In case you weren’t aware of it (say, if you just woke up from a coma on the moon), Lena Dunham’s Girls premiered tonight on HBO. Co-produced by Judd Apatow and featuring the offspring of both Brian Williams and David Mamet, the show follows Dunham’s protagonist Hannah as she gropes her way through life in New York with her closest friends Marnie (Allison Williams), Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and Shoshana (Zosia Mamet). The Tiny Furniture auteur is serving those sticky fumblings up hot, so it’s not surprising how soon into the Girls pilot you see Hannah’s butt. Face down for what will clearly be a mediocre porking, she flails awkwardly as she pulls off her tights, flopping around like a woman in the privacy of a slightly soiled couch would do. “Here’s my butt!” seems like an apt tag line for this show, in all the good and bad ways possible. Immediately after she gets naked, Hannah’s gross hot fuck buddy Adam returns and… how do I put this delicately… sticks it in dry. No ceremony, if foreplay could be considered a ceremony (and maybe it should be at this point). The scene is humiliating and colored with a kind of goofy despair. It’s also so painfully true. Above all else, Lena Dunham’s Girls is keeping it real.
But to backtrack to the beginning of the episode: you know how everyone in Seinfeld is a just little bit awful? The Girls pilot wants to make it very, very clear that despite the fact she’s our protagonist, Hannah Horvath is… well, kind of a pissant. Upon learning that her parents are cutting her off two years after graduating college, Hannah launches into a diatribe about how they should be grateful she isn’t a high-functioning heroin addict. “Do you realize how lucky you are?” she declares, throwing out examples of peers that her parents should fall to their knees and thank Yahweh they didn’t bring into the world:
Hannah: “Last summer she had two abortions, right in a row. And no one went with her!”
Hannah’s Mother: “What does that have to do with anything?”
What indeed, Hannah’s Mom! As she rages against the end of her sweet-ass free ride, Hannah is something of a George Costanza, minus the self-loathing. A Georgette Costanza, if you will. A Laura David, but without the misguided sense of justice. Once you factor in her attitude about her writing career (“It’s a memoir so I have to live them first,” Hannah says of her essays), you are reaching It’s Always Sunny-levels of self-involvement. So what do you do with a main character so coddled (kind of to the point of delusion) and ungrateful, but who, as we soon learn, is also funny and kind and deeply in love with her friends? Remember that awful fuck scene above? Girl, you gotta keep it real. Real humiliating.
To wit: after Hannah is fired from her unpaid internship after asking her noxious boss that she be paid for her work (“I’m really going to miss your energy,” he sighs), she’s left with her lady friends and Adam, whenever he replies to her texts. “Let’s play the quiet game,” he says whilst they bone. There’s been a lot written about the show’s sex scenes so far, mostly to the effect that some reviewers would rather have their genitals surgically removed than risk having sex that depressing. To which I say… people, are you out there right now? Seems like someone is romanticizing all the terrible, terrible intercourse that comes with being young and sexual active. Some good-looking idiot bumbling around and peacing out immediately after seems pretty ripped from the sexual headlines to me.
Speaking of awful sex, meet Marnie, a young woman who is constantly about to break up with her boyfriend, Charlie. “His touch feels like a weird uncle at Thanksgiving,” she gripes to Hannah… as said boyfriend politely waits outside the bathroom for her. When not ignoring the death throes of her long-term relationship, Marnie encourages Hannah to, you know, find an actual job. Marnie and their Greenpoint apartment are basically the locus of Hannah’s existence. So many blog inches have already been written about the value and importance placed on the female friendships in this show. “The sun is so bright,” those reviewers might as well be writing. “The sky is…well, I guess you would call it blue.” Friendships so real, it’s hard to elucidate what makes them feel true: another hallmark of Keeping. It. Real.
Back in Manhattan, world traveler Jessa has returned from getting unexpectedly pregnant abroad to live with her cousin and mutual buddy Shoshana, the most “charactery” of the show’s ladies and, as such, probably the funniest. “When I’m in school, I definitely try to put on my Miranda hat,” she explains, cheerfully breaking down the meaning behind the Sex And The City poster decorating her Vera Bradley womb of an apartment. Tremulous and naive, Shosh is openly in love with her cousin’s boldness. “How do you pull off that hat?,” she demands in awe. “You’re so fucking classy.”
After arriving hours late to Jessa’s welcome back party, Hannah is pulled into a tug-of-war between Marnie’s reasonable employment advice and Jessa’s free-wheeling artistic rebellion. About which I have to ask…is that even a thing? For anyone? With Jessa herself living on her cousin’s couch, Shoshana’s rent being paid by her family, and Adam’s dreams of acting subsidized by his grandma, Marnie is the only person not living off someone else’s dime. Jessa’s suggestion that Hannah just blindly follow her artistic whims reminded me of when I saw Rent this past fall, this time as an adult. “Good god, Mark,” I wanted to scream. “Why are you quitting your stable job when your best friends all have AIDS? You’ll have your nights free to make art!”
But that’s for future episodes to figure out. In the meantime Hannah drinks opium tea, shows up stoned to her parent’s hotel room and makes them read her personal essays. Man, I thought the doggie-style scene was embarrassing. Watching Hannah ask her parents for $1,100 a month for another two years to work on her craft is excruciating. “Why don’t get a job and start a blog?” her mother shouts, completely reasonably. “My skirt feels so tight,” her daughter whimpers as she slumps to the ground. “Maybe you can cut it open with scissors?”
After we see her welcome home a friend and lose her last desperate attempt to remain in the shelter of her parents’ wealth, we see Hannah steal the maid’s tip from her parents’ room without a trace of remorse. “Here it is, everyone,” the shot of her taking the money seems to say. “Here is my unpleasantness. Here are my shameful delusions of grandeur. Here is my struggle to get all this spaghetti into my mouth. Here is my arm squishing against the side of the bathtub. Here are my friends, which are so clearly the only good things I have. Here is some real, real sad sex. Here is my butt. Here is my butt.” So I ask you, ladies… do you feel me?