they will become. To confirm that this is merely the story of the crossroads period, we have been told that season six will end the series. The series has no intention of following these girls into adulthood. The jury is still out on whether or not all of the girls will make it “Home” during the remaining season, but Hannah seems to be headed in the right direction. She seems to be pursuing her own dream and to be doing so on her own terms.

The series Girls is primarily Hannah’s story, and everything about Hannah defies the vision of a Disney Princess. She is chubby, she is no beauty, and she is intellectual, in a seemingly naïve way. Hannah is played by Lena Dunham, the young genius who wrote and created the series. In the first episode, Hannah said:

“I don’t want to freak you out but I think that I might be the voice of my generation.”

This comment is not only true for Hannah, the character that Lena Sutton plays, but it is also true of the series as a whole. In my observation, there are several excellent television and Indie movies now that were recently written and created by young college grads. They all have a matter-of-fact, slice-of-life tone to them. In essence, they seem to be a realistic portrayal of the young adults of 2016. In my opinion, Girls is one of the best of that type of television programs. It is terse. It seems to be absolutely honest–especially in the earlier seasons, and it is undeniably fresh. It is not as serious and as mental as many of the newer Indy films are, but I wholeheartedly recommend the series Girls. It has its own virtues, and it is fairly simple to digest.

At the beginning of the series, Marnie seems to be Hannah’s best friend and roommate. Jessa is the beautiful British girl who looks like a Bohemian fairy nymph. Throughout the series, Hannah is described as narcissistic and self-absorbed, but I don’t find her anymore so than the other girls. Marnie is a high-maintenance control freak, and Jessa is a gorgeous train wreck.

If people can be defined by their tendencies toward fight or flight, Jessa is a flyer–at least that is the case early in the series.

Marnie says to Hannah, “Every time she comes into town, you go on some week-long bender, and then she leaves to go off to her next country and I’m left to pick up the pieces.” 

Early in the series, the viewer begins to understand that things are not actually the way they seem. While Jessa is walking toward the place where all of her friends are awaiting her–to help her through her abortion, the song I want to spend my life with a girl like you plays:

The most obvious message is that NO one can spend his life with a girl like Jessa–at least not with the Jessa of Season 1. I believe that the vintage song is played to heighten our understandings of the fact that this is not a series about girls in the 1960s.

I have written several posts about the Romantic ideal of youth. William Blake and several other Romanticists were proponents of youthful innocence, as opposed to the disenchantment of adults. The HBO Series Girls focuses on a group of recent college grads who are beginning to deal with the disappointments that invariably accompany the young adult’s journey into adulthood.

It’s hard to tell someone so young that things don’t always end up the way you thought they’d be. – Ray of the series Girls

One of the nice things about the series Girls is that it is lightly comedic.

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything. – Kurt Vonnegut

Generally speaking, I do not like comedy; and as I said before, Girls is light comedy. Beneath that bit of lightness, the series speaks several truths–some of them are quite depressing.

No one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself, okay? So any mean thing someone’s gonna think of to say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour!-Hannah

At the beginning of the series, Hannah is chasing the feral, wild mystery man Adam. It is obvious that Adam has no interest in Hannah. He won’t even return her texts, but he is perfectly happy to use her sexually. Hannah feels so very bad about herself that she is perfectly fine with his neglect.

In some ways, Hannah comes across as a happy, carefree person; but in other ways, we are allowed to see that she is anxious, self-conscious, and afraid of failure. The following song is from Episode 1, and it says a great deal about all of the girls during the first season:

Depression begins with disappointment. When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement. – Joyce Meyer

As the first episode of season ends, the following by Paul Simon’s son Harper plays:

It is perfect. It reflects the tone of the series and it sums up the situation:
There are more wishes than stars.

During Season 1, the girls are trying all sort of things to make themselves feel better–more acceptable. They all seem to share a need to mate–to fall in love and to feel more acceptable. They are willing to change–to sell their souls–to find a nitch for themselves:

Hannah discovers that  she has an STD and meets with her former boyfriend, who gave her the disease. At that meeting, she discovers that her former boyfriend is gay.

Meanwhile, Jessa [the trainwreck] begins to gravitate toward having an affair with the father of the children whom she babysits.

The girls on the series begin to shift beds like a game of musical chairs., and they either ditch or blow one job after another. In doing so, their mistakes begin to loop around themselves.

During Episode 6, Hannah returns to her home in  Michigan, and she sees some of her high school friends. In doing so, she gets a glimpse of how life might have been–if she had never left Michigan and moved to New York City. n some ways, returning home is a breath of fresh air:

She goes out with a high school friend, who is now a pharmacist. Unlike her boyfriend Adam in New York, her Michigan date is kind and supportive:

I have been dating someone who treats my heart like it’s monkey meat. I feel like a delusional, invisible person half the time so I need to learn what it’s like to be treated well before it’s too late for me.

All-in-all, however, on her return to Michigan, Hannah felt like a fish out of water– a feeling that she calls delusional.

During Episode 7 of Season 1, Hannah is back in New York City at a Rave party. After she dumped him, Marnie’s “true love” Charlie has moved on to another true love, and Hannah’s boyfriend is at the party with another girl. Shoshanna accidentally gets high on crack, as opposed to marijuana, and Jessa promises her that she will take care of her and be her “Crack Spirit Guide.” Seconds later, Jessa dumps Shoshanna to hook up with the father of the kids that she babysits.

Eijah sheds more light on Marnie when he attempts to tell her that like Hannah, she is also selfish. He reminds her that while he was Hannah’s boyfriend, she had slept with him. Marnie is in absolute Denial. At the beginning of the series, she seems to be the nuruturing, mothering type; but upon closer review, we realize that because she needs to be in control and to manipulate, she merely plays the part of the mother.

Marnie is caught in a black hole. She doesn’t want to be Charlie’s girlfriend, but she doesn’t want him to move on. At the times that she sees him enjoying another relationship, she wants him back and grieves. But again, it is not Charlies that she wants. She merely wants control and to remain the subject of his love.

Adam’s behavior begins to shift toward Hanna, who desperately needs his love.

In review, Marnie does not love Charlie and does not want to be his girlfriend, but she does not want him to love anyone else. In an earlier episode, Charlie had read Hannah’s journal, which revealed Marnie’s true lack of feeling toward him. He broke up with Marnie, and Marnie decided that she no longer wanted to room with Hannah. Although what Hannah had written was true and although she wrote it in what she thought was a private journal, Marnie does not want to hear the truth, and she does not want to deal with its consequences. Hannah is left in an apartment and has no means of paying her own rent now. Marnie, her controlling freak , is gone.

For better or worse, Hannah finally catches Adam, and he becomes Hannah’s next crutch.

In Episode 9, Hannah is confronted with the fact that one of her college classmates has become a successfully published writer. This both irritates and motivates her.

Also in Episode 9, the mother of the children she babysits and the wife of the man with whom she has had a fling confronts Jessa with some burning truth:

“I bet you get into these dramas all of the time, where you cause all of this trouble and you don’t know why….In my opinion, you’re doing it to distact yourself from becoming the person you’re meant to be.” Katherine to Jessa

In the same episode, Hannah and Marnie get into an explosive argument about who is the most selfish of the two of them–i.e. “Who Is the Wound?” This is basically the end of the Hannah and Marnie as roommates.

In Episode 10 of Season 1, Marnie moves out of the apartment that she had shared with Hannah, but Adam quickly rushes to fill the empty space in both Hannah’s apartment and her life.

Shortly afterward, all of the “friends” are invited to Jessa’s mystery party, which turns out to be her surprise wedding.

Her wedding attire was perfect, and we’ll soon learn that her rushed marriage is not [she had only known the groom two weeks].

During Episode 10, we see that Adam has become a much better match for Hannah, but she opts for her old boyfriend [who had since become gay] to move into her aprtment, as opposed to allowing Adam to move in. Adam is angered and Hannah tries to excuse her choice by saying that she is afraid all the time. Because he is distracted by the fight, Adam is hit by a truck. Elijah moves into her apartment, but Hannah finds herself saddled with the responsibilites of emptying bedpans and doing other things to help Adam after his injury.

Season 2

While Adam is recuperating from his injury, Hannah continues to take care of his health issues, but she merges into another sexual relationship. Yet, Elijah becomes her roommate. Hannah and Elijah have a party, and Marnie’s old boyfriend Charlie brings his current girlfriend. Probably for several reasons, Elijah and Marnie begin to have sex. This will come up several times later in the series.

As Episode 2 begins, Hannah and Adam are broken up and Marnie cannot find a job. Elijah’s boyfriend leaves him, and Elijah and Hannah are forced to face life without Elijah’s boyfriend’s financial support. Marnie takes a high-paying job as a hostess in a men’s club. Hannah breaks up with yet another boyfriend, and Adam surprises Hannah by showing up at her apartment. Hannah is spooked and called 911–a move that results in Adams’ being arrested.

Episode 3

At the beginning of Episode 3, Hannah lands a free-lance job, writing for the Internet. Seeking a subject for writing, she decides to go to a club and try cocaine.

At her club job, Marnie connects with a successful artist.

While they were high at the club, Elijah admitted to Hannah that he and Marnie had sex.

Episode 4

Episode 4 is  the beginning of the end for Jessa’s fairytale marriage. Jessa had married a proper, successful businessman whose parents are top drawer. When they come to town to meet their new daughter-in-law, Jessa seems to sense that she will not meet their expectations. She acts out ridiculously, and the other shoe hits the floor.

Back at their apartment, Thomas John accuses Jessa of being a golddigger,

‘The money is irrelevant to you? Do you think I think it’s an accident that you ended up with the only finance guy who made a profit from the recession? I’m a miracle! ‘I’m a unicorn! I’m a needle in a haystack and you’re just some dumb hipster who’s munching my hay.’ – Thomas John to Jessa

Jesssa essentially tells Thomas John that he only hung around her to pretend to be cool.

‘You’re just some scared guy who didn’t get laid until he was 16. No one liked you in high school and no one likes you now. I am embarrassed when we walk down the street because you’re so average. I told my friends you were born a test tube baby just so you have a little edge.’ – Jessa to Thomas John

In all reality, both Thomas John and Jessa are correct in their summations of the other.

Hannah has kicked Elijah out of the apartment, and she has a dinner party for the rest of her crowd. Marnie and Charlie’s new girlfriend get in a fight, and Marnie leaves the party.

Later that evening, Marnie sucks Charlie back into her coil and immediately slaps him with the news that she is seeing someone else now. This push-pull-poison is typical behavior for Marnie.

After her break up, Jessa goes to see Hannah and cries. That is one of the few times that we see Jessa’s vulnerability.

Episode 5

In Episode 5, Hannah falls into another random relationship. This time, the guy is older and very successful. In her usual way, she talks too much and blows any chance that the relationship will last, but she does say one thing that is central to understanding all of the girls’ behaviors in the movie:

“I realize I’m not different. I want what everyone wants. I want what they all want. I want all the things. I just want to be happy.” – Hannh

The title of this episode is One Man’s Trash.  Hannah quickly realizes that she is not in the right place, and as she walks away, one is left to wonder if she felt that she herself was one man’s trash.

Episode 6

In Episode 6, Marnie gets a wake-up call about the relationship that she thought that she was having with a narcissistic artist. When he asks Marnie to be the hostess at one of his professional parties, she thought that he wanted her there as his girlfriend. When he began to pay her for her services, Marnie was taken down a notch or two. Afterward, she called Hannah and both girls lie, saying that their lives are much better than they are.

Ray gets saddled with the task of returning a mutt dog that Adam had stolen. In the very final scene, the viewer is left feeling that Ray also feels like a mutt dog.

Episode 7

During Episode 7, Hannah joins Jessa in a trip that she makes to visit her burned-out, Hippie father. The viewer is able to begin to understand why Jessa is the way that she is.

Jessa’s dad lives in a big, white house in the boondocks of what appears to be upstate New York. The set is perfect. The dad and his girlfriend raise rabbits and after Hannah is invited to pet the rabbits during the day, she realizes that they are eating one of them at night. Hannah’s unfortunate sexual encounter in Episode 7 is with a 19-year-old. Even Jessa is appalled.

Jessa confesses to Hannah that visiting her dad was a mistake. She tells Hannah that the two of them have completely different types of parents.

Jessa tries to explain her disappointment to her father and reminds him that she is the child and not he.

We see Hannah’s dad driving away, and Jessa explains to Hannah that he won’t come back because that is what he does. The next morning, Hannah awakens and Jessa is gone and has stranded Hannah, too.

Episode 8

In Episode 8, Hannah exhibits the symptoms of being Obsessive Compulsive.

Marnie discovers that Charlie has created an App and is now wealthy. [There is no mystery about how Marnie will feel about that–she rushes to see Charlie and to begin to tighten her noose once more.]

At an Alcoholics Meeting, another member of the group fixes Adam up on a blind date with her daughter. The AA group leader’s t-shirt says: “Too may freaks, not enough circuses.”

Adam meets the lady’s daughter for dinner:

Hannah’s parents visit the city and they eat dinner at a club where Judy Collins is performing Someday Soon.

Hannah’s parents take her to see a psychiatrist, and Ray encourages Marnie to follow her bliss, which she says is that of singing:

Episode 9

In Episode 9, Adam’s new relationship gets more serious, but while he is out with his new girl Natalia, he bumps into Hannah again.

Adam tells Hannah that he has a new girlfriend and he goes back inside where Natalia is. There is a hint that his meeting Hannah again unnerved him:

Marnie goes to visit Charlie at his new business again. He invites her to the celebration party that night. Marnie decides to use the party as an opportunity to debut her new vocal career, but Charlie and others at the party are embarrassed for her, but Charlie and Marnie hook up again anyway.

After Adam and Natalia’s party, Adam sexually humiliates Natalia in the ways that he did when Hannah began chasing him. Natalia told Adam that she didn’t like his behavior, and the camera faded.

We see Hannah sitting at home alone, on the side of her bathtub, digging into her ears with a q-tip

Episode 10

In the beginning of Episode 10, Hannah is still obsessively digging at her ears and googling information about her perceived health problems. Because of her emotional condition, Hannah is behind in a writing project for which she has already been paid. The publishers threaten legal action. She tries to borrow money from her parents again, but she fails in that mission.

Marnie and Chalie are sexually involved again,

Hannah had wanted to pursue a career in writing, and she had applied to and was accepted into a prestigious writing graduate program. Just as her relationship with Adam had begun to turn around, she opted to temporarily move away to pursue her MFA in writing. Her experience at the graduate program was a disappointment to her. After only a month of study, she returned to New York City and essentially gave up her dream of writing–at least for a while. Although she had only been gone for one month, she expected that her boyfriend and her apartment would still be waiting for her–just as she had left them.

Hannah gave up for a while and she accepted a job as a teacher. Someone in her circle voiced the common insulting words: Those who can, do–those who can’t teach. 

Immediately after leaving the graduate program, Hannah does feel like a mistake, and the series becomes a testimony about Hannah’s continued efforts to find happiness:

There are three female stars other than Hannah, and each of them has a different personality and they seek happiness in different ways. As each of the girls walks into and out of one disappointment after another, we see how different personality types respond to life’s challenges.

Shoshana takes a job in Tokyo, and the photographs of her apartment in Japan are a treat.

Sometimes, at night, I think about Japan, and I’m like, “Did I create this country in my mind?” – Shoshanna on Girls

For the most part, however, is that the series is no fairy tale. Every girl makes one mistake after another, and the viewer has a front row seat to see the efforts that they make, trying to survive.

Hannah is repeatedly called a narcissist in the show, and she does have narcissistic tendencies toward self-absorption. It is Marnie, however, that seems to be the most selfish and the most compartmentalized. After attempting a career as a curator of an art gallery, Marnie decides to pursue singing. She gets involved with another singer, and after a short courtship, they marry.

In the beginning, the folk-singer marriage is blissful, but after the glitter begins to fade, Marnie  becomes disenchanted with her husband and marriage:

In an atypical moment of clarity, Marnie did say one thing that is true about relationships, but her resolve does not last:

Marnie: People who work on things stay together. Otherwise you’re gonna end up alone. Like Cher.
Hannah: Can’t I end up alone, but not like Cher?
Jessa: You’re already like Cher.
Hannah: I’m gonna choose to take that as a compliment.

In general, however, Marnie is far less wise and other-oriented. The following words are more typical  of Marnie and her behavior:

 Marnie: I don’t want to be married to you. It’s not even your fault. I mean, yeah, you’re an asshole, but it’s really not your fault. I just… I knew I shouldn’t have married you. I just didn’t want to give up on yet another dream.
Desi: What are you talking about?
Marnie: I just don’t know who I am right now. I’m like a ghost of myself. I don’t know what I’m doing here or anywhere else. But I don’t want to be married to you.

Look, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I think I knew we were going to get divorced before we even got married. I was just really scared of what it was that I knew that I needed. I think that what I need is to be… Alone. – Marnie on Girls Series

The hope of the beginning”? You mean when you had a girlfriend and I saw you like twice a week and half the times we fucked you covered my face with a pillow because you couldn’t handle the guilt? Do you remember that? Jesus Christ, I have some, like, serious shit to work out. So do you. I’m not sure you’re capable of it but… that’s not my problem anymore.

Jessa is a gorgeous, Bohemian free spirit. She is also fairly selfish, and her manner is gruff. She has a serious drug problem, and on the exterior, she seems not to care about anyone or anything but herself and her own needs. As the plot develops, however, we are allowed to understand that Jessa is not as confident, heartless, and self-assured as she seems.

As often happens among groups of girls, there is a tendency for the members of the group to switch partners. That is always fodder for good drama. In the beginning of the series, Hannah’s boyfriend is Adam, but in season 5, Jessa and Adam get together. At this point, Jessa had decided to become a psychologist. I love the following way that Adam describes her:

She’s a beautiful fuckin’ rainbow. Cutting and sublime. And she’s gonna be the best fuckin’ therapist ever. I envy her future patients because she’s a truth-teller. And her perfect face is the least beautiful thing about her.

Jessa truly is a beautiful person. She is almost fairy-like, but I don’t believe that even Adam will continue to see her as flawless as a rainbow. She has her own demons, and the entire series is about how the various characters move beyond and fail to do to move beyond their limitations and more toward healthy perspectives. Regardless of the differences in their personalities and the differences in their efforts to cope, each character is driven by the  same needs to be happy and the needs to find themselves:

“I have work. I have a dinner thing. And then I am busy… trying to become who I am.”

Both Adam and Jessa have a feral quality about themselves. They actually met in Alcoholics Annonymous, and the are fighting dragons that the other girls are not. Not surprisingly, they get together for a while, but their explosive, wild, and out-of-control behavior is obvious when they nearly destroy their apartment during a fight in the final episode of Season 5.

After her break up with Adam, Hannah begins to date another teacher who seems to be squeaky clean and perfect.

You are incapable of loving someone who is kind to you. – Hannah’s mother to Hannah

“Fuck nice. Nice is a mask people wear to hide their inner assholes,” – Spa Counselor to Hannah

This is not a children’s show. It is not another Full House, and I do not recommend the series Girls for kids younger than high school, but I do recommend Girls for every teen and young adult. This is their story, and it is told in an expert way.

During the final episode of season 5, Hannah gets back into her writing and begins to take more care of herself. While in Season 1, Episode 1, Hannah is dependent upon her parents, in the final episode of Season 5, Hannah is ready to jog past them when she sees them waiting outside her apartment. She is ready to move on.

I think you guys really did fuck me up. – Hannah to her mother

©Jacki Kellum April 24, 2016



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