TV: Who needs friends? The final message of Girls is that only sex will save you
Even with a controversial, ground-breaking, voice-of-a-generation show like Girls, there are certain basic tenets you don’t expect them to mess with. The great, comforting message of previous decade-defining sitcoms, like Friends and Sex and the City, was that while romance might come and go, your much-loved, handpicked family of friends will be there for you – whatever happens.
But not any more. In last night’s season two finale Lena Dunham, the show’s writer and star, tried swallowing that fantasy, only to spit it out as if it were curdled milk. Over the past few episodes her character, Hannah, has managed to isolate herself from everyone she knows. Instead of finishing the book for which she has been paid an advance, she has hidden herself away in a cocoon of sweaty bed sheets and misery.
Her great literary masterpiece currently consists of a single sentence: “A friendship between college girls is grander and more dramatic than any romance.” Until recently – through all the misjudged romances, exploitative internships and grubby humiliations of the girls’ lives – the show had seemed to support this sentiment. But in the final scenes the ties that hold the girls together have been strained, taken for granted and are now broken. All of them are feeling lost and miserable – but none of them is turning to the others for support. Instead they’re relying on the men in their lives to validate and redeem them.
Girls has been lauded for depicting the comical awkwardness of sex amongst the generation who grew up on a high-speed internet diet of cum shots and doggy style. Hannah’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend Adam was largely defined by its post-porn sensibility. She was rarely made uncomfortable by Adam’s kinky sexual demands – she just used to worry that she wasn’t as au fait with them as she should be.
But now Adam has a new girlfriend and when he tries the same approach with her she pulls him up short. “You’re a dirty little whore and you love my c***,” he growls, mid-thrust. “No” she shoots back: “I can like your c*** and not be a whore. Do you understand?” Stripped of his usual erotic persona, Adam meekly acquiesces. It could have been a triumphant moment – a feminist slap in the face against the misogyny of mainstream porn culture. But what you’re actually left thinking is “wow, those two are really not sexually compatible”.
When Adam later races across the city to save Hannah in the episode’s dramatic, When Harry Met Sally-esque climax, you know that they should be together not just because he loves her, but because they’re turned on by each other’s fetishes. On two occasions in one episode Dunham chooses to break the anti-romcom conventions of the show and allows Hannah and Marni to be swept up in passionate romantic reunions.
Earlier in the episode Hannah, not for the first time, is told that she is spoiled, self-involved and “rotten to the core”. After the countless examples of her selfish behaviour, it’s hardly surprising that her friends have given up on her. Far from supporting the mantra of sisterhood that the show’s title might suggest, Dunham’s conclusion seems to be that the only person who might be willing to overlook the glaring flaws in your personality is the guy who wants you on all fours.
This article appeared in The Evening Standard on 19 March 2013