Okay, yes. I know. Writing about Girls is over. Even liking Girls might be over, at least with the cool kids. Now that the show’s into its third season, all the think pieces have come out, Lena got her Vogue shoot, the hipsters have evacuated for higher, less mainstream-accessible ground (is it maybe that band that was on SNL with Jonah Hill this week?).
And what’s really, really over is comparing Girls to Sex and the City. Yes, four girls, one city, nudity, fake jizz, a generation apart. The parallels lend themselves to conjecture (“what does it MEAN!?”) and pointless interviews like this one. They’re alike! They’re not alike! Move on!
But this is my blog. And so far, I haven’t posted about Hannah or Carrie (blogs that don’t exclusively belong to me don’t count). I’d prefer to stay quiet and avoid a cliched or overdone conversation, but I can’t. Not after last night’s episode, “Dead Inside.” I have to unfurl my obsession. Not over outfits or income levels, but over the career of the two series’ main characters: writers.
Carrie was a columnist for the, ahem, New York Star. A fact that’s easy to forget for those who didn’t watch each disc of the series a minimum of 20 times, plus the Michael Patrick King commentaries. She wasn’t exactly living the writing life, after all. Sure, maybe once a season she bellyached over being on deadline, and there was a mini-arc in the 5th season over her book deal. The cigarette-and-a-Mac shots and VO question puns. I connected with Sex and the City over the relationships–the disasters made my dismal college dating life seem normal. I gauged whether I was having a Miranda day (usually a Monday) or a Samantha day (Friday night), and compared the fleeting men to the same kind who made hasty, one-episode exits out of my world. I always wanted a loft in the city just like Alexander Petrovsky’s (which is his name… Baryshnikov who?!).
When I was originally watching the series, in the early ohs, I wasn’t dreaming of becoming a writer. I had a vague lifelong dream of writing a book, but I wasn’t doing much to achieve it. Re-watching the same episodes now, I still fail to connect, or believe, in Carrie as a writer. She never has to deal with failure or rejection. Her columns magically appear every week, in a steady gig with credentials never explored, which fills her generous Manhattan closet with Manolo Blahniks. One day her editor finds her at a cafe to announce that some publishers suddenly want to ink her a book deal (with fucking Molly Shannon and Amy Sedaris House of Books!!), then Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Michelle Gellar whisk her off to LA to discuss the movie deal. Yes, like the rest of the show, it’s fantasy. But in a discipline as cruel and difficult as writing, the effortlessness of Carrie Bradshaw’s literary domination feels not only fake, but a tad insulting.
Hannah Hovath is a writer, and you’re not going to forget it. Not only do we see her writing and getting the typical letdowns from drafting personal essays (pulling a Harriet the Spy on her best friend, getting told by her boyfriend that they’re “well-written” which is always the worst feedback possible), we hear all of our inner ugliness and fear. In Hannah, Lena Dunham projects the writer’s id, and lets her loose in Manhattan. It’s ugly, and to the untrained eye, self-absorbed and adolescent.
In last night’s episode, “Dead Inside,” Hannah’s book publisher unexpectedly drops dead. Although human decency dictates that she should be mournful, her immediate, irrepressible concern is over her book. Where does it stand now? Does the publishing house still know that she exists? Is her book, her dream, dead in the water with David?
It’s easy for everyone, in the episode or snarking in recaps, to fault Hannah for her selfishness. As she recounts the chaos of the publishing office to a sympathetic, shaken Adam, she caps off with the day’s biggest insult: “And no one even BEGAN to tell me what was next for my e-book!”
Hannah: I know! And now I’m wondering when and how and to whom I can even bring this up to to get some answers.
Adam: Well they probably weren’t thinking about your book, Hannah. And I pretty much can’t believe you are, either.
Yes, as Jessa helpfully points out from the other end of the couch, she’s being callous. But who among us, creatives, can honestly say that in our heads, we wouldn’t be running the same circles that she is? Yes, losing someone is sad, but this was her book! Her life! Every word, every night with too little sleep, every rejection letter and advisor’s praise, hinging on one person who suddenly evaporated. We may not say it, but I could feel Hannah’s angst in my marrow. For anyone who has tried to get their work out into the world, it is everything. It consumes your heart. And if it doesn’t, it probably isn’t worth putting out there in the first place.
The beauty in Hannah’s character is that she is unafraid to be ugly, to expose who we are behind the mask of decorum. Like her former classmate’s book launch, where she lets her jealousy ebb freely. Or the night Charlie discovered her journal, and she wanted to know whether it worked well “as a piece of writing.” Hannah isn’t a prim writer styled in Vivienne Westwood, getting invites to be a guest model from Margaret Cho. She’s the true blue real deal, curled around a laptop in her sweatpants, raw because she has no idea who else to be. Ten years ago, I needed Sex and the City to make my love life comprehensible. Today, Girls brings the unsavory pieces of my soul into the daylight. Where, at least, they’re worth a laugh.