Among Girls fans, it seems to have become universally accepted that Allison Williams' Marnie Michaels is simply one of those characters who everyone hates. But for six seasons, the Marnie haters have had it all wrong. Like everyone else in the series' foursome, she is deeply flawed, but Marnie isn't Girls' villain — she's just an everyday human. And isn’t that what this show is supposed to be about?
Still, I get that Marnie doesn't top the list of TV’s most relatable characters. That honor belongs more closely to Hannah, who makes a lot of mistakes but whose heart and intentions we so often see. She’s ambitious and lost at the same time; she is the hot mess that so many of us are ready to see in ourselves at some point or another (especially while we’re still trying to, as many a Girls ad campaign has acknowledged, figure it out). But Marnie is something else. She's the character who makes you uncomfortable because she hits too close to home.
Marnie isn’t “so you.” Marnie is the "you" you're unwilling to own. She’s the character you cringe while watching because you’ve said (or at least thought about saying) the things she’s saying, and you know just how wrong it is.
She's the you that believed in doing things the "right way." She goes to Oberlin and gets a career — check. She moves to New York City and snags a job in her chosen field — check. She dates a nice guy — check. If she does everything “right,” the theory goes that she should get the “right” results: marriage, babies, career satisfaction, and eternal bliss. But then her world shatters as she’s laid off, breaks up with Charlie, and moves back in with her mom. She spends the rest of the series trying to figure out where she went wrong and inevitably making the same mistakes all over again.
She's the you who tries desperately to hide your flaws. While Marnie looks put together, she’s consistently not. She's making all the wrong moves, but she tries to hide it with a pretty facade, even though everyone can see that she’s running her life into the ground. When she tries to become a singer, her attempt seems self-indulgent and ridiculous. When she knowingly helps Desi cheat and then marries him, it comes off the same way. But Marnie is more than her facade, and she's more than her self-indulgence.
In rare moments, we get to see who Marnie really is. But after those moments, something comes along to ruin them: Marnie's need to be liked. She's a caricature of a people pleaser gone too far. Maybe it’s because of her parents’ divorce or her relationship with her mom (who’s also very selfish and self-indulgent), but Marnie wants everyone around her — especially any man she’s with at the time — to like her, even to her own detriment. She even changes her personality based on who she’s dating — incredibly so when it comes to Desi. And while Marnie's need to please everyone around her is a sign of insecurity, it’s also a sign of being human.
And if that still hasn't convinced you, consider the good in Marnie. Hannah is not an easy person to get along with, but Marnie has remained her friend for years. Marnie is ambitious and believes in herself — or she really wouldn’t have attempted to create a singing career after that fail of a YouTube video. She jumps into new situations fearlessly, whether it's a new career path or a lifestyle change. Given the chance for more character growth, she could turn out to be a truly amazing adult... once she gets over herself.
I don’t ever want Girls to end, but since it has to, I hope Marnie gets gets the chance to become who she wants to become, without all that insecurity. But if I'm being honest, I’ll miss secretly agreeing with the more insane things she says. I'll miss the Marnie everyone seemed to hate.