Dunham’s absurdity best read as satire

Quiz: Which Girls character said each line in Sunday’s episode, “Free Snacks?”

1. “So? It’s chic.”

2. “He’s so stupid I’m worried our children like wouldn’t get into preschool.”

3. “No offense, I’m like a writer-writer.”

4. “Muffins from the place you run, what an extravagant gesture.”*

My relationship with Girls is, like, pretty complicated because I started watching it Freshmen year with my super cute friend Hadley. So of course I totally loved it. But since then, in college, I have learned that there are some things that are not okay. I mean, come on, feminism? We are capable, attractive, educated ladies, and if this show is not representing us right, we have the duty to speak our minds. Know what I am saying?

Even breaking from my Girls character, “Free Snacks” was a pleasant surprise. Having skipped a few episodes made it far more entertaining. Marni and Ray’s new coupling seemed inevitable. As a pair, they watch shitty reality tv, eat vegan muffins, and get into a fight about Africa. Marni exclaims, entirely seriously, “one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t spend a semester abroad doing community service in Africa.” When Ray argues that Western aid is a primary reason Africa cannot progress, Marni derides him: “That’s pretty racist, Ray.” It was during this conversation the show suddenly made sense. This is satire. The characters have their heads so far up their asses, they are essentially cartoons.

Another absurd character this episode is Shoshanna. Wandering around Brooklyn, searching for Ray, face half covered by Audrey Hepburn glasses and sporting a fancy blue coat, she embodies the ultimate wounded ex. After receiving only a head-nod from Ray, she rushes to Jessa for help, a joke if there ever was one, because Jessa exclusively gives cruel or irrelevant advice. Jessa appears only this one instance in the episode. She bullies a woman into buying a black christening dress that is too small for her child. A cartoon, right? Shoshanna decides, “like, step 1, I need to be in a solid, mature committed relationship with someone who understands my goals and values.” Although Jessa could care less, Shosh articulates this need in the proud, privileged tone we have grown to expect. Just as in middle school, however, simply saying something i.e: “I’m going to get my braces off and then Tom will ask me out” does not mean it will happen.

Despite a lackluster selection, Shoshanna decides to enter a committed relationship with Parker even though he is “so stupid.” She lays out the ground rules of their relationship as he bends her over a couch and enters her from behind. “We need to have at least four couple hangouts a week.” It is so ridiculous as to be mildly funny. But only mildly. Hannah’s story, finally, dominates. As a senior currently trolling for jobs, her conflicted feelings towards her new job at GQ in the “advertorial department” strings. While clowning about her new job, “overdoing” it on the free snacks, and alienating her co-workers, she whines that she wants to “get in and get out” because she’s a real writer. At one point, she is so distressed that she sticks her head under the sink and dowses her hair. She quits the job, and seconds later, asks to be rehired. “I’m ordering copper pipes right now, I really don’t have time for this. Want to just send me an email saying whether you still work here or not?” responds her hilariously low key, hyper-chic boss.

The episode, as others, produces disparate agendas. One moment, Hannah’s arms are so filled with bagels, candy, and chips that the snacks tumble all over the boardroom table – a clearly slapstick, satirical moment. No one is that ludicrously childish that they would set such a poor first impression on their coworkers. The next moment, however, Hannah is weeping in her cubicle because she is afraid of giving up on her dreams of being a writer. This moment is, for better or worse, dramatic. The audience is meant to care about Hannah, or identify with her, or at least feel pity for her situation. It feels counterintuitive because she was just enacting a cartoon character.

When and where do we draw the line? Should we follow the sentimental aspects of Girls or accept the rampant female stereotypes as entertainment? The characters endlessly perform and articulate who they are, what kind of life they want to live and are living, and their emotional state. Often, however, these repetitions seem different from the actual places in which each girl is. With the exception of Hannah, all of the Girls seem abundantly lonely. When the women are together, however, they perform these strange versions of a “best self” dependent on the situation, exhibitions that tend towards the farcical. It seems, then, that when in groups, the Girls are characters, and when they are alone, they are worthy of our identification. Everyone can relate to missing an ex (Shoshanna), being in a rut (Marni), and struggling at a job (Hannah). No one can relate to Jessa, but maybe that is the point.

Girls requires some digging through the bullshit. These people are so unrecognizable that it is satire. Following this realization, accept the show for what it is: a long and illustrious joke at our expense. Not that funny, maybe, but uncomfortable enough that we laugh.

 

*Answers?: Jessa, Shoshanna, Hannah, Marni

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