(And yes, I am acutely aware that Hannah Horvath is not someone any person should want to be.)
I used to think that if I ever met Tina Fey, I would probably burst into tears,
clutch her give her a hug and start wailing “thank you, thank you, thank you,” in a pale imitation of when Liz Lemon met Hallucination Oprah on 30 Rock. There are many reasons I adore Tina Fey, but chief among them is the fact that she took some the things I was most ashamed of and made them awesome, simply by associating them with her awesome self.
If I ever meet Lena Dunham, I doubt there will be any wailing involved. Which is funny, because if I’m honest, I have a lot more in common with Girls’ Hannah Horvath than I ever did with Liz Lemon.
I’m not talking about the superficial things: I submit my work for publication (clearly, it’s my job), I’ve always paid my share of the rent on time, and I wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 minutes in the presence of Adam. But those aren’t the things that make Hannah, Hannah.
I’m talking about her actual, deep seated character flaws: her petulance, her penchant for melodrama, her insecurity-slash-self-absorption. Her repetitive use of the word ‘I’. (Which I have employed 16 times so far in this blog post. Seventeen, now.)
I despised her at first, in that opening scene where we find out her parents have been footing her rent for the past two years. “Upper-middle class privilege!” I shouted. And yeah, the show is an exercise in upper-middle class privilege.
But watching the episode for a second time, I began to realise that (much like her best friend Marnie, says Scarlett Harris) many of the things that made me cringe about Hannah were things that, were someone to video tape my every move, would make me cringe about myself.
That scene in the restaurant, when she brattily informs her parents: “I don’t want to see you tomorrow. … I have work, and then I have a dinner thing, and then I am busy. Trying to become who I am”? Could have come out of my mouth in a family fight. And at the end of the episode, when she collapses on the floor and her parents start fighting over her, saying: “You’ve just been played by a major player”? Yeah. Could have come out of my parents’ mouths.
Then there’s the scene at Planned Parenthood in episode two, when Hannah confesses that as a child, she was always afraid of getting AIDS. Marnie: “It’s called HIV, and it’s not that easy to get.” Shoshanna: “It’s really not that hard to contract either, though. Haven’t you seen Rent?” Marnie: “Please, I’ve seen it 12 times. It’s basically why I moved to New York.” Not quite as awful, but not exactly glowing either, and again, every sentence could have come out of my mouth.
Then there’s the blowout between Hannah and Marnie in episode 9, which could have been a word replay of a fight I had with an ex-housemate, and Shoshanna’s outburst of “I know you hate virgins. You totally hate virgins. You hate me so much. You totally lied about liking me. You don’t like me at all.” Which, uh, sounds an awful lot like a (similarly unprompted) recent conversation I had with my husband, minus the virgin bit.
To which we could probably add Adam’s: “You think you’re not pretty, and you’re not a good writer and you’re not a good friend. Well, you are pretty and you are a good writer and you are a good friend.” Which – you guessed it – are precisely my favourite topics for self-flagellation.
And here’s the thing: while it’s kind of awesome to wave the Liz Lemon flag, it’s not cool to admit you might have a couple of things in common with Hannah Horvath. And nor should it be. The thing I like most about Girls is that it’s not aspirational. To the extent that it is a mirror (and there are many, many ways in which it is not) it is a mirror of all the things we would rather forget about ourselves.
But I do wonder if one of the reasons some people hate the show (not the people who critique it on race or class grounds, which is totally valid, but the people who hate it because the characters are kind of despicable) is because it reminds them of personality flaws that go beyond junk food, slankets and not getting laid a whole lot.
Or maybe not. It’s also possible that Lena Dunham and I are just similarly and uniquely awful people. In which case, if I ever do meet her, I will buy her a drink and commiserate over our mutual awfulness.
Elsewhere: Pretty Girl Problems (The Early Bird Catches The Worm)