Girls on HBO – A Lesson on Life’s Disappointments

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My favorite show on TV right now is Girls on HBO.  I’ve been watching it since season 1, episode 1 and while some people are questioning whether it’s as good as last year, I’m relishing every moment.  I watch each episode over and over, capturing lines that I missed the first time around.  Each episode is brilliantly written and takes me back to not only my life in NYC as a 20-something getting started in this thing we call “adulthood” but also to the feelings of muddling through the waters on my own for the first time in my life.  I think of the show as a lesson on life’s disappointments.

When I say that I relate to the show’s characters, who you may find either selfish or repugnant, I relate to them on a very visceral level. Each one has faults of his or her own, but they deal with them in a very real way and are seeking redemption and happiness.  They are also like fishes out of water, living in the big city, trying to discover themselves, practically right out of college. I was once in their shoes.  I moved to NYC in my 20s, not knowing who I was or who I wanted to be.  I found it all very exciting but extremely overwhelming.

When Hannah said goodbye to Adam last season and then sat on a beach in Brooklyn eating cake, it took me right back to how I felt about men many years ago.  Confused, disturbed, strong when I let go.  I remembered what it was like to love someone and not be loved back.  I can also relate to her ongoing search for a creative job that will pay the bills.  She’s now writing an eBook, mirroring Lena Dunham’s real life (paper) book she was paid for 3.5 million dollars to write, and this is her big break after a number of jobs that didn’t work out.  I remember my early days in NYC, working in television with difficult managers who got under my skin.  Hannah is dealing with disappointment the way any 20-something would.  She gets upset, gets under the blankets and then goes to talk to a friend about it and starts over. That’s what I did.

Unfortunately, her friends continue to let her down.  This past week Jessa left her stranded somewhere upstate, after visiting her father and his family. Jessa is a character that I’m glad the show is exploring further. She’s a free spirit who says what she wants and does as she pleases and everything has always seemed to bounce off her…until her marriage dissolved a few weeks ago.  Now we know she has feelings, particularly after a discussion the other night with her father who has shown little interest in her for years, when she told him bluntly, “I’m the child!”  Her disappointment with her father came out loud and clear and then she chose to abandon the only friend who cares about her because she couldn’t cope with the hurdles life is throwing her.  I can’t say I blame her for running away from Hannah at that moment.  We’ve seen the disappointment all over her face for the last few weeks and her father letting her down  again was truly the last straw. It probably hit her a few weeks ago when Thomas-John said “You’re just a whore with no work ethic” to her before his departure.  His words were like daggers and she was left disappointed once again.

Marnie has also let Hannah down a lot this season.  They had a falling out last season and split up as roommates but it’s clear that they still have a bond and need each other. When Hannah got her book deal, Marnie was the only one Hannah wanted to call, but Marnie was too into her new hosting career and pseudo art boyfriend to take notice. When Marnie didn’t tell Hannah the truth about her disinterested boyfriend at the end of that episode, it took me back to friendships that existed in my 20s, to the ones that didn’t last.  It’s hard when friends expect so much from each other. Then when Marnie slept with Elihah, Hannah’s boyfriend who dumped her for men, Hannah cut Marnie loose, sick with a broken heart.

I’m not a fan of Shoshanna but I like her boyfriend, Ray, and I relate to the struggles he’s enduring to find himself.  The two of them are clearly in a relationship that’s going to explode because of his uncertainty with his career, and most likely her as his better half.  He doesn’t think they have much in common and she’s kind of pushing herself on him. But he has bigger fish to fry and I suspect we’ll see his character evolve in upcoming episodes.  He’s at a cross-roads.

Watching Girls reminds me that disappointment comes into our lives from time to time. The important thing is to stay true to who you are and never give up on yourself.  Like the girls on this incredibly real, telling show, we can’t let life get us down.


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  1. Holly,
    I tried watching it once, and I found the characters too self-absorbed to continue with; but I get it. Everyone and their mother loves this show. Maybe I should try it again; now that a void in my TV watching world has been left by Downton Abbey’s absence till next season.

  2. I really do adore this kind of TV. Strangely I’m currently addicted to Friday Night Lights. This one is up next for me!

  3. Love this post. And love the show. Even my DH is getting into it – likely cuz its soft porn on a Sunday night. Lena Dunham leaves no stone unturned in her scripts – and makes us look even when we want to look away. This show is the thinking woman’s Sex In the City, IMHO….

  4. I LOVE this show too! I’m also guilty of watching a few episodes a couple of times, I dig the writing so much. Overall, it makes me psyched that I’m 20 years past all the 20-something crazy. But as you said, their disappointments are all universally relatable. This batch of 20-somethings are so consumed with figuring themselves out, they lack the awareness and substance to really be there for each other. It will be interesting to see how Marnie and Hannah go about patching things up. They do have a bond and they’re both holding on. I disagree about Shoshanna though – love me some Shosh! Watch this, her parents will be the next to make an appearance. We have met all the other parents this season, haven’t we?

  5. I haven’t begun this series, yet, but I REALLY want to now. I was also married young (21) and only had 9 months of the living on my own thing. I loved it, but I think a show like this would allow me to live vicariously through them, and at the same time, be glad I wasn’t going through that at that age.

  6. It’s funny how much I love this show. For all the reasons that you can relate, I cannot. When I was their age, I was married with a baby. I don’t know what it’s like to be young, single and alone in a big city. I do, however, know what it’s like to be awkward and unsure. I’m still more obsessed with the physicality of the show more than anything. I coudn’t help but notice that in all of Jess’s beauty, she is also physically imperfect. I actually think Shoshanna is a worthwhile character.

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