Season 1, Episode 2, “Vagina Panic”

In the second installment, it is painfully clear that Hannah’s “boyfriend,” Adam, is using her for sex and doesn’t care about her. Whenever Hannah tries to be affectionate or share a moment, Adam shoots her down with disgust. It is clear he wants nothing to do with her unless she is naked in his bed, and even then he emotionally distances himself. But Hannah is so emotionally needy and has such low self esteem that she allows Adam to treat her so terribly and is actually okay with it.

Marnie has the opposite problem; her boyfriend treats her wonderfully and she finds it unattractive. She complains about her boyfriend to Hannah, saying, “He’s so busy respecting me, that he looks right past me and everything that I need from him”—a statement that sounds self-involved and conceited, but rings oh so true to girls dating in their twenties. Despite how odd it sounds, it is hard to find a man that strikes the perfect balance between loving and hating you. A man who is obsessed with you and does whatever you want, like Marnie’s boyfriend, is a turn off, but so is Hannah’s “boyfriend” who emotionally abusive unless he is sleeping with her at the moment. Therefore, the type of guy who lives his own life and does what he wants, while still making a girl feel important and loved, is ideal.

In addition to relationship woes, the episode raises other tricky coming-of-age obstacles, like propriety and women’s health issues, with self-deprecating humor.

When Hannah interviews for a new writing job, she seems to be hitting it off with her potential boss. They talk about living in Brooklyn and favorite bars, which puts Hannah at ease…but too much so, as she then makes a joke about rape. All good humor and friendliness drains from her interviewer’s face, and he tells her that the position “isn’t going to work out.” While hopefully most people do not crack jokes about rape at job interviews, the scene highlights the difficult line that must be navigated during conversation with superiors, something all viewers can relate to at some level.

Jessa, Hannah and Shoshanna share a moment on a park bench before Jessa's abortion appointment. // source: www.pajiba.com

Jessa, Hannah and Shoshanna share a moment on a park bench before Jessa’s abortion appointment. // source: http://www.pajiba.com

Picking up from last episode’s pregnancy confession, Marnie schedules an abortion for Jessa at a Soho women’s clinic. However, Jessa is either too nervous or absent-minded to make the appointment, instead choosing to drink milk at a bar and make out with a stranger who asks to use her cell phone. Things get heated with him, and he informs Jessa that she “is bleeding.” It’s unclear whether this means she is actually not pregnant, or is having a complication with her pregnancy. Nevertheless, she never makes an appearance at the women’s clinic. Marnie is frustrated beyond belief by this and exclaims to Shoshana and Hannah how “there is seriously nothing flakier in this world than not showing up to your own abortion.”

While at the clinic, Hannah takes the opportunity to get tested for HIV, as she has “a Forrest Gump-based fear about AIDs” and the “stuff that goes up around the sides of a condom.” She is convinced she may have some type of STD, but refuses to admit to herself it is because she knows Adam isn’t faithful. She would rather fear “the stuff that goes around the sides of a condom” instead of the reality of her situation, and the very little respect Adam holds for her.

-Danielle Kaslow

Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”

HBO’s award-winning series, Girls, is centered around four twenty-something girls following their dreams in New York City, one mistake at a time. The show first began airing in April 2012, and has begun its second season a couple weeks ago. I decided to review the series episode-by-episode, starting with the pilot.

Hannah at dinner with her parents. // source: http://www.toledoblade.com/image/2013/01/12/800x_b1_cCM_z/Lena-Dunham-HBO.jpg

Hannah at dinner with her parents. // source: www.toledoblade.com

 

The first episode begins with the main character Hannah, played by series writer Lena Dunham, getting cut off from her parents’ financial help. The scene was interesting and captivating, because the portrayal was so honest. As a twenty-something myself, this is a situation I am not looking forward to and hence was something I found relatable. The scene is also important, as it introduces the subtle style of humor used throughout the series. Although Hannah is panicking and arguing with her parents in the scene, it is still quite funny as her mother quips back and is somewhat harsh. The way in which Dunham structures the dialogue in this scene, and all the rest to come in the series, uncovers how the characters are not purposefully trying to be funny; they are just responding naturally to conversation, and as viewers we see the humor in the truth of the situation. It’s similar to humor of when a young kid says something hilarious but has no idea of their comment’s comedic value; as viewers of Girls, we are privy to the comedy of the characters’ lives while they are busy taking themselves too seriously.

And they really do seem to take themselves pretty seriously throughout the pilot episode, in addition to appearing endearingly arrogant and entitled. Hannah is confounded by her parents cutting her off and not being able talk her way back into their money. She receives this harsh bit of reality, followed by another when she is fired from her unpaid internship at a publishing house, and another when her “boyfriend” continually ignores her text messages. Things seem to just get worse and worse for her, especially when she gets high off opium tea, bursts into her parents’ hotel room and then passes out in front of them onto the floor.

In the midst of Hannah’s melodrama, we are introduced to her beautiful roommate Marnie, whose biggest problems in life are her dislike for her devoted boyfriend and a rude dinner guest. Somehow Dunham is able to successfully express how these things seem like the end of the world to Marnie while still making her relatable to viewers and seem like the most level-headed, responsible one; quite a feat indeed.

Finally, we meet Hannah and Marnie’s free-spirited, British friend, Jessa, has recently returned from France to live with her younger Sex and the City-obsessed cousin, Shoshanna (a nod to the many critics who believed Girls would become HBO’s new version of Sex and the City, which it thankfully is not. The show is much too honest for that; the sex is bad, the girls are poor, and it depicts just how unglamorous life in New York City can be). We do not see much of either during the pilot episode, but both have huge personalities that are sure to mesh humorously well with those of Marnie and Hannah.

Taken as a whole, Girls seems to be a melancholic and realistic look into the lives of girls beginning their adult lives in a big city. Realistically, everything that happens in the first episode is downright depressing, from Hannah allowing herself to be treated badly by her man due to her low self-esteem, to Jessa revealing that she is pregnant. But it is the small doses of humor quietly infused throughout the episode that make watching the show enjoyable, and less like a long, hard look in the mirror.
-Danielle Kaslow

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