Jessa's Role On 'Girls' Proves That Love Triangles Don't Need A Villain
Jessa was many things on Girls, but she was never a villain. She could have been, though. If the HBO series was a typical TV rom-com Jessa likely would have been cast as the one keeping star-crossed lovers Adam and Hannah apart. Let’s be honest, that’s probably how Hannah framed this whole ordeal in her New York Times piece: Jessa, the awful friend who stole away the love of her life. But this wasn’t how creator Lena Dunham saw it. Girls always let Jessa be her own person, not Hannah’s foe, proving not every love triangle needs a villain.
Whether Jessa and Hannah want to believe it or not, they were never in competition over Adam. He was just the easy answer to the much more complex reasons why the two stopped being friends. In the six years we knew them, their friendship was almost always on the brink of dissolution because these two were more interested in themselves than anyone else. They were living completely separate lives way before Adam and Jessa started hanging out, which, as we should remember, happened because Hannah decided to move to Iowa. She assumed Adam would wait for her, but instead he found solace in Hannah’s other cast-off and fellow addict Jessa, whom Hannah also assumed would be anxiously awaiting her return. But Jessa wasn’t interested in being anyone’s sidekick so she just continued living her life, one that Hannah knew nothing about.
While Hannah was off becoming the voice of her generation, getting pregnant, and being offered a job at upstate New York liberal arts colleges, Jessa was figuring out who she was and who she wanted to be. She was getting sober and carving out a career path as a therapist. (Though, as we learn she thinks she needs therapy more than she should be giving it.) She was even building a relationship with Adam, that from the outside appears a little unhinged, but seems to work for them. What Jessa was really doing, though, was learning to become her own person, one who was much different than the one Hannah thought she knew.
Jessa was no longer that person who would miss her abortion to have sex with a stranger in a bar bathroom, even if she thought she was. She couldn't go back because she had found new ways to cope. She didn't need someone to break her out of rehab because she had the strength to complete a 12-step program. Hannah didn’t know that, though. When Jessa starts dating Adam, Hannah assumes she's still the person who will have revenge sex with an ex just to make the point that he still wants her. She wasn’t around to see these changes because she was also off figuring out her life and never really bothered to ask Jessa any questions about what she was up to. To be fair, Jessa never seemed that interested in telling her or asking Hannah the same questions. A clear sign that this friendship was an afterthought.
These two women were pretend friends who spent more time fighting than doing anything else. Re-watch the show and you realize the last time these two had a heart-to-heart was in Season 4, when Hannah returns from Iowa in Episode 5, the “Sit-In,” to find Adam with another woman named Mimi Rose. Jessa admits she introduced Adam and Mimi, letting Hannah know he’s happier now without her. The truth was, Jessa was, too.
Hannah would blame Jessa for stealing her ex-boyfriend, while Jessa would blame Hannah for not trying to hear her side of the story, but the show doesn’t look to blame anyone, allowing us to take in all the facts and decide for ourselves what happened. Jessa isn’t the bad guy for falling in love with Adam. She’s not the Emily to Hannah and Adam’s Ross and Rachel on Friends. Or, to go back a little further to 90210, Jessa isn’t the Kelly to Hannah and Adam’s Brenda and Dylan. Jessa’s not the “jezebel” to Hannah’s girl next door because a love triangle on this show isn't really about the guys, it's about the girls.
Hannah isn't jealous that Jessa is with Adam, the two women are jealous of each other and always have been. They always coveted what the other had: Hannah had a career path that she was passionate about, something Jessa’s is still searching for; Jessa was never afraid to try new things or meet new people, something Hannah always struggled with.
Instead of looking for someone to blame when Jessa and Hannah stopped talking, the HBO series forced fans to look at things a different way. To see the things that Jessa and Hannah wanted to ignore. Adam may have been the final straw, but it was time that really broke the camel’s back. What Girls made clear during the bathroom meeting in the penultimate episode of the final season is friends either move forward together or drift apart. The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with that. People often stop being friends not because anyone did anything wrong, but because they just didn’t care to fix what wasn't right in the first place. A friendship is a give and take, and both Hannah and Jessa were more interested in taking. Something Shoshanna, who is now totally engaged and totally the show's truth-teller, teaches them in no uncertain terms. They can’t hang out anymore because they always make it about themselves.
It’s the one time in the six years we’ve known Jessa and Hannah that they don't do that, putting their egos aside to apologize. Neither mentions Adam’s name, as if they also realized it was never about him, it’s “everything.” Hannah admits, she's not sure what to be sorry for anymore, but, “It’s ok, we were all just doing our best.” Jessa jokes that their best wasn’t good enough. “Worst best,” Hannah says, which is probably how most people would like to explain their less than stellar choices in their 20s.
It's also how you could describe Jessa, who made mistakes and had her bad moments, but was never made out to be evil. She was human, and like most of us, was trying to do what was best even if her best wasn't always enough. In the end, Hannah and Jessa agree to call it, even if they disagree on how they got here. What they both know is, neither one of them is truly to blame.