Stupid people having flashes of insight OR insightful people living stupid lives?

He said, she said: talking points on Girls, season 2, episode 6

He said, she said is a discourse on the second season of Girls from two points of view. (Find previous conversations here.)

Episode summary:

Hannah has one month to write an ebook. Jessa is depressed and living with Hannah. Shoshanah is eager for Ray to sign up for a seminar on how to achieve both success and happiness. Ray, who wonders why anyone would want that, is desperate to get his copy of Little Women that he lent Hannah back but it’s at Adam’s place. So he makes a visit and Adam and he unexpectedly bond. Meanwhile, Marnie is labouring under the misapprehension that she and Booth Jonathan are boyfriend and girlfriend, which she finds out is not the case at an artist party he throws and asks her to host. Hannah and Marnie are struggling to repair their friendship.

He said, she said:

She said: This episode was all about the boys. It’s actually not a funny episode, but it’s a good one. It certainly asks plenty of questions: What’s a real book? Is an ebook a book? Are you somebody’s hostess or are you a girlfriend? Are you a man or are you a boy? Do you have the potential to have the tools to unlock happiness everyday? Well, why would I want to do that?

He said: And there’s one part where Ray is talking about Staten Island exisiting as a metaphor for people who want to live in Manhattan but they end up living on this weird little island just watching Manhattan. And you think, oh that’s sweet–that’s very insightful. But later, after the girl calls him a kike and he says, ‘I’m Greek Orthodox,’ which I thought was a very funny joke, he says to her ‘I’m a Brooklynite–I’m from Brooklyn!’ And it’s like, well, Brooklyn is in the same situation as Staten Island: it’s inhabited by people who want to be in Manhattan but can’t make it there and they end up living in this weird place looking across at the island itself, being able to see so much but not being able to see how much it reflects onto your life, which is like all the characters.

She said: Whoa. Uh, I think I missed all that because I got caught up in the moment when Hannah looked down at her outfit before going to Booth Jonathan’s party. She sees all these fashionable people go to the party and realizes she’s underdressed in her romper and rain coat. That’s why I did’t go out tonight, you know. I was wearing a sweater from high school and stinky jeans. So I bailed on a party where I knew that everyone would be dressed up and fancy. Hannah realized the same thing, but too late.

He said: And Marnie was overdressed, in that plastic ensemble. And it was sweet at the end of the episode–and I guess this is why you stay hooked because even with the selfishness and these characters who veer really towards profound unlikeability, there are still these great connections–when you see Marnie and Hannah talking on their phones and Hannah says she was really inspired by someone at the party and she’s been writing all night as a result and Marnie says she having so much fun at the party watching fire flies in the backyard  and its all bull shit. They want to be friends but there’s this point where you–and it’s part of growing up–where your level of success in the world impedes on your ability to have good and meaningful relationships with your friends. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt it that acutely in my life, where you can’t interrelate to people with people you should be able to because–

She said:  Because you’re on a different tragectory?

He said: Yes, or because you’re not happy with your life and we’re you’re at.

She said:  OMG, yes! It was a very sweet moment. And then of course, it’s quite touching at the end with Ray sitting with the dog.

He said: I think this episode had the most heart of the season, which it needed after the last episode.

She said: Shoshannah and Ray may be the show’s most redeeming characters, but you know after this episode that it’s not going to last–it can’t! We know that there’s not only a huge age difference, but the rift between them is so great that when Shoshannah says, ‘You mean you don’t want to manage your own coffee shop?’ A light goes off and you think, Are you kidding? You think a guy like Ray would aspire to that? He’s miserable. He reminds me so much of you.

He said: [Silence]

She said: What I mean to say, is that he’s smart and talented,  but ambitionless…

He said: Jess, I’ve written an EBOOK! [No he hasn’t]

She said: Anyway, the Little Women reference just made me love Ray so much more. That he’s obsessed right now–again, that reminds me of you–about getting this book back with notes on how he relates to the characters written by his godmother. Remember when we visited Orchard House and during the tour you were the only man in a sea of women? It’s too good! Are you more of a Marmie or an Amy?

He said: What’s funny is that after Hannah says she can’t go get the book because she’s afraid Adam will murder her, Shoshannah pipes up and says, ‘You’re a man: it’s your duty to go get this book.’ And Ray is like, ugh. And then there’s a moment in Adam’s apartment when Adam is like ‘You’ll be my muscle.’

She said: I know! That’s when Ray’s eye’s light up because he’s never been the muscle before.

He said: And he thinks, Of course I can do this.

She said: Exactly. You get this sense that Ray has never had a meaningful male relationship before.

He said: Or a meaningful relationship at all.

She said: Truth!

He said: But you also sense that he’s sort of wandering aimlessly in this generational quagmire where it’s just impossible to be a man and there’s no definittion of what makes someone a man. It just doesn’t exist as a thing, but it exists as a concept.

She said: Not for a 33-year-old, who is completely lost. Or maybe, not for anybody these days. You struggle with that exact thing, don’t you?

He said: [Silence] And then there’s Adam who is more of a man than Ray will ever be but he’s also essentially just an overgrown child–just a pure id demanding his own pleasure, making his own stupid  irrational assessments of people, like when he refers to Hannah as being one of the most altruistic people he’s ever met.

She said: What does altruistic mean again?

He said: Selfless.

She said: Oh, right! Wait. Selfless? That’s the exact opposite of her!

He said: Yeah.

She said: Which is why Ray reacted so negatively.

He said: Uh, yeah.

She said: Oh, wow! That’s even funnier now! And it paints Adam in this terrible light; he’s never met a truly atruistic person if he classifies Hannah as one. And when Ray makes that reference to Shoshannah on the Staten Island ferry that she would never get the Normandy Beach joke that he told Adam. She wouldn’t understand: ‘There would be silence right now,’ he said. Why is he with her? Maybe he doesn’t know. Maybe it’s a port in the storm. [Pause] What did you think about Adam and Ray’s conversation about young girls and older ladies being the most stable?

He  said: I thought it was funny, just because obviously in a certain sense–And I’m not going to say anything about the two of us–but they accuse women their own age of not having anything figured out and they claim the best relationships they’ve had are either with a 17-year-old or 54-year-old and obviously these women–a 17 year old dating a guy like Ray or a 54-year-old dating a guy like Adam–are crazy. Obviously these women don’t  have anything figured out. But the thing is when you have a relationship like that it sort of makes null and void the idea of figuring anything out. So it’s taking a free pass. Whereas when they talk about being in a relationship with someone their own age, on the same trajectory, you get all this bull shit. Well, that’s not bull shit. That’s living life. That’s a relationship.

She said: I completely agree. Wait. Is that why we’re together [despite an age difference of nine years]? Do you think I have it all figured out? Because I don’t and I can’t take that kind of pressure.

He said: Don’t worry: I have never once thought of you as someone who has it all figured out. Sometimes you don’t know on this show whether the characters are incredibly stupid people who occasionally have flashing insights or whether they’re incredibly insightful people who are living really stupid lives in a stupid time. And it’s an ambiguity that gets annoying because you wonder about the level at which the show is operating on.

She said: We watch it in good faith, I think, and we watch the show because we hope that it’s the latter–that these are insightful people.

He said: Or that it’s a show made by insightful people about people living a very ambiguous and tenuous existence. Like the editor at the beginning of the episode who describes Hannah’s essays as ‘cute, confusing and infuriating.’ You wonder if that’s something that was Hannah’s artistic intent in the first place.

She said: Or do you mean Lena Dunham, rather than Hannah?

He said: [Eyes rolling] Let’s look up post-modernism on Wikipedia.

She said: [Laughing]

He said: Look it up on Urban Dictionary and see whose definition we got closer to.

She said: And while we’re at it, I’ll double-check ‘altruistic’ just in case you got it wrong.

He said: [sardonically glares]



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