“Girls” has been fiercely criticized for being a one-dimensional show, relying entirely on the experience of one small group of society, and glamorizing a lifestyle of 20-something women, which has become known as the “hot mess” syndrome. Others have been more tepid in their criticisms saying that while it does only represent a small sliver of society, it represents their authentic experience and as such stands alone. It’s true, “Girls” is disgustingly exclusive in the type of lifestyle that it portrays, however it does contain a universal lesson for all women: love yourself girls, and love each other too.
This season on “Girls” Hannah lost a book deal because she failed to read a contract properly, her grandmother passed away somewhat disappointed in Hannah’s current life path, and Hannah’s insecurities lead to a rough patch in her relationship. Hannah, and all the ‘girls’ have the same problem: they don’t love themselves. By not loving themselves they nurture their insecurities, which in turn, poisons different aspects of their lives, and of course they are all tragically blind to the whole process.
Hannah’s insecurities in herself are projected on to her relationship, a pressure that no boyfriend in the world can handle. Her recent stranger-in-bar sex game with Adam was such a clear reflection of her self-doubt. Fearing that they weren’t having kinky sex like they used too, Hannah created an elaborate scenario that, for lack of a better word, seemed to creep Adam out. But the sex wasn’t the problem with their relationship. At the beginning of the episode we see Hannah drinking with her work friends and getting so drunk she pukes on herself and has to stay at a co-workers house. While there is nothing wrong with tying one on occasionally, it appears her behavior is more debasing than empowering. As she said in season 2, “no one could hate me more than I hate myself. OK?” This is also true for love, no one can love you more than you love yourself, and Hannah doesn’t love herself.
This season also marked a significant change in the friendships between the various characters. What once seemed to have the potential to be legendary examples of female friendship, have now devolved into as Adam, Hannah’s boyfriend said, “a vortex of guilt and jealousy with each other that keeps them from seeing situations clearly.” Hannah has a different view on her female friendships. Trying to persuade Adam to be excited for a dinner party with her friends she says, “of course I’m not interested in what they have to say. That’s not the point of female friendship!” It’s hard to say exactly what Hannah thinks the point of female friendship is, but it certainly involves the phrase ‘loving support.’
At the beach house, during what was supposed to be a ‘fun’ weekend, the girls get too drunk and devolve into a screaming match about each other’s flaws. Ironically, so consumed by their own insecurities, each character fails to see the truth behind what their friends were telling them. In fact instead of listening they were formulating their retorts. In response to being called a narcissist, Hannah simply says that she has been called a narcissist since she was a child, as if it was just another quirk in her personality. The fight at the beach house is a prime example of the pitfalls of a certain detrimental cycle that can occur in female friendship.
Banded together for bathroom trips, gossip sessions and dinner dates, female friends often know every minute detail about each other’s lives, but sometimes the lack of a critical aspect to their relationships does more damage than good. Fueled by alcohol these girls let rip on each other, and since there was no basis for constructive criticism in their friendships, it came out as catty vodka laden jabs. While the girls were actually making valid criticisms of each other’s character flaws, they weren’t doing it with love and support, or in a constructive manner. The next morning when they sheepishly clean the kitchen together in silence, they weren’t achieving a new depth to their friendship, but rather trying to put things back the way they were. Back to when they didn’t have to think that their friends might have some cold hard truth to serve up, and that it wouldn’t be easy to hear.
When Hannah gets a call from Jessa, who hasn’t been heard from in months, to pick her up early from rehab, Hannah responds by springing into action and renting a car. Adam is less than pleased to be enlisted as driver and notes that it doesn’t seem like a good idea to pick anyone up from rehab early. But Hannah believes that when a friend calls for help you never question, and that is the definition of ‘loving support.’ But picking someone up from rehab early is not love, it’s enabling. By not questioning, by not constructively criticizing, or telling each other the truth as we see it, we are not being good friends.
Within all the confusing self-hate and insecurities of each character, there is one shining light: Hannah’s naked body. Recently there have been some criticisms regarding Lena Dunham’s choice to be naked so often. The response from the Dunham was swift and sharp, saying that “it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem.” Hannah may not be comfortable in her own head, but at least she is comfortable in her own skin. It’s refreshing not to see another stereotype of a girl insecure about her body. Dunham knows that true female insecurity is A LOT more complicated than that.
While I can’t be sure how much of what I extrapolated was intentionally crafted by the creators of this show, it is clear that there is a lesson to be learned from Hannah and the girls, even if it is presented in a what-not-to-do manner. As Hannah tries but cannot seem to learn, not loving herself is the root of all her issues. And as the terrible pitfalls of other characters express, self-love isn’t about thinking you are better than other people (like Marnie does). It is based on self-analysis, in terms of what you are thinking, feeling and doing and why. Self-love also requires banishing insecurities. Insecurities are things we conjure up in the dark and then make a reality, but good self-analysis and constructive criticism makes us better people. And we should be able to rely on our friends to help us get there.