I went into the second episode of Lena Dunham’s Girls with high hopes. With a week between the abysmal first episode and this one, I figured I could try and look past some of my issues with the show, and the show would have settled into a more comfortable rhythm. The opening scene between Hannah and Adam is immediately comedic, with the pair engaging in what looks to be bad sex that is also meant to be degrading, though Hannah is unfazed by Adam’s fantasy of sending her home to her parents covered in cum. Adam’s post-coital question—whether Hannah wants a Gatorade—just proved again how this guy is both despicable and utterly true.
Marnie and Charlie are immediately juxtaposed against Hannah and Adam. Marnie just wants to get fucked, but Charlie is dully “making love” instead. Marnie’s angst reminds me of critics who claim that feminists can’t have it both ways—either we are oppressed or upset because we aren’t. When Hannah suggests that Marnie might just be bored, and that Charlie isn’t just too nice, Marnie is aghast. This couldn’t possibly be her fault, of course. None of these girls are willing to be accountable for their actions, and this is just one instance.
Jessa similarly acts as if she just woke up one day pregnant without reason. I love Jemima Kirke, the show’s brightest star and most compelling feature player, but Jessa’s misdirected anger and inability to process the situation is just another scene where a girl with everything can’t admit that maybe she might not know everything. Jessa skips her abortion, and the show implies that she has miscarried—but what if she hadn’t? If this was the real world, and Jessa skipped her abortion, would the scenario then be as serious as the dour Marnie insists that it is?
Regardless, Jessa is the smartest and most relatable girl on Girls. Her refusal to be lumped in with the “ladies” targeted by a self-help book (think He’s Just Not That Into You meets Liz Lemon’s Deal Breakers) made me pump my fist. Yes, Jessa, we are not those ladies—we have agency all our own and if we don’t want to text all the time or always fuck in the missionary position, then nobody should be able to write a book telling us that we are wrong.
I don’t care about Shoshanna and her virginity yet. While the writers (looking at you, Dunham) have handled the other characters with some level of seriousness, Zosia Mamet’s virginal JAP is like an alien transplanted from planet ABC Family. She is clearly meant to function as comic relief, but whether or not her presence is welcome is yet to be seen.
“Vagina Panic” has bright spots—notably, Jessa’s high-waisted paints and more misogyny by Adam (a new fragrance?)—but it is undermined by Hannah’s awful soliloquy about AIDS. I asked if I could submit this review as just the words “face palm,” because the scene in the gynecologist’s exam room made me embarrassed to be part of a generation that measures the AIDS epidemic according to Forrest Gump. Like Hannah’s rape joke during her job interview, her discussion of HIV and AIDS is another disappointing feature of a privileged white girl that can joke about things because she has never experienced them. Usually comedy is an acceptable defense against trauma, but Hannah has known no trauma other than being underemployed. She hasn’t been raped or contracted the HIV virus, and her willingness to handle these subjects lightly makes her that much less likable. If Dunham’s aim was to cast all the stones she had at Hannah in a mere two episodes, than she has succeeded ten times over.