Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 4

This is the fourth and final live-blogging post, reviewing episode 5.Marnie is miserable without Charlie, and is determined to get him back. She goes to the coffee shop where his roommate, Ray, works and gets their address—a hint towards how self-absorbed and selfish Marnie had been. She had never even been to Charlie’s apartment, so clearly he was putting forth most of the effort in their relationship. She argues back and forth with Charlie about getting back together, and during this the two remember how the first met.

Marnie visiting Charlie’s apartment for the first time.

In a flashback to their time in college, Marnie is freaking out about being “stuck to a pole” after eating pot brownies with a jello shot on top. Jessa is talking to her, asking her how she is feeling—if the music is going “wow-wow-wow” and if “it feels like her heart is going to fall out through her vagina.” In response to Marnie’s worried agreement to her statements, before running off Jessa says, “then I’m getting me one of those.” Hannah fawns over her distractedly, but ditches her when she wants to dance with her boyfriend. Not much has changed in terms of the three girls’ characteristic quirks—Marnie is still uptight, Hannah is self-absorbed and always puts herself first, and Jessa is a wild child and free spirit. Finally, Marnie meets Charlie, who hugs her and tells her everything is going to be okay.

Snapping back to the present, Charlie makes fun of the bangs Marnie had in college and tells her that he was convinced she was “the girl from sophomore sluts,” a porn video, and had to go back and watch it to see if it really was her. Marnie is horrified and caught off guard, as she didn’t know Charlie even watched porn…clearly evidencing the disconnect in their relationship.

Eventually Charlie agrees to get back together, after Marnie grovels and says she will do whatever he wants. They begin having sex, during which Charlie tells Marnie all the ways she needs to change and things she shouldn’t do anymore. It is clear that she is yes-ing him to get what she wants, and is just going along with it. But when Charlie continues with even more things and tells her to say “I love you,” she abruptly sits up and says she wants to break up. Perhaps she will now be able to figure out what she wants in a relationship and can be happy. Guess we will see next week!

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Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 3

This is the third of four posts, live-blogging a review of episode 5. Now, let’s focus on Jessa.

Jessa is not featured very much in this episode, but she does have a few scenes. We first see her when she is getting ready for an afternoon break from the family she babysits for. The husband of the family, Jeff, leans in the doorway of the bathroom, watching Jessa sensually put on her lipstick. They are clearly sharing a moment, but it doesn’t seem wrong until his wife, Katherine, comes home and interrupts them. All three clearly feel awkward, a hint that something was going on that shouldn’t have been.

Jessa walking in the park with her ex-boyfriend and soon-to-be fling.

Jessa kisses Katherine goodbye on both cheeks and makes a beeline out of there, to meet her ex-boyfriend from San Francisco at the park, who happens to be in town. It is unclear why he even wanted to meet up with her, because he talks about how much he loves his new girlfriend. But Jessa can see right past it. In just the next scene, they passionately bust into her apartment and have wild sex. Meanwhile, Shoshanna is hiding behind a curtain, watching them. She was home when they had first entered and awkwardly didn’t know what to do so she hid.

Shoshanna silently hiding behind the curtain in her apartment.

It is funny to watch Shoshanna’s shocked expressions throughout this scene, as it is clear this is her first experience with sex, even though she is not the one having it. Shoshanna’s innocence and naivety is the most refreshing, and often comical, part of “Girls.”

Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 2

This is the second of four posts, live-blogging a review of episode 5.

Though the rest of the show constantly switches between scenes featuring Hannah, Jessa or Marnie, I will focus on each plot line in a separate post. Continue reading the next two for an analysis of Jessa and Marnie in episode 5.

Hannah and her inappropriate boss, Rich.

I think Hannah is such a funny character because she takes herself too seriously, but is still self-conscious. The scene when Hannah confronts her new boss about sexual harassment in the workplace is a perfect example of this, and is just hilarious. Hannah approaches her boss, Rich, in his office and awkwardly tries to hit on him. He turns her down with surprise, so Hannah keeps pushing and places his hand on her breast. Much to her surprise and horror, Rich breaks out laughing and cannot stop. Hannah gets offended, and tries to turn the situation around by threatening to sue him for inappropriate advances in the workplace. Rich’s response is perfect and too funny; he exclaims, “Hannah, you barely have the wherewithal to get to work at 10AM, there’s no suing going on. There’s no suing app on your iPhone.” Even more offended, Hannah threatens to quit and before she leaves for good, she responds with an equally funny retort. “Someday I am going to write an essay about you and I am NOT going to change you name. And then you can sue me,” she says while walking out the door. Too perfect, and yay Hannah for somewhat standing up for yourself!

But then this small accomplishment towards having self-respect goes down the grain, when Hannah drops by Adam’s apartment. He is aloof and brushes her off, asking why she is even there. When she tries to touch him, he scoots out of the way and tells her not too. Poor Hannah is confused and taken aback—just earlier that day she had been telling Jessa about how Adam had changed and they were “basically together now.” Adam tells her the kissing and sex after she yelled at him didn’t mean anything, causing her to retreat to the bathroom, sit on the toilet and begin to cry.

Hannah begins to break down in Adam’s bathroom.

As a viewer, I just feel so bad for this pathetic girl; she can’t seem to grasp that Adam doesn’t care about her at all and is just using her, or has chosen to ignore it. But now reality has come crashing down upon her, and there is no hiding from it.

Hannah later emerges from the bathroom to find Adam masturbating in his room. She is rightfully grossed out and offended, yelling at him and turning to leave. But then Adam asks her if she wants to stay until he is done, which she agrees to do after taking a deep breath and turning around. Could she seriously get more pitiful? Guess we are back to old, pathetic Hannah again…until she realizes what she is doing and gets fed up. She tells Adam off, saying how disgusting it is that he is masturbating in front of her and that she wants $30 for cab money to go home. Adam weirdly seems to get off on seeing her act so dominantly. Hannah notices this, so when she looks in his wallet for the cab money and informs him he only has $100’s, she confidently adds that is taking one anyway. Then she makes Adam scream how sorry he is over and over again, which he likes this even more. This scene is bizarre, and a little uncomfortable to experience as a viewer, but it is good to see Hannah taking control of her situation with Adam for the first time. Hopefully she ditches him for good.

Season 1, Episode 5, “Hard Being Easy” – Part 1

This will be the first of four posts, live-blogging a review of episode 5.

Hannah reading her diary entry aloud.

This week’s show picks up right where episode 4 left off. The opening scene is one of the funniest parts of the whole episode, and is hilariously quote-worthy, thanks to Hannah’s tactlessness. Charlie makes Hannah read her diary entry aloud for Marnie to hear, which starts a whole new slew of arguments back and forth between the two lovers. Like usual, Hannah is incredibly self-absorbed during all this. In the midst of their fight, she makes it all about her and interjects, “Ok, I don’t want to split hairs here but it’s actually a journal not a notebook; it’s notes a notebook, like notes for a book…I’m just saying journal implies like a thirteen year old girl who rides horses and is obsessed with her mom, and that’s not what I’m doing.” Marnie responds with a terrifying glare and Charlie loses it, leaving the apartment. Now left alone with Marnie, Hannah callously pauses a few seconds and asks, “Hey Marnie, if you had read the essay and it wasn’t about you, do you think you would have liked it? Just as a piece of writing?” Marnie does not even dignify Hannah with a response and slams the door to her room.

Marnie’s death glare at Hannah’s self-absorbed comments.

The next morning, Marnie seems to have cooled down a bit and the two girls are having breakfast together. Marnie resolves to win Charlie back, which Hannah scoffs at and reminds her that she didn’t seem very happy when she was with him. Marnie quips back at Hannah that she just doesn’t understand because nobody has ever loved her that much. Realizing an awkward pause and that she may have been a little too harsh, Marnie quickly adds, “…as much as me, I love you. And your dad. And your boss.” Hannah thinks about it for a second, and responds, “I hate everyone that loves me.” Though this seems like an impervious response, it is telling of Hannah’s worldview and lack of self-esteem. She doesn’t even love herself, in fact she hates herself, and therefore hates anyone who feels differently—a possible explanation of why she repeatedly takes emotional abuse from Adam and never stands up for herself at work.

Lena Dunham in Rolling Stone Magazine

REVIEW of: “Girl on Top: How Lena Dunham Turned a Life of Anxiety, Bad Sex and Countless Psychiatric Meds into the Funniest Show on TV” by Brian Hiatt. (Read an excerpt of the article here.)

Dunham on the cover of this month’s Rolling Stone.

Lena Dunham (writer, director and star of “Girls”) is the cover girl of this month’s issue of “Rolling Stone Magazine.” The article (by Brian Hiatt) accompanying the cover was beautifully written, delving into Dunham’s childhood, personal life and deep connection with the show. Dunham’s authenticity and honesty struck me; she did not hold anything back in this interview, even discussing her personal struggles and psychiatric medications. While this may seem like an overshare, reading about her background helps you to better understand “Girls” as a viewer. It’s not just a witty television show, but one intimately based on her life.

As a child Dunham suffered from horrible OCD and anxiety, explaining some of Hannah’s phobias and preoccupations on the show (like her fear of what “gets up around the sides of condoms” in episode 2 and her feelings of discomfort towards sex throughout the series). In the article, Dunham explains that the character Shoshanna represents her as a child. “Shoshanna is the part of me that was terrified of sex and felt a little bit left out of the group,” she said in the interview with Hiatt.

Towards the end of the article, Dunham confronts the criticism she has received from “the show’s frequent depiction of sex as awkward and demeaning.” As I have pointed out in past reviews, this aspect of the show is raw, realistic and painful to watch, but necessary.

In the article, writer Brian Hiatt is spot on about this too. He comments that while this aspect may appear “awkward and demeaning” at first, “a closer look, however, suggests that Hannah clearly gets off on being degraded (though not to the point of being peed on)—and that her relationship with [Adam works] because he’s into doing the degrading.”

 Like everything else in “Girls,” this portion of the plot comes from Dunham’s personal experiences—“I had to watch out for it more in my younger days,” she said. “I also think I always have had an attraction to depicting degradation that I still haven’t worked out.”

Dunham is a work in progress and an inspiration–“following her dreams, one mistake at a time,” just like the characters on her award-winning television show. 

Season 1, Episode 4, “Hannah’s Diary”

Episode 4 is a disappointing tease; it finally seems like something good is going to happen for each character, but then things go horribly wrong.

Charlie singing excerpts from Hannah’s private diary.

Things seem to be improving between Marnie and her boyfriend, but then he sings a song based off things Hannah wrote in her diary about how they are wrong for each other and should break up. He storms off the stage at the song’s conclusion, clearly enraged. Marnie is shell shocked and throws her drink at Hannah, racing off to chase Charlie. Shoshanna reconnects with an old friend from camp and almost has sex with him, but when she mentions she is a virgin he bolts for the door. Jessa bonds with other nannies at the park, even trying to organize a union of child care specialists, only to realize while doing so, she lost the children.

And finally, we have Hannah. Adam “sexts” her a picture of himself, which seems like a step in the right direction towards normal couple behavior. Hannah is excited and makes a big deal out of it, even waking up Marnie and her boyfriend to joke about it. But then she receives another text from Adam, saying the picture wasn’t meant for her. She debates responding with Marnie, finally agrees with her not to write back…but then takes a picture of herself flashing the camera and hits send.

Once again, Hannah has outdone herself with pathetic, degrading behavior. While it is painful to watch, this portion of the series’ plot is important because it is relatable. Everyone has undoubtedly dated someone who didn’t appreciate them, yet they still kept coming back to them. It happens to the best of us. But “Girls” takes this dating ritual a step further, repeatedly dragging Hannah through the mud of emotional abuse and making her seem alarmingly pathetic… she just keeps coming back for more, no matter how horribly Adam treats her.

This part of the plot line seems jarring and unrealistic, because it so pitiful and heartrending. But then you start to think about it. Maybe viewing the situation as an outside observer is what makes Hannah’s decisions seem so sad and ridiculous…and maybe in the past, this is exactly how you appeared to others in a similar dating situation. Maybe you were in denial and were just as pathetic as Hannah, refusing to recognize the low you have sunk to. The thought is chilling, but this is exactly why I love “Girls.” The show raises issues like this, from the possibility of abortion to bad relationships, and makes you retrospectively consider and analyze them in a different light.

Hannah receiving an awkward and inappropriate massage from her new boss.

Things still aren’t finished for poor Hannah. She finally lands a job, but then becomes the target of her boss’ sexual advances. He inappropriately massages her and then cops a feel of her breasts. Hannah asks the other women in the office for advice, and they admit to putting up with his behavior for the consequential bonuses, like free iPods and gifts. It is interesting to see how Hannah is not okay with this type of treatment from her boss and balks at the women allowing it to happen, when all the while she allows essentially the same poor treatment emotionally from her boyfriend.Hannah bonds with the women at her job, telling them about Adam sending her the picture and then admitting it was for another girl. Just like Marnie and her boyfriend, the women react with horror. They cannot believe she would allow such cruel treatment and advise her to dump him immediately. You can see the wheels starting to turn in Hannah’s head, and you silently cheer for her when she is storming towards Adams door in the next scene. She tells him off, and it seems she is finally regaining her self-respect. You are so proud of her; this has been such a long time coming! …but then Adam kisses her and pulls Hannah into his apartment. And once again, Hannah is sucked back into an unhealthy relationship with Adam.

Like I said, this whole episode is such a tease. Hopefully things actually do get better in next week’s installment.

Season 1, Episode 3, “All the Adventurous Women Do”

Theoretically, episode three is full of drama—Hannah discovers she has HPV, Marnie has a hot encounter with an artist and Jessa finally gets a job—but when you’re watching it, it feels like not much is going on. But still, like past episodes, there are some subtle comedic gems throughout the plot that keep you watching.

The most interesting part of this episode was Hannah’s HPV debacle. Immediately after receiving the call from her gynecologist, Hannah informs Adam. He denies giving it to her and turns the situation around, blaming her for accusing him, possibly giving it to him and claiming that he had been tested already and is clean. He’s quite a master manipulator, as we will later find out.

Mortified, Hannah calls her ex-boyfriend, Elijah, to meet her for a drink so she can break the news to him. Hannah seems pretty calm and in control when she first sits down with him at the bar, but then all hell breaks loose. Elijah mentions that he has come out of the closet and has a boyfriend, which throws poor Hannah for a loop. She is supportive but it is clear that she is very upset.

Elijah keeps making it worse, telling her that he liked her because she appeared masculine, he was attracted to boys even while they were dating and he believes her father to be gay. Hannah starts crying, but recovers. She tells him about the HPV and, just like Adam, Elijah gets offended that she accusing him. He bitchily informs her that Adam must have been lying because there is no HPV test for men and they do not exhibit symptoms. Immediately, you can see the sinking feeling in Hannah’s eyes and your heart goes out to her. Perhaps she is just starting to listen to her inner voice, suggesting that Adam isn’t the greatest person. As an outside viewer, it’s obvious that he is a horrible person, manipulative and borderline emotionally abusive, but Hannah either doesn’t care or is so desperate for affection that she puts up with it. But maybe things will change after this.

Marnie and Booth Jonathan talking on the high line.

Marnie is working at a gallery opening when her boss crassly introduces her to Booth Jonathan. He is rude and aloof, which she finds attractive since her current boyfriend has no backbone. They share a moment outside on the high line, and Marnie girlishly tells him that she won’t kiss him. Jonathan acts like she is crazy, but then pushes her up against the railing and tells her, “I want you to know the first time I f*ck you, I might scare you a little. Because I’m a man and I know how to do things.” Then he just walks away without a word. This is probably my favorite scene of Girls so far, because it is just so absurd and hilarious.

Shoshanna shares a cute scene with Hannah, in which they bond over television shows and secrets. Shoshanna is important to the show, as she provides a balancing source of propriety, normalcy and innocence. Without her to anchor it, I think Girls would just seem chaotic and make viewers anxious.

Finally, Jessa lands a job babysitting for a busy family. She surprisingly seems to have a good rapport with the young girl she is looking after, uncovering a different side of her. In this light, we remember that Jessa is still a young girl in her twenties, despite the fact that she seems so worldly and experienced. She smokes weed with the father when he comes home late at night, and it seems the two are flirting. It will be interesting to see what happens there in the future.

All in all, an interesting and pretty funny episode of Girls.

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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