Why Shoshanna Is The Joey Tribbiani of 'Girls'
Season three of Girls is at its halfway point, and it's pretty damn great and definitely quotable. Like, who can forget when Shoshanna asked Adam what his favorite utensil was? I actually haven't been able to stop thinking about it — in part because it was hilarious, but also because it presented to me the only qualm I have with season three: Shosh is Girls' Joey from Friends.
Margaret Lyons' of Vulture said that "every Seinfeld needs a Kramer...Friends needs Joey," in her essay regarding the recent trend in Shosh's behavior, so I know that I'm not alone here. Our lovable, endearing, too-truthful resident J.A.P. with as zero filter and a capacity for saying the most memorable lines on the show, feels a little...too dumb to function in society right now, let alone as a senior at New York University (except in the most recent episode, she had to study, which was a breath of fresh air based on her recent behavior).
I'm calling this The Joey Syndrome. Joey was never the brightest crayon in the box of Central Perk-gathering cohorts, but who can forget his insatiable appetite for sandwiches, and his libido that got tripped up by his single pick up line: "How you doin'?" Without a doubt, audiences picked up on endearing quirks and quotable lines, and now with the Internet, fan favorites get back to producers quicker than ever. But as Friends started nearing the end of its run, someone who once put on all of Chandler's clothes and couldn't read "mm, chicken soup!" without adding "noodle" in between, seemed so dumbed down, and that he didn't even seem like a real person any longer. And sure, while the characters on the show had their quirks and I of course suspended my disbelief in the name of entertainment (like, that apartment, you know?), there came a point where the jokiness of his character felt tired, worn out, and a little far from believable. Joey still had to get up and make breakfast in the morning, pay bills, and manipulate his penis to have sex.
Further, The Joey Syndrome is the dumbing down of a character because fans like their initial endearing quirks, at the cost of creating a deeper and believable character, and I'm worried Shosh is headed in that territory. In this season's fourth episode, "Dead Inside," we only got to see Shosh for a couple of minutes, when she had what Esquire called a "dumbfounding heart-to-heart" with Jessa. Jessa was pondering the loss of her friend Season, and Shoshanna casually mentions that she lost her friend Kelly back in high school, but it's okay because the group was "meant to be a fivesome, not a sixsome." I cringed in that moment — even Shoshanna (who has now taken up smoking, in her constant attempt to seem grown-up and cool) wouldn't say that, would she? The characters on the show are flawed and self-absorbed, but would a twenty-one year old woman say that? Maybe she felt that way in high school, but surely no one who wants to go to business school (as she reminded us in the last episode) has the capacity to think that way...unless this is just another example of Shosh's lack of filter. But then again, she also said that women shouldn't be President because of their periods, and that rehab was a badge of cool. I'm concerned that Shosh's silly schtick could potentially usurp the innocence that she originally brought to the show. Who could forget her first interaction with Ray?
Now, I love Dunham's writing (particularly when it comes to men — Adam and Ray are some of the best written dudes on television) and I'd like to believe that this is a tactic for a great scene coming up, but until then, I'm a little wary. Funny quotes can be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but at what expense of character development? I've always bought that the characters in this show were ugly, faulty human beings who kind of live in mental vacuums, but ones that function in society. Still, Shosh does remain the heart of the series, just as Joey was the innocent pulse to the quirky sixsome, but damn, girl, rehab was never cool.