Is it OK to be like your parents?

TV Questions: Colin Horgan on Girls, life, and what it all means

by Colin Horgan

Colin Horgan is watching Season 2 of Girls and asking questions about it here each Monday.

Elsewhere on the site, Jessica Allen is writing about it, too. Click here for her take.

Here’s Horgan with three questions about the seventh episode of the second season:

When are you no longer a kid?

It took about 24 hours for Jessa to confront her dad, or at least tell him why she really insisted on coming to see him and his new wife at their upstate home, with Hannah in tow. She told Hannah earlier she’d received a text from him that was just a bunch of letters and read it as a sign to come visit – something Hannah posits might have simply been a “butt text.” Whatever it was, there she is, sitting on a swing set in Manitou, talking to her dad, an unsurprisingly aloof and strange fellow, who’s taken to storing his old computers in the back of his car for fear the information on them might be taken otherwise, and who – with his new girlfriend – raises rabbits in the yard only to eat them on a regular basis.

Ever since Jessa turned up on the scene, inserting herself into the Girls world, she’s carried with her an air of mystery, what with all her past international travel and hints of bohemian lifestyle. Of the four, she was the free spirit, the one most likely to go with the flow and not bogged down by the tiresome drudgery of introspection and existentialism. Not like the other three. This was no more apparent than when she simply refused to have any apparent sense of evaluation of her situation with Thomas-John (“This is what it’s like when the hunt is over,” she told Hannah not so long ago) until it got so bad that she literally couldn’t do anything else but leave it.


And leaving is kind of her thing. It’s a thing she gets from her father, apparently. After all, we see how late he is to pick them up from the train, and how he decides he wants to stick with his original plans for the night – without Jessa – even though she’s there. It’s at the core of Jessa’s accusations when they finally get a chance to talk it out on the swing set. Jessa has had to take a lot of “shit,” she tells him, “because you never taught me to do anything else.” She just had to accept, for example, when he would disappear “for months on end.” She had to take him never picking up her phone calls when things between her and her mother were bad. “Why didn’t you stand up for me? Why weren’t you there? Why can’t you do one single thing you say you’re going to do?” she asks.

Her dad, possibly misunderstanding the root of the questions, simply notes that Jessa is prone to the same flightiness. “Do you think I can rely on you?” he asks her. That’s not the point. “You shouldn’t have to,” Jessa says, “I’m the child. I’m the child.” Of course this is literally true, but it’s tough to say how much of this was a plea for the parenting she never had, and how much of it was just a simple, subconscious acknowledgment of the dynamic inherent in her relationship with Thomas-John – her most recent failure at securing not only the love, but the respect, of a doting father figure.

How do you get to the next level?

“This is just a video game that needs to be conquered. This is all one big simulation,” Petula, Jessa’s father’s girlfriend, tells Hannah as she picks out which live pet rabbit they’ll eat for dinner. “I think we all just need to grow a pair and get to the next level.” And though Patula insists it isn’t one, Hannah takes it as a nice metaphor for life in general. Of course it is, really, and it articulates exactly the way Hannah and the rest of the Girls see their lives – a constant struggle to get to the next level (How do you get to the there? Is it by learning out to properly sign cheques? Is it by figuring out what you want to do and no longer needing someone to tell you?) and how frustrating it always seems that it just seems so easy for other people.

An interesting thing happens when Jessa finds an old Penthouse magazine in the room that she and Hannah are sharing. Looking at the women in the photos, Jessa posits that they ought to be proud of themselves. “In a way, it’s the most noble thing you can do, help a boy find his sexuality, help a boy become a man,” she says. Here Jessa articulates another running theme with all these girls for the last season and a half, as they constantly seem to take it upon themselves to prop up the young men who surround them, endlessly frustrated by their inability to become the men the girls think they want. Adam is portrayed as a man-boy. Charlie and Booth Jonathan and Thomas-John are too, for that matter.

And so it is when Hannah meets Frank, Petula’s son. “What do you think of Frank? I guess I can just never tell if guys are attractive in a loserly way or just losers,” Hannah says, moments before Jessa picks up the Penthouse. Apparently she finds him attractive enough. After Jessa’s dad bails on the evening plans (whatever they were), she and Hannah agree to join Frank and his friend Tyler for the night – one, as it turns out, which involves Tyler driving the four of them around rural roads in a convertible while everyone except Hannah takes nitrous hits from a whipped cream can. Jessa makes it more interesting by covering Tyler’s eyes as he drives until finally Hannah freaks out enough for him to pull over. She takes off down an embankment and into a graveyard, where Frank finds her. For whatever reason, they start making out and as Frank kisses her, Hannah begins verbalizing a stream-of-consciousness about how she imagined death when she was younger.

“When I was little I thought that what happened when you died, was just that you were floating in the sky, d’you know, like by the moon,” she says as Frank gropes around on top of her. “So you were still yourself so all the same thoughts, but you were just alone and nobody you knew was there with you –” here, she’s stopped by a fresh set of (very brief) thrusts from Frank. As it turns out, that was (probably – unless he actually did have sex with a local girl named Rihanna) his first time, and the next day he accuses Hannah of having used him. Faced with the charge, Hannah seems dismissive, and for all her love of the metaphor, doesn’t recognize what’s just happened. It wasn’t important for her, after all. This time, she’s not the one trying to figure out if she just got to the next level.

Is it OK to be like your parents?

On their first night in Manitou, as Jessa lay awake next to her and admits she might not have been in the right frame of mind to visit her dad, Hannah offers that nobody is ever really in the right frame of mind to talk to their parents. Hannah’s wrong. She discovers as much as she stands on the train platform alone to head back to New York, after Jessa disappeared – a departure that is only an affirmation of her own past, really, and serves mostly as a final acknowledgement of the difficulties involved in not growing up to be your parent’s child.

Standing at the station, Hannah calls her parents. Her mother suspects Hannah wants money. “That’s not why I’m calling,” Hannah says. Instead, she’s calling “to thank you for making me so supported as a child and sometimes even as an adult.” They might be very different people, but, she goes on, “I just fell like there’s a hammock under the earth that’s protecting me. It really means a lot and that’s because of you and I’m grateful. I love you mom, I really really love you.” Her mother seems genuinely touched by this, and Hannah continues, recalling her childhood interpretation of the universe. “You’re in my heart forever, ‘til I’m dead, and maybe even after I’m dead when I’m just floating out in space and I’m just so alone because nobody I love is even around,” she says.

At this point, her mom again suspects an ulterior motive. “All right, now I don’t know what you’re up to, but now I’m pissed. I’m not falling for this crap, Hannah. My back hurts, I’m up to my eyeballs in filth from going through your old garbage. I’m not falling for this crap,” she says to Hannah before handing the phone back to her father.

“Please don’t talk about our parents like they’re the same type of parents,” Jessa told Hannah that first night at her dad’s. She’s right, Hannah’s parents aren’t like hers. When Hannah calls her parents, they pick up the phone.




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