Regarding Lena Dunham’s Girls and the pursuit of happiness

TV Questions: Colin Horgan on the HBO hit with bonus Storify on naked ping pong


Re: Lena Dunham’s breasts

Much as been made about Lena Dunham’s willingness to sport nothing on her HBO series. After her casual nudity made headlines recently, she told David Letterman, "I just want to be like, my gravestone says, ‘She was a little fat chick and she got it going.’” Here’s viewer response to Episode 5:

Storified by Maclean’s Magazine· Mon, Feb 11 2013 06:54:11

Much as been made about Lena Dunham’s willingness to sport nothing on her HBO series. After her casual nudity on Girls made headlines recently, she told David Letterman, “I just want to be like, my gravestone says, ‘She was a little fat chick and she got it going.’” 
Here’s viewer response to Episode 5:
Lena Dunham breasts.Jimbo Jones
I never ever needed to see Lena dunham playing ping pong naked…. #girlsD Strong
Lena Dunham has got to be an exhibitionistMichael Garcia
I haven’t seen Lena Dunham’s breasts in over an hour. Is she OK?Jonathan Bourne
Wish there was a site that marked the precise moments where you don’t see Lena Dunham’s breasts in Girls.Spencer Ham
i love Girls, but i’m kinda sick and tired of seeing lena dunham’s breasts.jessica
I swear I see more of Lena’s Dunham breast than my own…Lady Luck
Is it bad that every time I see Lena Dunham all I can think it ‘hey I’ve seen your breasts before and they’re weird!’SC
Can we have an episode where we don’t see Lena Dunham’s breasts please? It’s every week. Samantha Jones didn’t even bare that much #GirlsBlue Carreon
Wife is ruining "Girls" by talking about Lena Dunham’s body!!Anthony Shawn
lena dunham has no shame.Gabrielle Barone
I just saw Lena Dunham naked. Some things you just can’t unsee.Tim Bowers
Lena Dunham makes me feel good about myself naked #girlsNiki
I appreciate your liberation and your confrontation of body ideals, Lena Dunham, but I don’t even need to see my own tits this much.jessica blankenship
Would much prefer the show girls if Lena Dunham kept her clothes on a lot more oftenJohn Perez
Drink every time you see a Lena Dunham breast!scorwitz

Colin Horgan is watching Season 2 of Girls and asking questions about it here each Monday. Here he is now with three questions on episode five:

Is there a mystery sugar daddy in your neighbourhood?

For anyone wondering to this point how Hannah was surviving in New York City on what little money she’s been making at her job at the coffee shop, you can start speculating on how she’ll get by now that she’s quit her gig at (the aptly named) Café Grumpy. She tells Ray she’s leaving because it’s a toxic work environment, but it really seems to stem from an argument he has with a local resident about where everyone puts their garbage.

That local resident, who alleged that someone from the coffee shop was putting grounds and other crap in his garbage cans, turns out to be Joshua, who lives in a gorgeous Brownstone nearby. After Hannah quits, she goes to Joshua’s place and admits it’s been her leaving all the extra trash in his garbage cans. “I do it – put trash places it shouldn’t legally go,” she admits while gripping a glass of lemonade two-handed, like a small child, while standing in Joshua’s immaculate kitchen. “It’s kind of like my vice.” Right. Well, her other vice is making out with people she just met. Hannah does it again a moment later with Joshua, and, for whatever reason – maybe because he’s recently separated – he has no qualms with it. And thus begins a weird episode where Hannah languishes in Joshua’s grown up (he’s 42) world – one where he physically looks down on a neighbouring house of guys Hannah’s age dismissively while cooking steaks on his patio.

As the day turns to night when, at Hannah’s insistence, Joshua (he reminds her not to call him “Josh”) begs her to stay, she’s enveloped in what seems an intense, immediate, infatuation with whatever it is that’s the male equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – the clichéd rich, handsome and focused older guy who, above all else, is able to fulfill the role of Ultimate Provider, whether it’s physical or emotional. Joshua is only a degree off Thomas-John, who on the outside looked sort of the same initially, but quickly unraveled into someone with emotional issues and nerves and baggage. Y’know, like a real, messed up human.

Joshua is able to take the next day off and advises Hannah do the same, not clearly knowing that every day now is a day off for her. They spend the afternoon playing topless ping pong, having sex, playing more topless ping pong and then lounging in the back garden eating oranges and reading the New York Times. It’s all a fantasy world, a parallel universe of soft lighting and yellow touches of sunlight and quiet.

Then Hannah takes a shower.

What does happiness feel like?

For some reason, Hannah decides to turn the massive, electronically controlled shower in Joshua’s house up to somewhere around 116F. Then she faints. Joshua eventually finds her, revives her, and comforts her as she lies with her head in his lap on the bed. He strokes her hair and she starts to cry, but assures him it’s not because of anything he did. Typically – classically – it’s just Hannah’s own self-indulgence that brings her to tears.

“Please don’t tell anyone this but I want to be happy,” she tells him. He says, rationally, that everyone does. But that’s not really what Hannah’s talking about. She, of course, feels different.

“I didn’t think that I did,” she admits, then explains: “I made a promise such a long time ago that I was going to take in experiences, all of them, so that I could tell other people about them and maybe save them, but it gets so tiring, trying to take in all the experiences for everybody, let anyone say anything to me. Then I came here, and I see you and you’ve got the fruit and the bowl and the stuff. … I want what everyone wants, I want what they all want, I want all the things. I just want to be happy.”

Okay, so Hannah, in a Holden Caulfield-y way, wants to save everyone from, essentially, life itself, from those things that she feels she therefore needs to do on everyone’s behalf, as a martyr for a generation who never asked for her to be one. I assume she’s talking about being a writer, and taking that job to mean she should be explaining things for everyone. But it seems here she might be misguided. Perhaps the point should not be for her to do things and write about things so other people never have to do them. Maybe Hannah should do things and write about things so that she and her readers feel like they’ve done something together. I think there’s a difference in there, but maybe that’s just me.

But why does Hannah feel she has to “experience” anything? Perhaps she doesn’t know. Or perhaps she’s just incapable of describing a more general perception amongst her peers that only a life filled with amazing, Facebookable, Instagrammable moments of coolness and worldliness is a valid one, and how tiring that is, this postmodern ennui, exacerbated by a world of accelerated media that has, in a McLuhan-esque fashion, become just one big “museum of objects that have been encountered before in some other medium;” and how tiring it is that the experiences she’s after are ultimately all in themselves self-aware and self-critical and can’t just be had, but must be justified as ironic or retro (and if they’re not, they can be photographed to look that way) or more authentic than others. Hannah pines for something real but it’s possible she can’t actually tell what that is and is only trying to describe that confusion. So, instead, she focuses on herself.

Anyway, Hannah also overlooks something very simple, which is this: nobody is happy. Not all of the time, anyway. That’s not how it works. And what is Hannah’s definition of happiness, anyway? We don’t know. We do know it would involve knowing how to write cheques properly and eating a bunch of wedding cake testers, and maybe having a fruit bowl.

Where are you allowed to put your trash?

Hannah’s not finished explaining herself, though. She speculates on where her weird ideas sometimes come from and admits to Joshua that she was possibly sexually molested as a child by a babysitter (though can’t be sure). Joshua, in an attempt to identify with this kind of information, tells her he received a hand-job from another boy when he was nine. Both are fairly revealing tidbits, but only Hannah’s matters. Obviously.

“Well, I think that’s pretty different because you let him and this wasn’t my choice,” she tells Joshua dismissively, before launching again into her shallow examination of her own psyche. She says she suddenly realized how lonely she was and asks whether she’s crazy. Joshua confirms that she is not, and Hannah agrees. “If anything I think I’m just too smart and too sensitive and too not-crazy… I’m feeling all these big feelings and containing all this stuff for everybody else… I just want to feel it all. Y’know?” Whatever that means. More Hannah talk about Hannah – nothing more.

Probably realizing this, Joshua says he needs to sleep, but he’s glad Hannah told him everything. “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” she says. “You basically begged me to tell you all my feelings,” she remembers – inaccurately. Joshua says he’s glad she did, but Hannah doesn’t believe him. “You’re not glad, that I did. You’re not glad ‘cause you’re not acting glad, and also you didn’t tell me anything about you,” she lectures, again inaccurately, forgetting his personal confession a moment earlier. “I’m realizing I asked you about your divorce, you said two sentences… So what’s your damage, josh?”
“It’s Joshua,” he reminds her.

“It’s the same name with an extra sound stuck on the end,” Hannah says.

Josh, Joshua. Grumpy’s garbage cans, some other garbage cans. What’s the difference? As long as it’s open to taking whatever Hannah wants to throw in.




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Regarding Lena Dunham’s Girls and the pursuit of happiness

  1. I’m going to let you experience this show me. Never asked you to but you did it anyway. Thanks for nothing.

    • I really wish that made sense.

  2. Ha! Great review. I’ve never seen a single episode of this show but keep thinking I should and that I’d really like it– until reading your review. Now methinks “Girls” might make me nauseous…

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