Take it back, universe. Take back my Icona Pop “I Love It” download. Take back the fro-yo addiction. Take back all of my Girls defenses on Twitter, on my blog, in bar conversations, the think pieces. Let me hurl them at the window like so many Glaciology textbooks.
The third season of Girls aired on Sunday night, capping off a season that gave me more cringes than reasons to cheer. Yes, I thought Hannah’s angst over her lost book deal was one of the most genuine moments of raw, uninhibited creative id represented in the entire series. The ferocity with which she obsessed over her dream wasn’t just believable, it was refreshing. The disaster didn’t magically mend itself. Hannah smacked into a wall, and reality seeped in: this “groovy lifestyle” doesn’t just happen. Even when you think it’s going to and your career will take off, you can end up stalled at the launch pad, or shoved off altogether. She parlayed her creative talents into a decent job that could support her life while she kept hustling for her writing dream. She went against the entitlement criticisms of the show and represented a situation that 99% of artists find themselves in—compromise. Jessica Williams was there! FREE BAGELS! Like flipping pop culture upside-down with the expectations of body image, Girls could change the conversation on what life looks like for artistically ambitious millennials.
And then last night happened.
Granted, the last couple weeks hadn’t been looking good for my reality theory. Adam’s first acting gig was a speaking role on Broadway, and I know I haven’t been on stage since my college’s production of Nunsense, but from what I understand those roles are kinda tough to get. Like, I don’t think Idina Menzel just woke up one day and decided she was going to conquer the world with Rent. But, okay. Let’s just say he’s that good. We all have that person we went to grad school with who has never submitted a story and then magically rises from The Paris Review’s slush pile to take over the world, after all.
After a bad day of feeling like writing is hard and work is bullshit (a.k.a. a typical Monday-Friday), Hannah goes off on a workday roundtable, accusing her coworkers of wasting their talent and quitting a job after a couple of months, tops. “Do you think we were gonna grow up and be in a sweatshop factory for puns?” she spits. “Maybe this is a cooler for dead souls.” The moment may have felt triumphant if Hannah had earned it. I’ll never forget quitting a job that was killing my soul and self-esteem and will to live, but that was after two and a half years of it, after applying and beginning grad school in the midst of it, and finding replacement employment before curtly giving my two weeks’ notice and telling the worst boss I ever had that I would never answer his fucking phone again. Hannah’s soul hasn’t been crushed; it’s been mildly inconvenienced. So far we’ve seen her praised for her work, rapidly accepted into a talented circle of co-workers, and graduated into a level of financial security that is increasingly rare for any human to achieve. Taking out such frustration on the same people who have tried to help and support her through this (let’s remember, really fortunate opportunity) is uncomfortable and, quite frankly, disgusting.
And if this does all have to go down, shouldn’t her behavior have consequences? Torching her bridges at a huge publication like GQ with such lust and fanfare can’t be good for her writing career. People talk, and this world of magazines and publishers is oh-so-very-small.
Nope! Last night’s episode opens with an acceptance from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, which she just happened to apply to (without anyone else knowing about it). If the sudden erasure of her job loss impact isn’t irritating enough, Hannah wields the news like a dagger that she sticks into Adam minutes before his Broadway debut—arguably the most important moment of his life, the culmination of all his work and dreaming. In the scariest sweet voice you’ll ever hear, she tells him that she’s moving to the Midwest to pursue her goals, a possibility she hadn’t mentioned to him in the arduous, yet unseen, recommendation letter/writing sample/application fee process, and they’ll “just figure it out!”
After the show, when Adam calls her on the selfish power play, she is indignant and wounded—narcissistic on a level that would make Juan Pablo ill at ease. Despite ruining her partner’s one glimmering moment, she goes home, cradles her letter, and is all smiles.
Sure, who wouldn’t be when the most prestigious school in the country offers you a spot, you don’t give a second thought about student loans, the freakishly roomy New York apartment is still magically being paid for after you sever your income stream? Hannah is living in a magical realm, and playing right to the show’s critics by painting her twentysomething tribe in a vibrant shade of self-absorbed and entitled.
I stuck with Girls for three seasons because I thought it was not only smart, but it was brave. I saw in Hannah, and Lena Dunham’s writing, a woman who wasn’t afraid to be something different from what a leading heroine was expected to be. I believed that Dunham was capable of making a story unpredictable and unpleasant, but also real. What happened last night was lazy. It was tossing a fairy godmother in to tie up loose ends into an elegant, Tiffany box bow. Hannah didn’t grow, she simply gained. What could have been a brilliant opportunity to showcase the balance a writer must strike between relationships, income generation, and success was flushed without a moment of self-awareness or regret. I can deal with Hannah being selfish. I can’t handle a narrative that turns so completely thoughtless.