How The 'Girls' Characters Became The TV Antiheroes I Didn't Know I Needed
With the Girls finale approaching, it's easy to feel sentimental about the HBO series. Throughout the show's six seasons, Hannah Horvath, Shoshanna Shapiro, Marnie Michaels, and Jessa Johansson were frustratingly imperfect characters, yet relatable for that very reason And looking back, I've realized Girls gave me the TV antiheroes I never knew I needed. Essentially, they shined a light on what it's really like to be a 20-something today — messy, emotional, and confusing.
In the penultimate episode "Goodbye Tour," Shoshanna declares that she's over their friendship and that their whole dynamic is "ultimately boring." I'd argue the opposite; they're fascinating. You see, I have this theory that everybody in the real world is two Girls characters combined, as opposed to the one-character-per-person model of fandoms like Sex and the City. Personally, I'm a Hannah-Shosh combo, but I appreciate attributes of each of Girls' leading ladies — even if I spend a solid chunk of time cringing while watching the show.
What I mean is that there are relatable nuggets nestled within each Girls character, no matter how many times they make you groan at your screen. Sure, Hannah is selfish, Jessa is carefree to the point of recklessness, Shoshanna is a bit of spoiled brat, and Marnie is nothing if not controlling. But, by watching their ups and downs, their bumps and bruises, I've come to terms with my own. I'm not saying that you should set out to live your life exactly like any four of these characters; in fact, I'd strongly advise against that. Still, through their flawed personalities, these four girls-turned-women taught me way more about myself than expected.
Hannah's Body Confidence
There's no denying that Hannah is the driving force of Girls. Granted, the whole world doesn't revolve around her as much as her myopic world view suggests, but, still, she tends to get a majority of the screen time — often half-clothed. Though I've heard people complain about the show's seemingly gratuitous nude scenes, I believe they're one of the most powerful aspects of the show.
Hannah's IDGAF attitude is admirable, especially when it comes to being naked on-screen. For me, seeing the character be so comfortable in her body — which, as Lena Dunham's critics like to point out, is not a stereotypical size 2 figure — has helped me feel more OK with my own shape.
Hannah isn't constantly grabbing a pillow to cover her stomach while lounging on the couch, or hiding beneath the covers during her sex scenes with Adam. She puts it all out there, and I applaud those seemingly small actions. I'm not saying Hannah boosted my self-esteem overnight, but she's one of the first characters I've seen with thighs the same size as mine, flaunting them on camera while simultaneously not making a big deal about it. That in itself is worth celebrating.
Shoshanna's Virginity Dilemma
Before Girls, I can't pinpoint a time where a character's virginity sat at the forefront of a TV plot. I mean, nowadays Jane The Virgin literally has the word in its title, but the Girls Season 1 episode "Vagina Panic" aired two years before that CW series even started. I'll never forget the moment a few years ago when, after I admitted to a guy that I hadn't had sex yet and it wouldn't happen with him in the foreseeable future, he said, "Uhh, have you seen Girls? You can, probably, uhh, relate to what Shoshanna goes through."
Things didn't last with that guy, but I did immediately start marathoning the show out of curiosity — and I'd say that's the real victory here. In the aforementioned episode, Shosh mopes around in her Snuggie and acts as though she's the only virgin on earth, and that's far from the truth. But her over-the-top dramatics inadvertently made me realize what a big deal it wasn't.
To see Shoshanna's discomfort with the subject later blossom into self-assurance was something I hadn't witnessed on TV previously, and it instantly made me feel more at ease.
Marnie's Quest For Perfection
While all of her other friends' lives are seemingly falling apart, Marnie likes to wear a mask and pretend that things are A-OK. Yet despite her ongoing quest for perfection — whether in her relationships, her singing career, or even her wedding — she fails. Time and time again.
Did you really think her marriage with Desi would last? Probably not. What about her mini-reunion with Charlie? Not a chance. And her rekindled romance with Ray? No way. Seeing her fallible type A personality on screen is a reminder that nobody is actually perfect, and, chances are, things won't always go according to plan. Take her recent bathroom meeting with the other main characters, for instance. While she thought she was bringing everyone together with her group meeting idea, they didn't all burst into a rendition of "Kumbaya" and become besties again.
There's a relatability factor in Marnie's futile quest to control the world around her. As someone who was a straight-A student in high school, who cried if I even got a B in any class, I've come to learn that it's OK for things to not be OK, and seeing Marnie's journey only helped solidify that realization.
Jessa's Friendship Fails
I'm sorry to any diehard Jessa fans, but, in many ways, she's the show's toughest character to open your heart to. She just seems to selfishly make blunder after blunder (ahem, being with Adam despite her friendship with Hannah). However, by the end of Season 6, she does finally make amends with her former BFF. While Shosh is quick to march out of the bathroom meeting, Jessa offers a teary apology to Hannah afterward, and they agree to finally leave the past in the past.
If Jessa's taught me anything, it's that relationships, of any kind, have their share of ups and downs. Sometimes they completely crumble; that's just part of life. But, at the same time, if you want to salvage a friendship, it's always better to try. Although it took her an entire season, Jessa showed that, if you make mistakes (and let's be real, we all will), it's never to late to own up to them and attempt to make things right.
Their All-Over-The-Place Careers
As a writer myself, I can relate to Hannah on this basic level. Witnessing her career trajectory jump all over the place showed me that there's not one straight path that defines success — and the same goes for the other three characters. Hannah goes off to Iowa to get her Master's, but ends up back in NYC. She gets published in The New York Times' Modern Love column — a win — only to falter in her attempt to fit in at surf camp for another piece. And spoiler alert: At the end of Season 6, Episode 9, Hannah accepts a job as a professor at a college outside of the city. Talk about unexpected.
Meanwhile, Shoshanna graduated late from NYU. She struggles with job-hunting, but eventually winds up at a start-up she loves in Japan — only to get fired while abroad. On her end, Marie gets laid off from her art gallery job, and her singing career with her ex-husband Desi doesn't go as planned. Finally, let's not forget Jessa, who dropped out of college because of a drug addiction. She then traveled the world, worked as a nanny, and, this season, assisted Adam with making his movie. Realizing that careers paths don't come with a map is a valuable lesson in discovering what's best for you, and it's something I've taken to heart.
Sure, they're imperfect, but the girls of Girls don't pretend to be anything else. (OK, except maybe Marnie.) In watching their disastrous adventures, I've found peace of mind in my own journey. And, like Hannah says, we're all only doing our "worst best" anyway.