I generally try not to hate on other women. Tearing each other down keeps us divided and easy to conquer. It definitely has something to do with why we don't make as much money in the workplace. It's not ladylike. But, so help me, there is something about Hannah Horvath that makes me want to say really devastatingly scathing things about her haircut.
I don't like "Girls." I don't like when it's compared to "Sex And The City," and I don't like hearing that it's the voice of my -- well, not generation, but demographic. And yet, I continue to watch it, mostly due to a prevailing sense that Lena Dunham has put in all those little things I find so irritating to force me to figure out why they irritate me.
From the beginning, I have found the show to be alienating. In Hannah, Dunham has created a character that goes against pretty much everything experience has taught me to be true: that you cannot behave like a narcissistic, self-absorbed, unprofessional brat and still get to have friends, a boyfriend, and a job that is fulfilling. It's difficult to relate to -- or to want to relate to -- someone who rejects so thoroughly the self-improvement that I have always found necessary to get good things in life.
I understand that Dunham is daring us to say that her flawed characters don't deserve to be loved. That because Hannah is whinily self-absorbed and her haircut looks like the group home mandated it after one too many peanut butter incidents (I'm sorry! I told you I was having mean thoughts!) she doesn't deserve to be loved by Adam, or have a sexy weekend with Patrick Wilson. Daring us to say that Adam doesn't deserve to be loved because he behaves like a fascist gorilla, has a history of verbal abuse, and frequently does things like slam Hannah's laptop shut as she's working because he has arbitrarily decided it's "BEDTIME NOW." Flawed people do deserve to be loved. 'Cause, I mean, like, we're all flawed. So what's different about the two I just described?
I would argue that the reason we love people in spite of their flaws -- or even, love their flaws -- is because of a general understanding, a mutual agreement, that though we all have little instances of weakness where those flaws get out and fly around the coop, we're all generally trying to be the best versions of ourselves that we can -- even if it's just to maintain the friends/boyfriend/job situation -- but hopefully, too, because we love and respect ourselves. So, when I watch Hannah take a personal phone call in the middle of an on-the-clock interview with Patti LuPone, ask her editor's widow for the name of another publisher, be masturbatorily self-indulgent about her OCD and eat ice cream in the middle of the day, I'm like, come on, bitch. If I don't get to do those things, neither do you.
The iconic characters of "Sex And The City" have made plenty of mistakes as they've explored the territories of hooking up, messy dating, getting hurt, and sexual escapades -- all themes Dunham's girls have wrestled with as well. The difference is that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are aspirational characters: they're socially adept and successful, they're amazing friends to each other, their fashion is killer, and they're playing active roles in their own destiny. Granted, they're in their 30s, so they could have been hot messes a decade prior. But when we meet them, they're living to the best of their abilities. Because I view them as positives, I want to put myself into their shoes -- er, Choos -- and in doing so, I figure out what I would do should I ever find myself on the receiving end of a breakup Post It, God forbid. I'm with them at their lowest, because as infuriating as it is to watch Carrie cheat on Aidan, I know it's one of those instances of weakness, rather than an inherent part of her character. "Sex And The City" functions as a parable in a way that "Girls" doesn't, and it has taught me important lessons about love, integrity, and female friendship.
Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna are not girls I aspire to be. There is no need to try on any of their footwear.
A more apt comparison to make with "Girls" would be with "Louie." Though they're obviously very different, "Louie," like "Girls," shows us a flawed protagonist who is often quite frustrating. Watch the episode with the amazing Gaby Hoffmann and you'll see what I mean. In it, he is passive to the point of losing a girlfriend he probably would have liked to have kept. Like Hannah, Louie is overweight and not conventionally handsome. His appearance, self-deprecation, and honesty work to disarm us and bring us in to explore some really relatable human stuff with him, and the result is brilliant.
Dunham would probably point out to me here that we're much more accepting of hefty dudes on TV and at large, and she would be right. Even if I don't like how it manifests, she is undeniably putting up a very cool fight against some of the grosser aspects of Hollywood and attitudes towards women. I admire and respect her as an artist. Which is why I continue to watch the show, and why I'm waiting for her to reveal why, with this privilege she holds of being considered the voice of, well, young white middle class women, she has created characters who set the bar so low. With someone as emotionally intelligent as Dunham, I keep thinking surely this next episode will be the one where she reveals her cards, and it's all been leading to something greater than the sum of the show's irritating little parts, and maybe I'll even agree that she's our voice.
Or, she'll obsessively worry that whoever writes her obituary won't "get" her while eating a cupcake.