'Girls' First Iowa Episode Seems To Be Talking Directly To The Show's Detractors
Girls has a way of riling up the masses. Any time Hannah talks about her writing on the HBO show, you can expect an avalanche of think-pieces to roll in the next morning, asking questions about whether or not Lena Dunham's lead character is a dismal swamp creature that's ruining us all, and to be fair, I've been guilty of doing so. (See: A Facebook rant I posted when Hannah quit her job last season — but I won't torture you with the details.) Now that Hannah has arrived in Iowa in Girls Season 4, the series seems to be confronting our supposedly "complicated relationship" with Hannah and her signature navel-gazing tendencies.
When Hannah gets to her first session of her Iowa Writers Workshop program, she gets a stern talking-to from her classmates. After the high of finding an $800 a month palace of an apartment, Hannah gets knocked down about a thousand pegs when she reads her first fiction piece aloud to her classmates. They rip it apart with the same criticisms basically every critic who dislikes Girls has come out with. One classmate, played by the director some are calling the Next Lena (Desiree Akhavan) points out that she's having a hard time judging Hannah's piece about letting her boyfriend (presumably a character based on Season 1 Adam) have rough, potentially abusive sex with her. Dunham reads the piece with hilarious gusto, completely in on the joke that the writing is purposefully sexually evocative and self-reflective. (She hears you, internet.)
Hannah's classmates joke about how her main character is named "Anna," has a lot of tattoos, and "has to eat every two hours or she passes out" just as Hannah dips into her snack for class. OK, we get it. Lena is talking to her critics. But what I love about this episode and that she puts her classmate-critics into the same bizarro world in which she places Hannah: Yes, Hannah is myopic and unable to take criticism for a single second, but her classmates like Marin Ireland's Logan are just as bad.
When they all go out for drinks after class, Logan takes a moment to pull little Hannah First-Year under her wing. Giving Hannah the condescending "sweetie" look, she uses air quotes to point out that if Hannah ever does manage to get "published" she won't be able to defend herself to the masses, so [insert sweetie look again] she should learn how her writing comes across to [even harsher sweetie look] the reader. And that's about the point at which I rolled my eyes so hard I gave myself a migrane. Logan is one of those writers who spend their time complaining about writers who talk about writing but, who like, don't really want to write. She's not wrong about Hannah (Dunham said at her 2014 New Yorker Panel that Hannah is that writer who doesn't want to really write), but I sure as hell don't want to be friends with Logan either.
Without changing the fact that Hannah is a navel-gazing, selfish young person who makes a ton of mistakes (which is great, because Hannah is, again, a character and if Dunham ever changed her character to please folks who get annoyed with Miss Horvath I would have to quit), Girls is able to address its smuggest critics. Then it carries on its merry way, continuing Hannah's weird strange trip to Iowa, where Andrew Rannells' Elijah shows up in the most unlikely but not unwelcome of circumstances. Sure, those critics may be technically right in pointing out Hannah's problems, but those are the character Hannah's problems and that's not going stop the show from being the hilarious, often cringe-inducing bit of reality-biting humor that it's been for the past three seasons, sweetie.
Image: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO